Back in June, I received an email from Cody Voellinger, CEO and founder of RockIT Recruiting. Cody had heard about my strategic storytelling workshops and he wanted one for his team — of 20 technical recruiters.
While my workshops are usually designed for leadership, sales, and marketing teams, Cody felt that storytelling skills could help his recruiters connect employers and candidates. So a couple of weeks ago, I led a strategic storytelling workshop for Cody and his team.
Afterwards, we compared notes on the top takeaways:
#1. Narrative training helps you compellingly convey what employers do.
To my surprise, recruiters on Cody’s team unanimously agreed that their number-one challenge is explaining to candidates — in a compelling way — what hiring companies do. As one of Cody’s recruiters put it, “How do you get past all the buzzwords and gobbledygook?” So I introduced the team to the same narrative techniques I use with CEOs: Who’s the main character (customer)? What does his/her future look like thanks to us? We practiced telling the stories of several RockIT clients using this structure, transforming the “gobbledygook” into easier-to-understand narratives.
#2. Recruiters can build trust through strategically crafted stories.
Counterintuitively, the most effective trust-building stories are about how you acted in way that was not trustworthy — and learned from the experience. One RockIT recruiter, Max, shared the time he failed to check in with a candidate before his client made an offer; turned out the candidate had accepted elsewhere, which was hugely embarrassing for Max and the client. Now, if I’m an employer and Max tells me this story (along with appropriate reflection on why he needed to change), I’m far more likely to trust him than if he simply says, “I’m trustworthy.”
#3. Strategic stories help recruiters differentiate themselves.
Whether they’re employees or outside contractors, recruiters face competition. When I asked Cody’s team how they were different from other recruiters, they said (practically in unison), “We save clients time by delivering quality results instead of focusing on quantity.” Cool that they all knew it, could they back it up with a story? As it turned out, Cody himself had one:
“I was a recruiter for three years at a firm where I had to hit a resume quota every week. That’s how it is at most recruiting firms, and I hated it because the focus on quantity actually wastes employers’ time. I wanted to SAVE them time — to add value by introducing them to fewer, higher quality candidates. That’s why I quit and started RockIT.”
As with the previous example, I’m more likely to believe RockIT’s “quality over quantity” mantra after hearing Cody’s story.
#4. Recruiters benefit from practicing and refining their stories.
After the recruiters drafted and told stories in the two-hour workshop, the team asked if we could meet again for a practice session so they could rehearse and refine their stories. That made a lot of sense: great storytellers practice telling the same story over and over, editing it as they learn what connects with audiences. So Cody and I will hold a follow-up session to do just that in the coming weeks.
#5. Hiring teams, too, win when everyone tells strategic stories.
Recruiters can help hiring managers, along with everyone on the hiring team, by harvesting effective stories. Hunt for chestnuts like:
- This One Time, We Messed Up and Almost Lost Our Biggest Customer, But We Learned from It and Now We Do Things Very, Very Differently
- Last Year We Hired This Person Who Was a Genius But He/She Almost Destroyed Our Team, So Now We Know the Personality Traits We Want
- When I First Heard That Everyone On Our Team Has to Spend An Hour a Week Doing Customer Service, I Was Like, “What?” But Here’s Why That’s Turned Out to Be One of the Coolest Parts of My Job
Basically, when a hiring manager says, “We’re different because ___,” the recruiter should make sure everyone on the team can tell a (true) story backing that up. Toward that end, Cody and I are now offering storytelling workshops to employers that are RockIT’s clients, and I’ll report back on how they go.
About Andy Raskin:
I help entrepreneurs tell strategic stories — to power fundraising, sales, marketing, recruiting, and product. My clients include companies backed by a16z, KPCB, First Round Capital, and other top-tier investors. I also lead storytelling workshops for teams. More at http://andyraskin.com.