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Editorial Team
12 Dec 2018

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Recruiting the J.K. Rowling Way

Using stories to engage candidates in the recruitment game 

An unassuming boy living in a make-shift room in the under-space of the stairs. Everything, from his clothes to his disheveled hair, screams that this one is not doing that well and is living on bare necessities. This keeps on happening till the owls strike and leave a slew of letters that he got into the “Hogwarts”. A rather riveting turn of events takes place and the victim becomes the victor. Eight books later, when you finish reading the last page and close the book, there was never a dull moment in your journey to and in Hogwarts. In the words of J.K. Rowling, “There’s always room for a story that can transport people to other places.” Harry Potter is just one example of the impact a story has on our brains and lives.

How and why our brains love to feed on stories:

  • Human brain finds stories more engaging and worth remembering than data and facts – say neuroscience and psychology researches.
  • Broca’s area (the speech producer) and Wernicke’s area (the speech decoder) get to work when data and facts are fed to the human brain.
  • A fodder of stories, however, will engage these two and also the sensory and motor areas aka cortexes in the brain.

The result – you feel that you have lived the story, you retain it more, and your brain creates a ‘post-it’ note to make sure you remember the story.

Storytelling in branding is no new revelation. It’s been there for a while.

Remember the good old Marlboro Cowboy? In 1950s the Cowboy story shot sold up to 3000% for Marlboro. Marketers, as the norm goes, are great storytellers or better still – story sellers.

When it comes to recruitment Talent Acquisition Experts need to take a leaf or two from corporate storytellers. Here is why?

  • Millennials (3/4 of the workforce) aspire for more than just a decent paying job.
  • They want to be a part of something special and brand image is a pivotal factor.
  • Jobs need to create impact and allow people to think out of the box.
  • Employees do not just need a sustainable workplace, but also a great workplace that makes them and people around them smile.

Talking about impact and influence, Gary Vaynerchuck (founder Vayner Media and a Social Media Influencer) is one man who knows how the ‘social media’ cookie crumbles. DailyVee (that’s what he named his YouTube series) can well serve as your field trip to Vayner Media. The glass meeting room is all accessible even when Gary Vaynerchuck is recording an episode. Quick “Hellos” and informal introductions are the regulars in the menu. There are episodes, (like the one with Vayner’s Chief Heart Officer), in which employees are interviewed. Pretty much out of the box, isn’t it? Everything, from the energy Gary Vaynerchuck, puts in the videos to the background vibes and the laid-back yet on the mark attitude, is so unconventional that it is compelling (it compelled me to check their website). One look at the website and you get the ‘story’ of Vayner Media as a brand. They ask job applicants “What will you teach us?” making this entire exercise about the candidates and not the company.

The takeaway from Vayner Media’s Story:

  • Cheer for ‘team People’. Weave a story showcasing life at your company
  • Make it subtle. Gary Vaynerchuck never mentions the great working culture, but the culture has an omnipresent existence in his YouTube videos
  • The most prominent stories are in the background. Daily Vee is not a talent acquisition initiative. It talks about trends. Shot in Vayner Media office, people making a ‘Friendly Appearance’ – they have a working branding-for-recruitment strategy without any exclusive investment.

Be Simple, Relatable and Appealing

A story needs to be simple. None of your employees or candidates are superheroes. A bespectacled schoolboy, your friendly awkward teenage neighbor or an average Lego Joe with his ‘9-to-5’ desk job allows your audience (read; candidates) to draw parallels from their lives. The Lego Movie might be the most loved branding campaigns in recent times. They had a complete cinema length movie and a fairly good chance of making it appear as another branding exercise. But, it was a story well-told that speaks up to people across generations by challenging their notion of ‘possible’. The only limits that we have are our own imaginations – that’s the flavor of the movie and goes with Lego’s brand image of creativity, imagination, and fun.

Takeaway from Lego Story:

  • Align branding exercise with talent acquisition goals – two birds with one stone
  • Make it subtle, creative and relatable
  • Be simple, but never boring
  • Create a story that stands for your core values

Take it from every day to make it special – it’s all about plot turns that make you smile

But, not everyone here is tasked with creating Lego toys. Some jobs are more mundane than the others, some industries are more traditional than the others. So, a job flyer for some positions, like a delivery man for a cargo company remains the same ever since trucks are plying on the streets. But, UPS thought a bit out of the delivery box with its wish delivered initiative.

Take the story of Parson, who is like any six years old, full of life and a box full of wishes. Out of all things she loves, UPS and the delivery lady Miss Tammy (who has a regular visit) hold a special place for her. She dreams to be a UPS driver (nothing unusual, even we dreamt to have our very own ice-cream truck). But, the plot twist comes when she is granted her wish. She goes to her workplace to be a Driver-for a-Day with Miss Tammy and is introduced as the new driver of UPS, while other drivers cheer for her. This scene takes place in a workshop and subtly showcases that not just the trucks are “shiny brown”, but the warehouse shone too (talking about great places to work).  The concluding scenes of the video have Parson’s mother say that Miss Tammy has been the most prominent influence on Parson when it comes to gaining confidence.

Takeaway from UPS:

  • Be candid when you pan the camera across offices and employees
  • Everyone knows what the Job Description is, try showcasing the possible Value Description
  • Create a story as your employees as the hero

Engage the employees – ask them to write their own stories

Protagonists should be the best storytellers aka the heroes, even when there is no video or a movie. Deloitte touched this nerve to perfection. They have an entire career journey section. The page opens with “All roads lead to impact”. UPS knows it and so does Deloitte that people need to feel that their job touches lives and has a sustainable impact.

Parish Ivy, who is from Deloitte Tax LLP, states in his story that “I know I am not saving the world. My wife works at a hospital; she saves lives. But I do get to have an impact on my clients as they look to ways to provide people with jobs…” The page has stories as per department. In a global economy, where companies shape into conglomerates, it is important to make every story reach people who need to listen to it. While you do that, remember to add that universal element as the cherry on the top and also the base of the story cake.

The Takeaway – Add the human angle and be universal.

Since we are talking about stories – What is your recruitment story? Are you sticking to traditional job descriptions or going with a story mode? How important is an emotionally charged content to you when it comes to recruitment? Do leave your feedback here.

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