Persuade candidates with compelling stories

Which employee stories are most compelling to persuade talent?

No doubt job seekers look for useful facts when assessing an employer.

Organisations rightly boast about their ranking, remuneration packages and progression opportunities wherever they can, but except for those rated as “best to work for” or for those in sought-after sectors, it’s hard for most employers to present facts that truly stand out.

Candidates are unlikely to be moved by general statements that a job entails “exciting challenges” or that it opens “options for the future”. More fundamentally, how strong is the evidence that facts are effective at persuading people?

The persuasive power of stories 

Evidence points towards a powerful alternative: stories.

“The art of storytelling can be used to drive change”, tweeted Richard Branson.

We intuitively recognise the importance of stories, but science actually proves they are able to change attitudes and opinions through their effect on brain activity.

According to neuroeconomist Paul Zak, personal and compelling stories “engage more of the brain, and thus are better remembered, than simply stating a set of facts and inspire people to take action”.

The persuasive power of stories is proven to work in various sectors, notably charities and commercials.

Storytelling for talent attraction

Evidence on storytelling reveals a powerful tool employers have at their fingertips for talent attraction.

It is also in tune with the emphasis Millennials place on authentic employer branding and engagement with employees, according to research by the Boston Consulting Group.

Employees are well placed to discuss issues cited as most pressing for candidates, such as work atmosphere, training opportunities, job content, job security and work-life balance. 

Personal stories can bring these issues to life and give employers a real opportunity to show how they do things differently to persuade candidates to consider their company. How else are candidates expected to differentiate between two large accountancies, or two telecoms?

Would these personal accounts not also allow employers to demonstrate more persuasively that they can offer the same, if not better, career opportunities than their top tier competitors?

Which employee stories are most effective?

The vast research on what makes up for a compelling story capable of driving change has yet to bed itself into the field of talent attraction.

At PathMotion, a proprietary analysis conducted on over 10,000 questions recently asked by job candidates on the employees-to-candidates’ discussion platform, reveals valuable insights on stories rated by candidates as most effective.

#1 Make it truly personal

Candidate: "What were your expectations vs. reality of working at [Company]?"

Employee: “One of the main expectations I had was mobility. I wanted to have the opportunity to try something else / to work in another geography and from what I heard, [Company] was the perfect place for that thanks to its global network. I was not mistaken as I indeed had the opportunity to do a rotation: I started in the M&A team in Paris and then did two rotations in London two years later, one in Equity Capital Markets and one in Leveraged Finance. So yes, [Company] talks about mobility but really gives you the opportunity to try something else in another part of the world”

#2 Be specific

Candidate: "Would you share your personal reasons for choosing [audit firm]?"

Employee: “I chose [company] because I had an interest in Corporate Responsibility; I'd studied in a final year module and had done a bit of volunteering, so when I found out that [Company] gives staff 1/2 a day a month to volunteer I knew I wanted to apply!”

Candidate: “Wow fantastic reasons!!”

#3 Share examples

Candidate: "Is there a type of formal training to become 'the wine girl' and learning about the different markets or is a lot taught on the job?"

Employee: “The training includes doing the WSET2 course, plus months of hands-on experience with those who manage the vineyards, operations, winemaking, marketing and sales. Armed with this experience and many stories along the way, you will be confident in communicating about the products in your market, prepared to be the trade and consumer-facing expert and have great internal contacts to call upon when needed. My favourite part of the training was in the vineyard and the barrel halls!”

Candidate: “Thank you so much for the detailed response, Kate! :)”

#4 Highlight unique aspects of your company

Candidate: "How does the firm differentiate themselves from their competitors?" 

Employee: “Talking from personal experience, a few things I've noticed are: People Focus - we've introduced what we call "Our Deal". This really helps the work life balance. For instance, if you've completed your contracted hours in the summer months, you get to leave at 3pm on a Friday. We now all get our birthdays off each year as well.”

#5 Share tips that are practical

Candidate: "I have an interview, how should I prepare?"

Employee: “I would suggest thinking about why you want to join [Company] especially and during the interview draw upon different experiences that you have. These do not have to be work related but something that you have experienced. Prior to my interview there were graduates from the year above that I could talk to. Take time to talk to them. I found that they calmed me down before I went in, and remember to be yourself :)”

#6 create a dialogue

Our research also shows that the most rated conversations are those where a Q&A is turned into a back-and-forth dialogue between a candidate and an employee.

Candidate: "What kind of extracurricular activities do you look for in candidates?"

Employee: “It’s always interesting to hear about candidate’s extracurricular activities, particularly if these activities demonstrate how a candidate lives our values (Inspiration, Innovation, Integrity and In Touch). Whilst we don’t necessarily look for extracurricular activities as part of the application process. It’s great to see someone’s passion for a hobby or interest as it shows their commitment, drive and determination to achieve a goal”

Candidate: “So really I can just talk about any hobby if asked and try to relate it to strengths, etc., is asking about hobbies something that occurs often in interview?”

Employee: “Yes, that is correct. It is not a frequently asked question but it is something that could be asked by the interviewer if hobbies and interests are part of your CV”

More research is required on telling compelling stories to target candidates. It's an exciting space to watch.

But one thing is certain: stories can have a lasting impact on talent attraction and should therefore play a more central role in employer branding.

Storytelling for talent attraction: How to improve your employer branding strategy this quarter

Bringing together the best advice from our global leadership events series and the results of our first-of-its-kind research on the impact of storytelling for employer branding, we outline five essential steps you can take right now to improve employer brand and drive talent attraction with storytelling.

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