This article was originally published on Forbes by Domini Clark, Forbes Council Member and Founder and CEO of the cybersecurity recruiting executive search firm Blackmere Consulting
In today’s employment market, candidates are in the driver’s seat. No longer can companies post simple job descriptions online and choose from the countless applications that pour in from qualified talent. To set your company apart from other employers, leaders need to tell their stories to candidates.
Compliance and process are important, but they shouldn’t overshadow the human element. Telling stories lets candidates know your company isn’t just policies, procedures and mission statements — it’s a group of real people working together and relying on one another to get the job done.
Stories Give You An Edge
Whether your data center runs on 100% sustainable energy or the organization was founded by a female combat veteran, there’s something unique about you as an employer. Here are some compelling reasons to tell your story, and some ideas on how to tell it.
• An interesting job posting differentiates your company from competitors who just post boring job descriptions from the HR files.
• It supports the emerging best practice of making a more personal connection with candidates; before direct contact, you’re introducing a more human element.
• Stories start engaging candidates with your workplace culture even before the hire.
Stories are part of marketing your opening position — appealing to a target audience. However, it’s a unique part. If your company uses leading technology or regularly posts 20% year-over-year growth, you should share that. But you also should share stories with emotional appeal that humanize your company.
Finding The Stories
Look for things that are unique about your people, culture or organization that highlight values or speak to a sense of purpose. Some examples:
• The company is family owned for three generations and has a reputation for integrity.
• Your organization provides each employee a couple of paid volunteer days each year.
• The company offers free yoga classes or massages once a week.
Get input from your top performers. What was it about your company that attracted them? In addition to less-personal things, like how great the business model is, look for real-person things like, “The schedule flexibility allows me to coach my daughter’s robotics competition team.” Incorporate these stories into your message to help attract similar candidates who are likely to be a good fit for your culture and mission.
Branding Is Generic; Stories Are Specific
Employment branding and value propositions are important — it’s surprising how many companies still aren’t using them. At the same time, these typically are generalized and apply to any position, from a help desk associate to a CITO. Stories should be more specific, which may also add substance to your overall message. For example, suppose a company has created the employment brand “Smart Careers for Smart People.” It gets your attention and may appeal to the type of people you want.
Just the same, it’s vague and impersonal. In contrast, the story about your company promoting volunteerism connects with candidates who value a sense of purpose. Candidates can identify with it and probably have some personal experience with volunteering. If they feel strongly about volunteerism, you’ve just increased your employment sticky factor.
Different Kinds Of Stories
Stories can be about the open position itself. When marketing a product or service, the goal typically is to attract as many customers as possible. However, recruitment marketing is about attracting the one candidate who best matches the ideal profile. It’s a sniper approach versus a buckshot one. Stories about the role help personalize it.
For example, search for “IT manager” on any major job site, and you’ll get tens of thousands of hits nationwide. The jobs share common requirements and responsibilities, but each one is unique. Put yourself in the shoes of a candidate, and consider which story would be more engaging:
• “Manage a strong IT team in a growing company.”
• “Lead a strong IT team as we implement version 2.0.”
The first story could apply to 80% of the jobs out there. The second is specific and makes it easier for candidates to picture themselves in the position. The first is a job, but the second is a role, and roles are more personal.
If a job involves relocation, tell the story about the new location, particularly if it’s not well known. Highlight the low cost of living and the great schools, but also connect it to the people at your company: “Townville offers a variety of outdoor recreation venues. Come down to West Park on Saturday to cheer on our company softball team.”
Telling your story takes a little more effort, but it’s worth it. Humans have been telling stories for millennia, and they are just as influential today as they were around the fire that kept the saber-toothed cats at bay. They connect us as humans on a powerful level.