Before You Begin the Candidate Search, Come Up with a Good Story...

Admittedly, I like to tell stories, and if I may say so, this is one of my strengths as a recruiter. Storytelling can be a powerful tool in the recruitment process.

If you are embarking on a search to find a new team member for your own company or on behalf of a client, one of the first things I recommend (if you haven’t yet done so) is to think about the company’s story. If the company is a startup, you won’t have a lot of history to fall back on, but you can still have a compelling story...and perhaps even more so because of the excitement generated by a new venture.

Your story may start with the dream or vision that brought the company into being...or perhaps it was an unmet need in the marketplace. At what point and through what circumstances was the idea for the company ignited?

Another part of the story might include when the company was founded and its founding mission. Then, a brief history of what has transpired since the company began, including any metamorphosis of that initial mission. What significant challenges have been faced? Has the company survived a crisis or overcome a failure? What strides have been made?

I always like to include information about the founder and, if these are different people, then also the current CEO, especially as it relates to his/her values or background and how this has influenced the company’s direction and its culture.

Speaking of culture, this is an important part of the story. What are the underlying values that influence the company’s culture? What will a person experience as part of this company? The more you can help the person envision him- or herself in the environment, the more effective the story as a recruitment tool.

The part of the story to think through carefully is the series of events or the central event that led to the current job opening. What need is being met, what problem solved? If you are searching for a replacement for someone who was fired, this is certainly more challenging to the storytelling process than a position that is being created because the company doubled in size over the past year.

However, even if the circumstances are not particularly positive, you can offer a brief, candid explanation of what happened followed by the hopes for the future of the position. I am not talking about putting a positive spin on any shortcomings in the company that caused someone not to work out, but hopefully lessons were learned from the experience and this will be important to share.

A very compelling part of the story will be what the new person is expected to bring to the company. In six months, a year, or longer, how will the company be different because of this person’s contribution? Depending on the level of the position, you may want to narrow this down to one functional area.

If you cover these bases, you potentially have a great story to tell. It will involve some thought, more than you might have anticipated. However, I would venture to say that if you haven’t thought through these things, you probably aren’t in a position to conduct a truly effective search.

My suggestions aren’t meant to be exhaustive. What else should be part of the story?

Views: 13

Comment by Subramaniam Ramaswamy on July 23, 2009 at 7:57am
An impeccable construct backed up by a plan for impressive delivery will be a valuable thing to have before embarking for scouting talent. The premise for this could be the concept that our brains are programmed much more for stories than for abstract idea.

Consider this proposition. Just reflect on the interviews we have been involved in as an interviewee. What drove us to accept the job? If someone provided us with facts and data about the person or company and role it would have no doubt had influence however, somewhere amongst it if there was story telling at play as in the interviewer talking about the team and something amazing they achieved together recently or perhaps some of their personal achievements and even adversity they may have encountered to achieve them it would be that enticing for us to commit to that assignment.
Similarly in the job ads that we publish are largely populated with some data and metrics. But by including more personal and meaningful information about the company, team, culture or leadership it will surely trigger someone to apply if they can glimmer a sense of the company and people in it.
One more striking feature of story telling is that helps building trust. Trust has grown into a significant issue in recruitment.

Story telling should complement data. Recruiters should ensure both reaches their target audience. Data will serve to appease the analytical part of our brains, but stories touch our hearts and inspire action.
Comment by Maureen Sharib on July 23, 2009 at 10:20am
This was a wonderful and compelling piece! You ask what else? I had a hard time thinking about anything else but maybe you could get the candidate involved in "What if..." scenarios? Let them help spin the story by placing them in it.
Comment by Will Branning on July 23, 2009 at 12:39pm
Great reminder that all jobs have a story behind them & that gathering this information up front is crucial to my LT success...thank you for inspiring me to be sure to have a compelling story for all my recruitment assignments!

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