How to Effectively Hire Top Candidates with Storytelling
By Henry DeVries
A tough challenge for many executives is convincing top talent to join their company. A second challenge is training newcomers to understand the company’s core values.
To become better at hiring and training, it pays to know how humans are hardwired for stories. If you want prospective employees to think it over, give them lots of facts and figures. If you want them to decide to join your company for the right reasons, then tell them the right story.
Now, any executive can easily use proven techniques of telling a great story employed by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and Wall Street by employing six simple steps to storytelling to attract the right candidates and properly train them in your company culture.
These stories must be true case studies, but told in a certain way. The process starts with understanding your core values.
Core Values Are Key
Top candidates don’t want to work just anywhere. They want an organization where they align with the core values.
Every business has core values, although some have not formally stated what they are. Basically, core values are the guiding principles that drive and organization’s conduct both internally with employees and externally with customers. Here are a few examples of core values of small to medium-sized businesses:
• We go the extra mile for customers;
• We do whatever it takes to get the job done;
• We value integrity, which means doing what we say we are going to do;
• We are honest and transparent with employees and customers; and
• We value quality as job number one.
The list of possibilities is mighty long. Core values are a decision that company leaders make. But just naming a core value is not enough.
The Core-value Storytelling Formula
For every core value, the company should capture a true story of that core value in action. Here is a quick overview of the core-value storytelling formula:
One: Start with a main character. Every story starts with the name of a character who wants something. This is your client. Make your main characters likable so the listeners will root for them. To make them likable, describe some of their good qualities or attributes. Generally, three attributes work best: “Marie was smart, tough, and fair” or “John was hardworking, caring, and passionate.” For privacy reasons, you do not need to use their real names (“this is a true story, but the names have been changed to protect confidentiality.”)
Two: Have a nemesis character. Stories need conflict to be interesting. What person, institution, or condition stands in the character’s way? The villain in the story might be a challenge in the business environment, such as the recession of 2008 or the Affordable Care Act (the government is always a classic nemesis character).
Three: Bring in a mentor character. Heroes need help on their journey. They need to work with a wise person. This is where you come in. Be the voice of wisdom and experience. The hero does not succeed alone; they succeed because of the help you provided.
Four: Know what story you are telling. Human brains are programmed to relate to one of eight great meta-stories. These are: monster, underdog, comedy, tragedy, mystery, quest, rebirth, and escape. If the story is about overcoming a huge problem, that is a monster-problem story. If the company was like a David that overcame an industry Goliath, that is an underdog story.
Five: Have the hero succeed. Typically, the main character needs to succeed, with one exception: tragedy. The tragic story is told as a cautionary tale — great for teaching lessons, but not great for attracting clients. Have the hero go from mess to success (it was a struggle, and they couldn’t have done it without you).
Six: Give the listeners the moral of the story, which is the core value. Take a cue from Aesop, the man who gave us fables like “The Tortoise and the Hare” (the moral: slow and steady wins the race). Don’t count on the listeners to get the message. The storyteller’s final job is to tell them what the story means.
Six Ways to Put Stories into Action
After you build an inventory of stories that demonstrate your core values in action, you are then ready to deploy the stories. In storytelling, context is everything. You should never randomly tell stories, but instead use stories at the right strategic times.
Here are six perfect opportunities to persuade with a story:
• During a job interview. No, don’t start the interview telling stories. However, once the candidate has shared about themselves, then the interviewer can share stories about the core values of the organization.
• During a training class. Core values should be taught during training. First, state the core value and then explain what that means. For them to really get the point, tell a story about that core value in action.
• At weekly staff meetings. One executive boasted that his organization had 22 core values, and they were on posters throughout the office. Asked if he had any stories to illustrate, a little red-faced, he said “no.” Now, every week at staff meeting, they tell a story to illustrate one of the 22 core values.
• At company-wide meetings. Is it time to assemble all the troops? Maybe for a change in direction or for recognition? This is a perfect time for core-value selling.
• On the company website. Promote core-value stories on your website to detail for clients and potential clients the power of story.
• In company brochures and collateral material. Since stories connect on an emotional level, doesn’t it make sense to put them down in writing?
Storytelling helps persuade on an emotional level. Maybe that is why so many Fortune 500 companies are honing in on storytelling techniques and imparting that wisdom on their sales and business-development professionals to tell relatable stories that will convince prospects.
Henry DeVries, CEO of Indie Books International, works with consultants to attract high-paying clients by marketing with a book and speech. As a professional speaker, he teaches sales and business-development professionals how to build an inventory of persuasive stories. He is the author of “Marketing with a Book” and “Persuade with a Story!”; www.indiebooksintl.com