The Magical Art of Storytelling and how to pitch yourself into existence
Updated: Nov 8, 2021
Master storytellers have long spun love stories for the ages, collected their Oscars and Baftas on the big screens, rallied men to war, inspired civil rights movements, and imagined worlds quite like the one we live in now, and the one we shall occupy next. And it’s the same with the next chapter in your career. It is another opportunity for an exciting and daring adventure, if the shoe fits...
At Good Soul Hunting we pride ourselves on some good old fashioned storytelling. When we meet brands and candidates for the very first time we are often floored at the gems hiding in plain sight beneath the chronological laundry-list of achievements – a tidy series of roles and tasks that define one’s accumulative career-path. It’s never about the job. It’s always about the story. And it’s never about the company, it’s always about how the world will be a better place because they existed. And when that power duo of business and passion comes together in a “what if”scenario - well, magic happens and that is the sweet spot of cipher and soul that makes our life worth living.
Being enthralled by stories is to be human. We recognize a good story when we hear one and are drawn in for more. The allure - is “inborn”and was how our prehistoric ancestors paid our adventures forward, celebrated the legacy efforts of days gone by, educated on the best hunting spots and methods, passed on knowledge through the ages and entertained everyone during evening embers.
And the simple story construct allows us to remember key things and share them forward. Children recite fables to underscore principles to live by and adults carry great stories of past heroes to give our vision wings.
But it’s not just fancy words - the Harvard Business Review has illuminated changes in brain chemistry that make us more likely to be empathic and cooperative and change how we perceive the world. (https://hbr.org/2014/10/why-your-brain-loves-good-storytelling).
That’s why storytelling is so important in recruitment – both for brands looking to attract top talent and for candidates looking to stand out from a competitive talent pool for those C-suite jobs.
As someone studying for an exam, or a parent demanding the chores be done or an interviewer siphoning through 50 candidates - it is not the list of facts that captivate you - it is something else. Molecular biologist John Medina, writing in his bestselling book, Brain Rules, presents us with the answer for why some messages get through while others get filtered. In other words – why one job candidate’s application gets them noticed, while another’s will be forgotten as soon as it’s been put back in the pile. That answer is EMOTION.
Medina proposes that our brain can only focus on one thing at a time. “When presenting, use rich narratives or create events rich in emotion to keep the audience engaged,” he writes. “Do one thing at a time. Research shows that the error rate goes up 50% and it takes twice as long when multi-tasking” or clouding the narrative.
He also argues the power of “painting a picture” being more important than you might realize. This is because vision is our dominant sense, taking up to a half of the brain’s resources. “Hear a piece of information and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it,” Medina’s theory goes. “Add a picture and you’ll remember 65% of it.”
So how do we get our recruitment right with storytelling?
Startups are competing with more established brands in the talent mix, and using storytelling can offer an edge. A prime opportunity to present your DNA.
And the more established brands are doing cool things too. Accounting and professional service behemoths like KPMG, with presence in nearly 150 countries, reinvented their employee experience by weaving a story around research which linked the impact of the brand’s higher purpose on attracting and retaining talent. Called "Inspire confidence. Empower change.", the campaign linked KPMG’s work to the difference it was making to communities around the world – and had done for decades.
Impressively, the campaign included more than 42, 000 employee stories, after KPMG encouraged its teams to create and share their own digital posters under the “inspire and empower” strapline. As well as portraying KPMG as a great place to work for candidates, the brand’s own research found that 90% of surveyed employees reported that the initiative had increased employee pride in working for KPMG. (Watch one of the campaign videos here: https://youtu.be/JZmZoURcmXI)
Don’t start by posting a vanilla job on your website and LinkedIn. Top talent is seeking something juicy to sink their teeth into and that isn’t it.
Do start with a brand role statement. Something cool you are trying to solve. Get the solutions-making juices - flowing.
Trade out cold hard numbers for emotion and empathy. Draw your candidate in. Paint a picture of why it matters to humans, at the other end.
Have a hook. That one undeniable unique thing you possess that is memorable.
Do your research and have the one thing they are seeking in this role. Is there a particular challenge they are facing, to which they are looking to find an answer with recruitment? Are they looking to grow in a particular market? Are they looking for talent to develop a specific new service or product? What is their achilles heel and how can you best serve it?
Don’t kill them with detail - let Google and LinkedIn do their job!
From there, all of your communications should follow the main plot. Your hook is the “why” of the story. All the other information you offer the recruiter (past experience, previous successes, training) will then be the sub-plots which support the main hook and strengthen the message.
And as it’s your story, you get to be the hero! So back yourself and pitch your next chapter. And if you still have some holes in your story, haven’t found your happily ever after, or don’t feel you have a starring role yet - reach out - whether you’re a brand or candidate, we can help. We find and place Good Souls. It’s time to shine off your Don Draper and make it rain.