To friends on swings discussing the power of storytelling in hiring

The power of storytelling in hiring

Storytelling is an undervalued but critical skill to sell a candidate’s skills and the company’s job opportunity.

Interviewing to tick off criteria like a certain skill is just one component of the recruitment process—and often the most straightforward.

Conveying things like passion, values or communication style, however, are factors revealed in between anecdotes. The power of storytelling in hiring is an undervalued, skill but perhaps one of the most critical. It sells a candidate’s skills to match a job, and conversely, sells the company’s opportunity and brand.

Storytelling in hiring

Storytelling in hiring means recalling information but conveying it in a compelling way—and in context—for your listener. There are a few benefits to crafting a compelling story:

  • Make use of the short time you have in a job interview by leading with the ‘wow’ parts and moving beyond just facts and figures.
  • Ensure your listener recalls the important information by tying it to a memorable anecdote.
  • Convey emotion and are more likely to develop true rapport with your listener.

Here we look at the role of storytelling in hiring and how both companies and candidates can improve their pitch.

Understanding storytelling in hiring can help you shine in an interview

Storytelling in hiring: Tips for candidates

  1. Have a skeleton structure in mind

All good stories have clear plot points that drive the narrative forward. These are the moments that have a meaningful impact on the progress of the story and will ensure your interviewer doesn’t get lost in the facts of your career history. Consider why you left a role, your ultimate goal in life or how events shaped where you are right now. As long as these are threaded together in a compelling and honest way, you’ll keep your interviewer engaged.

  1. Start big

Follow the content hierarchy: high importance, medium importance, and low importance. Answering questions with this hierarchy in mind ensures if you run out of time, you’ve conveyed the big ‘sell’ items first.

  1. Create a connection with emotion

Life is not neat, so don’t feel compelled to create ‘hero’ characters or omit emotions, even hard ones.

Don’t just rely on facts and figures; make it personal. If you suffered a career setback, explain why that motivated you to upskill, take up further studies or try your hand at a new industry. Empathy is universal and being honest about emotion is a way to build rapport with your interviewer.

storytelling in hiring is important for employers and employees

Storytelling in hiring: Tips for companies

  1. The story isn’t about you

For hiring managers, the way you market a job opportunity is by first giving your prospective employee a lead role in the story. Bring them along the history of the business, including its employee value proposition, and show how they are part of the story. What will their unique skills bring to the business?

  1. Share your vision

Early in the interview share an obstacle you are facing in your business and your end goal. Being honest about hurdles and aligning them with your business plan immediately creates a sense that the candidate is part of the solution and their voice matters. Follow up with a question like, “Have you been in a situation like this?” or “How would you solve a situation like this?”. This should create trust and honest rapport.

  1. Add details to help visualise your business

Stories are what make your business more than a service or a product—and a memorable one at that. Sharing specific details help take your candidate along the journey. As a rule of thumb, you want to provide enough colour so that your candidate can recall the story and retell it. These anecdotes that give life to your business also materialise your business’ culture, personality and priorities. If your staff are the lifeblood of your business, share success stories. If a personal cause that you are passionate about, such as a charity or not-for-profit initiative, then became a cause supported by the business, explain why.


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