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Want to Recruit Top Talent? Tell a Good Story.

How storytelling can help you find and hire the best candidates for your company.

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“Glasses are too expensive. We were students when one of us lost his glasses on a backpacking trip. The cost of replacing them was so high that he spent the first semester of grad school without them, squinting and complaining. The rest of us had similar experiences, and we were amazed at how hard it was to find a pair of great frames that didn’t leave our wallets bare. Where were the options?”

This is just part of the story that inspired Warby Parker, the uber-cool retailer of prescription glasses and sunglasses. The story sells products, inspires customers and – yes! – attracts a passionate workforce.

At Duffy Group, storytelling is an integral part of recruitment research, a five-step approach to finding the best candidates for companies that need them. This includes “passive” candidates who may not be looking to make a career move but would be receptive if a great opportunity was presented to them.

Related: Why Storytelling is a Skill that Every Entrepreneur Should Practice

More than a mission statement

Good stories evoke emotion and inspire action. Translated into business, they can help workers understand, embrace and put your company’s mission into practice.

That’s not to say that simply slapping your company’s mission statement on your website will bring the best applicants to your doorstep. Instead, you need to describe why your team is dedicated to and fulfilled by their work. Recently, our team helped a nonprofit serving special-needs children hire a new CEO. The board of directors preferred hiring someone with a special-needs child, a preference you would never include on a job description. In our story, we explained why this was important and then pitched it to our trusted network to find the ideal candidate for the job.

A good story also helps when there are several job openings that need to be filled over time. We used storytelling to help our credit union client expand its management team and reduce its recruitment costs by explaining how the company values its customers and employees equally. Doing so helped us build immediate rapport with vetted candidates.

Storytelling is critical in negotiations between clients and candidates, too, especially in competitive fields. To help a law firm client woo a highly prized senior tax accountant from a large public accounting firm, we wrote the firm’s story and the candidate’s story. The firm was offering knowledge-based growth, potential career growth and a 45-hour workweek. The candidate wanted multi-focused learning opportunities in a new field with the potential to grow his career. He also was working 75 hours a week. It was a perfect match, made possible by knowing what each side valued most.

Related: The 5 Elements of Storytelling Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

Crafting a compelling narrative

Of course, piquing a candidate’s interest isn’t easy. That’s where “the sizzle” comes in. That’s our way of describing a client and all it has to offer, including how and why the team finds its work fulfilling.

We start by completing a detailed intake form to learn as much as we can about our client. This includes the company’s organizational structure and business goals, what distinguishes the firm from others in the industry, what the culture is like and even what causes the company supports in the community. This may be followed by an on-site visit to get a firsthand look at the business in action, see the company’s workspace and meet the people who work there.

Whether you work with a recruiter or handle recruitment internally, this process can be illuminating. You may take for granted your company’s flex hours, remote workdays or community giving, but these perks can be differentiating factors.

With this rich information in hand, you will be ready to develop a recruitment strategy. In doing so, think about the information you gathered in the discovery phase and culture of the company and department. Note what steps have been taken and the profile of the talent you wish to hire. Then put your detective and sales skills to work to uncover hidden talent whose backgrounds, education and experiences dovetail with your company’s needs.

Related: How to Use Storytelling to Sell Your Brand and Vision

Kathleen Duffy

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Kathleen Duffy is CEO of Duffy Group, a global recruitment firm that helps people find joy in their work. She was among the first in the nation to lead an entirely remote workforce. Kathleen balances her CEO duties helping other small business owners and women secure corporate leadership roles.