There's hardly anything that gets people going more than a well-told story. Stories provide information with emotional added-value. After all, curiosity, enthusiasm, sympathy or a sense of belonging can't be aroused by facts alone. It's all about feelings. Whilst marketing lives from this realisation, HR is also making increasing use of society's appetite for emotion. Can you really catch mice with cheese and employees with emotions? Careful: Storytelling is only a tiny part of recruitment. HR professionals should never play the role of fairytale raconteur. Emotions yes, but in an authentic context with facts to back them up.
How storytelling helps in recruitment
Storytelling has become a new tool in recruitment because it makes corporate culture, values and traditions tangible to outsiders. A tough candidates market calls for some original solutions. Stories offer companies an original way of communicating information and reaching target groups they otherwise wouldn't reach. Complicated issues are made easier to understand, and candidates get an idea of what daily work is like.
There is also the potential to tell other people: Irrespective of whether its aim is to support employer branding or make people aware of specific vacancies, a good story will spread like wildfire via social media. There are also many appropriate channels for storytelling in print and by video. Recruiters themselves can use them in face-to-face discussions with applicants, for example, by telling short anecdotes to outline career opportunities or highlight the company's leadership style. "Such discussions build trust that is often not the case in a pure question and answer situation", explains Barbara Oberrauter at Jobnews.at. "Instead of selling a job to the applicant, recruiters present a picture of the company that, in the eyes of the candidate, has a unique pull effect - and hopefully proves irresistible".
Don't forget your audience's emotional points of reference
Storytelling in recruitment will only be successful where recruiters know their audience and recount stories that relate to real life situations of the target group. An amusing anecdote about the office dog in the events department will not necessarily motivate a new sales manager to apply. Those taking this issue seriously must bring information about the employer brand, corporate values and desired candidate into the story, and find emotional points of reference.
Crucial for good stories: your own employees
A company's own employees are of interest to recruiters in storytelling on two counts. Firstly, they are the best source of good stories and secondly, they act as both an audience and multipliers for them. As company ambassadors they reflect corporate culture and values. They also give stories the required level of authenticity. "Good recruiters start by collecting and summarising in-house stories", says Oberrauter. This shows you value your staff, and has a long-term motivational effect. If HR is able to impress the company's own employees through storytelling, thereby strengthening the feeling of personal and emotional belonging, colleagues themselves will become storytellers.
Storytelling supported by employee referrals
Additional impact is provided by employee referral programmes such as SocialReferral. Your own employees are the most effective headhunters you could wish for. 26 percent of all vacancies filled in the UK are based on internal referrals - a potential that no company should miss out on. As well as being an attractive incentive, good storytelling can also motivate employees to be come recruiters in their own spheres.
Stories and anecdotes are not only easy to remember; they also make it easier for employees to identify with the issues, and then tell others based on their own conviction. What's more, if an interesting story is well packaged – for example through animation, video or illustrations – your employees will be happy to share it via their own social media channels. This means recruiters can reach a much larger audience than they can through classic recruitment activities. When one also considers the American psychologist Stanley Milgram's 'small world experiment', which lead to the concept of everyone being linked to one another through a maximum of "six degrees of separation", good storytelling offers excellent opportunities for reaching the perfect candidate.
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