The Power of Storytelling

People have been telling stories for thousands of years in order to share information and experiences and establish connections with one another. Today, companies are tapping into storytelling for these very same purposes.

“Our brains are wired for stories. A good story has the power to change our perspective and make meaning from our surroundings. It builds empathy and our ability to relate to others,” says Elena Valentine, CEO of Skill Scout, a company that helps employers tell the stories candidates care about with employee-generated recruitment videos.

Stories and Job Candidates

“In the case of recruitment, telling stories gives job seekers this authentic and compelling window into the role and company,” Valentine says.
But stories do more than provide an inside look at a job and company.
Valentine says stories “can be aspirational.” Many job seekers are looking for a role they can grow into, she explains. Hearing from current employees who have progressed within the organization serves as a motivator, while showing them how they might move up.

Reluctant to Share

Nevertheless, some companies are hesitant to share their stories. An industry or business that deals with proprietary information may have valid reasons for reluctance.
“Think manufacturers working on a top secret prototype,” Valentine says. “Or hospital settings where client identities and backgrounds have to be concealed.”
Still, she notes that with attention and creativity there are usually ways to work around these issues.
Skill Scout has also come across companies that are reluctant to share because of deep-seated culture issues.
“We have had to postpone shoots a few times because companies discovered staff challenges that they didn’t realize existed,” says Valentine. “That’s the power of this work. While storytelling can’t necessarily solve these problems, it certainly has the power to uncover the pulse of a company—the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly.”
In addition, companies sometimes are hesitant to share because they think their stories are not as fleshed out as they would like.
“They want more time, more storyboarding, more theme defining. They’re looking for perfection, when in reality they’ve got thousands of stories they can share already,” says Valentine.
Her advice to companies that are stalling?
“Just get it out there. Candidates appreciate authentic and in-the-moment happenings,” she says.

Value Proposition

There are basically two approaches to storytelling as it relates to employee recruitment. One focuses on the employer value proposition (EVP). Stories using this approach talk about why it’s great to work at a company and provide an overview of the company and its culture.
This is where many companies tend to focus, Valentine says.
However, Skill Scout strongly recommends that companies pay more attention to the job value proposition (JVP). When focused on the JVP, companies share stories at the role level, and in that context provide insight into what it’s like to work for the company.
Why take this approach?
“It is often at the most granular level of the job posting that candidates are actively making their application decisions. It’s not just about where they want to work, but the actual role they intend to apply for,” Valentine explains. “The more stories companies can share that help candidates demystify specific requirements, see who they’d work with, and understand opportunities for growth, the more informed and committed they will be throughout the hiring process.”
Note: Elena Valentine will lead the session, “Unpacking the Most Effective Job Postings for Talent Attraction: What Works and What Hurts” at RecruitCon Road Trip East, which takes place in Boston, October 19.

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.