Why Storytelling Matters in Talent Acquisition

In early 2015, I was a remote worker getting through my job every day with very little oversight, very few challenges – and very little inspiration. I easily completed my responsibilities every day by 2 PM, no questions asked. I had freedom and free time. I needed a change and a push, but I wasn’t seeking it. Who wants to give up pool time in the summer?

I was also preparing to send my now husband off to the Middle East for a four-month deployment. I wasn’t about to put myself through a second huge change.

But a recruiter found me on LinkedIn. She hooked me with “startup,” so I took a call. Then she hooked me with “opportunity” and “a chance to build something.” So I took an interview with the hiring manager, who happened to be SmashFly’s Chief Marketing Officer. And it was Lori who really spoke to me: about both strategy and tactics; about working at a fast pace, but finding a balance; about building something great and learning along the way; about making mistakes every day, but never making the same mistake the next day; about having a mentor, not just a manager.

I flew to Boston shortly after in February (yes, during one of their worst and snowiest winters ever). It was the first time I was interviewed by a CEO and a CMO (and it was totally awesome). I walked through an empty floor looking out on a river in an old mill building (that now is the work habitat to more than 30 SmashFly employees). I left the office being hugged by not only one, but two, SmashFly employees.

The week my husband left for the Middle East, I started working at SmashFly. And people cared. My teammates cared and they didn’t even know me yet. Throwing my time, energy and dedication into a new position, a new industry, a new team gave me a sense of purpose and control that I felt like I had just given up in my personal life. It was simply perfect timing in my life.

A job can be more than a job. It should be more than a job. It should be a part of your life – and mine gladly is.

This is not a lesson in responding to InMail from recruiters (although it could be!). This is hopefully a lesson in storytelling.

Stories come in all shapes and sizes and voices. A quote can initiate a story; an image can tell a story; a video can show a story; a job description can be a story. Each individual at your organization has their own personal career story: how they got to your organization, what inspired them to get into their line of work, what keeps them happy and motivated to stay, what pushes them to come to work every day.

  1. Find them. And if they aren’t on the surface, just ask.
  2. Share them in their realest form, in the real voice they came from.
  3. Let the stories—not a one-sentence EVP, a standard job description or an explainer video—work to influence candidates.

Your Employer Value Proposition doesn’t live in a paragraph on your career site. It doesn’t live in About Us copy on LinkedIn. It doesn’t live in Best Places to Work awards (although they are awesome). Your EVP lives in your employees and their stories.

Be a recruitment marketer and learn how to find those stories within your employees, share them across every recruiting channel you use and influence candidates with authentic messaging. For more ideas on how to become a better storyteller for your organization, read SmashFly’s 2016 Recruitment Marketing Ideabook.

Smashfly is a client of TalentCulture and has sponsored this post.


photo credit: Storytelling_Threesixty via photopin (license)


Unleash The Power Of Social Media Recruitment

Social media is everywhere in the modern world. Its ability to improve communication and to compel our attention makes it one of the most powerful forces of the 21st century. This makes it incredibly useful to recruiters, but many have yet to unleash that power.

So how can you get the most out of social media in recruitment?

Innovation And Imitation

Most companies have now jumped on the social media bandwagon, making it a feature of their recruitment strategies. But they use it in the way that they used old-fashioned techniques like mass advertising.

The old way is a spray-and-pray approach to recruitment. Like a Gatling gun, designed to throw hundreds of bullets into the air in the hope that just one hits, the old-school recruiter hurls adverts out into the void in the hope that someone will see them. Sure, the eyes of the world are now on social media, and so adverts there have a chance of getting anyone’s attention. But unless the social media strategy is better differentiated, unless the adverts are correctly channeled and carefully crafted, they have very little chance of reaching someone who cares.

Social media is an innovative medium, but many of the adverts just imitate old ways of working.

Standing Out And Being Heard

A select few companies approach social media in a way that differentiates them from the crowded, noisy marketplace of social media. They do so not by following old patterns but by disrupting the way companies communicate with the talent community.

As Seth Godin has often pointed out, this sort of marketing is about connecting directly and personally with the people most likely to be interested in you. It is about building the right relationships, not trying to talk to everyone at once. It is about showing what unique things your business has to offer.

The most powerful way to do this is to tell a story. Humans have been telling and responding to stories since we first sat around campfires in the dark of night. We instinctively respond to stories and the emotions they evoke. So use social media to tell a story about your company, what you stand for and what opportunities you offer. Make it a story that inspires, that engages, that elicits an emotional response, and that declares a call to action – to come and work for you.

Reaping The benefits

A company that can disrupt the communications of the talent community will see real value in return.

You will see increased brand recognition, as your story lodges in people’s hearts and minds. You’ll become a company that people are interested in working in for your sake, not for the pay and benefits.

You will see increased access to passive candidates, those who are not actively seeking a new job. These are often the best people to recruit as they have the skills that others also want and the right attitude to turn their work into something productive and fulfilling. But without that story they may never notice the opportunities you offer.

You will see greater process efficiency in recruiting talent as you make use of the best tools. You will also see reductions in talent acquisition’s process costs. Increased access to candidates means you have to spend less time and money hunting them out, decreasing the amount of time in which jobs remain unfilled. And as brand power overtakes salary concerns in attracting recruits there will be less need to offer expensive packages to get the best.

So get out there, tell your story, disrupt the recruitment landscape. Get the best out of your social media recruitment.

About the Author: Mark Lukens is a Founding Partner of Method3, a global management consulting firm and Tack3, a mid-market and not-for-profit focused consultancy. Most of Mark’s writing involves theoretical considerations and practical application, academics, change leadership, and other topics at the intersection of business, society, and humanity.

Our Storied Lives: One Little Melodic Career Tale at a Time

“Begin the day with a friendly voice
A companion unobtrusive
Plays that song that’s so elusive
And the magic music makes your morning mood.”

—Neil Peart (Rush, “Spirit of Radio”)

The Viennese composer from London had vanished. For the nearly two years he worked for me prior to that, he had raised thousands of dollars for the university. One day he asked me to read his manuscript, The Dramatic Music of Henry Purcell, and then shortly thereafter he was gone.

His eviction final, he had no choice but to find another place to live, which wasn’t easy caring for more than a dozen cats and living on such a fixed income, no matter how well he performed at work. The landlord of his studio apartment had received too many complaints about the smell and the howling late at night.

“Kevin, I’m going to go feed my cats before tonight’s shift,” he’d say to me nearly every single day after the afternoon shift, loaded plastic shopping bags of cat food and other staples in both hands.

We ran two three-hour fund-raising sessions Sunday through Thursday. I loved listening to his voice when he called alumni, parents or friends of San Jose State University. His proper English accent conveyed a honey-laced maturity and polite confidence. He was the only older non-student at the time making fund-raising calls for the annual fund I managed while I attended SJSU.

“Hello, this is Gerhart Reichlin calling from San Jose State University, and I’m reaching out to our esteemed alumni today to help us maintain our quality academic programs…”

He never talked much with the other student callers, just basic pleasantries, and usually the others distanced themselves from him unless the call room was completely full.

Over time his voice betrayed confusion and instability, like spider cracks in a windshield, but I could never discern what if anything was wrong. He was my dad’s age, born in 1932, but with much more hair than him: thick and gray and always unkempt underscored by briar patch eyebrows and wiry hairs that sprouted here and there on his face. He owned one pair of beat-up loafers, two sports coats, two pairs of slacks, and a few perpetually stained off-white dress shirts.

And he smelled. Really bad. All the time. A cross between cats, body odor and the musty air from rooms sealed for decades, which is why everyone in the room wanted their distance. No matter how many complaints I received, and the manager before me had received, he never changed his hygienic behavior for the better. I was such a naïve young manager, just wanting everyone to get along and like me, praying they’d all perform well regardless.

I ended up buying him soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste and a toothbrush (his teeth were stained and crooked, with a few missing, like a dilapidated fence). He always thanked us graciously and took the supplies home, but the next day, he always looked and smelled the same.

Gerhart actually had two college degrees in music, a bachelor’s and a master’s. Sometimes I’d see him take an ratty accordion file folder out from a paper bag he brought once in a while, and compose on coffee-stained music sheets. He was also a writer, and my own aspirational goal of being one was the impetus for him opening up to me somewhat. He shared some of his life with me – snapshots of his travels from the UK to New York to San Jose, to the odd jobs he kept in between, to his socialist sentimentality, to his taking care of his cats, but other details were sparse; he was a disheveled, smelly, cat-owning, highly intelligent but slightly off, fund-raising enigma.

However, he had written a manuscript decades earlier about a 17th-century English composer I had never heard of named Henry Purcell, which wasn’t a stretch considering Baroque composers weren’t on my top-10 list. Or top 100. Or any composers for that matter. Only rock and roll and R&B soul.

Regardless, he really wanted me to read through it and give him my honest feedback. I was honored, this request coming from a man whose life experience was akin to a fine red wine left too long unopened, while I was only 22 years old, my own writing as immature as freshly squeezed grapes. Plus, he had read a few of my short stories with valuable feedback.

I had his manuscript for weeks before I read beyond the cover page. Every day he asked me and every day I told him I was just too busy; at the time I had been reading The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson, about an anti-hero with leprosy being thrust into another world.

Finally, I got beyond page one, and I read his deadly dry prose as far as I could, but what was clear between the lines was the passion he had for this composer, his life and his body of work. I realized that he wrote this homage when he was my age at that time, and decades later he still praised this man’s work – just as I have done for decades with “composer,” writer and musician Neil Peart of the band Rush, now celebrating over 40 years of magic music making morning moods.

I still gave Gerhart a kid-gloves review, keeping his fragile ego in mind, and of course wanting only to be liked. He thanked me repeatedly, holding the manuscript close to his chest like a long-lost friend. A few weeks later, he was gone. Once I finished my college degree and moved on from SJSU, his memory slipped away from me.

Until the TalentCulture #TChat Show when Christoph Trappe talked about authentic storytelling in the workplace. That’s when I started thinking about Gerhart’s life and his impact on mine today, which is why I wrote this piece. I again did a little online research and found that he died in 2004, with no other insight into his life other than when I knew him.

The world shares so much today online about how our work and personal lives are intertwined and combined like continuously mutating DNA; how many of these stories are now transforming recruiting, hiring, continuous development and feedback, leadership development, employee retention, that little-known buzz word called employee engagement, and of course marketing and customer acquisition. Yes, these are the perennial feedback loops on work-life integration itself in the 21st century.

But remember, the workplace merry-go-round ain’t ever slowing down, and the economist reality of creative destruction is upon the world yet again. Whether the wealthy “one percent” and/or the robots completely take over may be a wishbone of contention, but what’s fairly clear is that abstract thinking, creativity, adaptable communication, empathy, storytelling and the unique musicality of being human are the sought-after skills of today and at least the immediate tomorrow.

People may pay more attention to economists, analysts, influencers, the marketplace, and marketing in general (and the robots yet to take over), but they should take a beat and pay even more attention to the storied lives that inspire and sustain individuality and community, that give us something to aspire to or rise above. They are made up of those who share their positive purpose freely, and those who can relate to it, flaws and all, and that which ultimately defines the future for each one of us, one little melodic career tale at a time.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: liza31337 via photopin cc

It’s Time To Get Real: Humanize Your Brand

These days, brands are doing everything they can to position products and services. This includes trying to appeal to customers at a human level.

A great example is brands’ efforts with Trust Marketing. Trust is necessary if we are to think of brands in human terms. And humanizing brands is more than marketing – it’s a necessity in a world where social media can sweep aside positioning and branding in a heartbeat.

After many years spent consulting with leaders at software technology companies to help them attract talent, I have come to believe Brand Humanization holds answers on how to move business forward. Brand Humanization does this by emphasizing community and storytelling, which are powerful tools with which leaders can develop and nurture workplace culture. As a big believer in the power of personality and culture fit, which, as it turns out, is a first cousin of Brand Humanization, I’ve worked with companies as they try to align workplace culture and brand. This usually takes place when they’re trying to recruit top talent. The executive team gathers to concoct a brand statement to describe the culture of the company with the goal of making the company appealing to candidates. But this gets things exactly backwards.

Why? Because defining workplace culture and corporate brand is the front end of the recruitment process. Waiting to think about workplace culture and brand until you need to recruit new talent is like closing the barn door after the horses have left. A company’s culture can ensure the success of its business objectives and its most valuable asset: Human Capital. AKA Human Beings, People. To humanize a brand, you first must ensure the corporate culture is robust enough to sustain the good will of employees, your brand ambassadors. People’s stories and personalities inform your corporate culture, so it pays to make sure your workplace culture supports your employees and aligns with your brand.

Let’s look at five reasons why Brand Humanization is important and not a Social Media Fad:

1) Brand Humanization leverages the power of networks of people – to help tell stories about your brand and company culture.

These stories make your business interesting and compelling to consumers, employees, and investors. Each of your employees belongs to many networks – friends, families, business associates and so on. If you let people bring their humanity to your brand, they’ll also bring your brand into their networks. That’s a form of reach money can’t buy.

2) Brands which have been humanized attract and sustain communities of real live people.

Brand communication is not a one-way channel, these communities are critical to brand survival. Apple is a great example here. Go hang out at your local Apple store next weekend – it will be filled with people drawn in by the power of that brand, which is all about building technology to serve people.

3) Communities are groups of people who share interests and intent.

People join social communities because they have a purpose, an intent, and communities let them act on their intent. They are looking for a place to be (Facebook), a place to learn (Google+, Pinterest), a place to interact (Twitter). Communities are critical to crowdsourcing excitement about brand, which translates to brand value. Levi’s rises to the top here. Take a close look at what they have accomplished via social media channels.

4) Trust is the key to Brand Humanization. Trust creates value; it’s why people become attracted to your brand.

Social communities must trust your brand; if they don’t, they can easily destroy it. In order to humanize a brand, you must first assess your ‘trust quotient’ before turning to social communities to promote or socialize your brand. Look into Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s past work on Trust Economies for more. Trust is everything in Brand Humanization, and it comes before interaction with communities of employees and consumers.

5) Social interaction drives other behaviors.

It foreshadows brand involvement, it is the front-end of buying decisions, and it lets people tell authentic, engaging stories about your brand. Get this right, or the stories won’t be engaging and you’ll be forced into damage control mode. Be careful, though, not to think presence on Twitter or Facebook is the equivalent of social interaction. Many brands assume they’re in two-way conversations on these channels, but when you take the time to dig into traffic, very few real bi-directional discussions are taking place. This goes back to trust – only when you’ve humanized your brand enough to gain the trust of your communities will you see two-way communication on most social channels. It’s like SETI – you have to keep the channel open in the hopes of hearing back.

Brand Humanization builds on trust, community and social interaction and doubles down to create a powerful tool to sustain your brand and interact with your brand ambassadors (employees), consumers and prospects. Think about humanizing your brand, and do it soon.

This post was adapted from 5 Warnings For Leaders: Brand Humanization Is Not A Social Media Fad, which originally appeared on

About the Author: Meghan M. Biro is a globally-recognized talent management leader and social business and community catalyst. As founder and CEO of TalentCulture Consulting Group, she has worked with hundreds of companies, from early-stage ventures to global brands like Microsoft and Google, helping them recruit and empower stellar talent.

photo credit: edenpictures via photopin cc

#TChat Preview: How Authentic Storytelling Impacts Talent Strategies

The TalentCulture #TChat Show is back live on Wednesday, January 28, 2015, from 7-8 pm ET (4-5 pm PT). The #TChat radio portion runs the first 30 minutes from 7-7:30 pm ET, followed by the #TChat Twitter chat from 7:30-8 pm ET.

Last week we talked about how to manage the softer skills of your personal brand.

This week we’re going to talk about how authentic storytelling in the workplace impacts talent strategies.

Content marketing will no doubt be a 2015 buzzword. You create content to connect with customers, employees, and potential future employees and everything will be just dandy. Right?

But while content is important, it’s not just about sharing content. It’s about sharing meaningful stories.

People don’t pay attention to most marketing messages. They pay attention to authentic stories, however. Authentic stories build community (think the TalentCulture #TChat community). And community includes people who tell stories by sharing their experiences, their purposes (or lack thereof) and by dreaming about a goal for the future.

Authentic storytelling from leadership and employees impacts recruiting, retention and of course customer acquisition.

Join TalentCulture #TChat Show co-creators and hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman as we learn about how authentic storytelling in the workplace impacts talent strategies with this week’s guest: Christoph Trappe, career storyteller and journalist.

Sneak Peek:

Related Reading:

Christoph Trappe: Podcast: When To Curate And When To Create Unique Content

Meghan M. Biro: Is Your Brand Telling Meaningful Stories? 

Tim Clark: The War On Authenticity

Ishreen Bradley: How Managing Our Inner Diva Helps Us Shine And Not Shrink At Work

Kathi Kruse: The Power Of Storytelling To Connect, Build Trust And Close Sales

We hope you’ll join the #TChat conversation this week and share your questions, opinions and ideas with our guests and the TalentCulture Community.

#TChat Events: How Authentic Storytelling Impacts Talent Strategies

TChatRadio_logo_020813#TChat Radio — Wed, January 28th — 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT Tune in to the #TChat Radio show with our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman, as they talk with our guest: Christoph Trappe.

Tune in LIVE online Wednesday, January 28th!

#TChat Twitter Chat — Wed, January 28th — 7:30 pm ET / 4:30 pm PT Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and Christoph will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where we’ll continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we gather for a dynamic live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: What’s the difference between content marketing and authentic storytelling in the workplace? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q2: How has storytelling in the workplace evolved with the Internet and social networking? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q3: How does storytelling impact talent strategies and the business bottom line? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Until the show, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and in our new TalentCulture G+ community. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!!

photo credit: Het Nieuwe Instituut via photopin cc

Follow Stand-Up Comedy To Become Better Presenter

When you’re trying to hone your speaking and presentation skills, it’s always a good idea to turn to the pros as examples. But who would you consider to be great presenters? You’ll find that stand-up comedians are great at public speaking and have great tips and methods that can be used to make your presentations memorable.

Tell a Story

What makes people remember things we say? Storytelling is a primal technique we have used for centuries to make the audience remember events and people. The idea here is to get people to feel an emotion, so that a connection is made with what you’re saying. Comedians do a great job of this, which is done through funny stories. Of course, you can switch things up and use stories that are heartwarming or shocking, depending on your audience and the message you’re trying to convey.

Practice Looking Spontaneous

You don’t want your presentation to seem rehearsed, so you’ll need to do like the pros do and practice spontaneity. You can do this by practicing your stories out loud and recording them, then replaying them back. You could also go to events like Toastmasters or watch speakers bureau videos to see examples and get feedback. Comedians put in many hours to make their shows feel unrehearsed.

Practice Giving a Strong Delivery

The delivery of your presentation should be strong, in order to keep your audience’s attention throughout your speech. For starters, you want to make sure that you are visible to your audience — after all, seeing believes and it helps to gain their trust as well. Some of the ways you can make your delivery stronger is to use hand gestures, step towards your audience to add emphasis to a point or punchline, or raise your voice at the end of a sentence to make a bigger impact that engages your audience.

Find the Funny Part of Your Joke

When trying to amuse a crowd, your best bet is to get straight to the funny part. A famous quote from Shakespeare is “brevity is levity.” This means that you should get to the joke or punchline as quickly as possible without taking away from the point of your story. Some presenters can use this at the beginning of their speech or midway to keep the interest of the audience. It should be a quick one- or two-sentence joke, no longer than a paragraph. If it’s too long, you may drag it out, which can kill the humor.

Use the Three-Part Joke Structure

Jokes have a three-part system: the intro, the punchline and the taglines, which are additional joke lines. The idea of this setup is to trick your audience into believing they know where your joke is heading, but then the punchline throws them off and surprises them. There are different ways you can set up your joke, such as with metaphors or tricky words that sound alike or are the same, but have different meanings. Just make sure that the punchline reveals the true meaning of what you are trying to say. Try to surprise your audience with new information that they didn’t know was coming.

Use Populars Technique for Writing Comedies

One commonly used comedy writing technique is the Rule of Three, which is when information is presented in groups of three. This creates a small pattern that is easy to remember and digest by any audience. Another method you can use is called the bookend. This is when you close your presentation with the same story or punch that you began with. You’ll find this to be a popular technique that is used in sitcoms, comedy shows, movies and great books. The final method is to repeat your takeaways. You’ll notice comedians like Chris Rock will repeat takeaways throughout the show, so that you remember them. Even Steve Jobs used this technique when he presented the iPod for the first time. His repeated takeaway was “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

Start Your Presentation Strong

You don’t want to slowly build up your presentation. The first 30 seconds of your presentation is in fact one of the most important parts of your speech. This is what will capture your audience’s undivided attention, or they will simply brush you off and have small chit chat with those seated next to them. The beginning of your presentation should have your second-best joke and the best joke should be saved for last. During the first 30 seconds, make sure to make eye contact with your audience and smile, to make them like you. It’s hard to make people laugh when they don’t like you.

With these comedian tricks and tips, hopefully you can make your presentation one that is humorous, memorable and impactful.

About the Author: Norah Abraham has been a freelance writer since 2005. A University of Boston graduate, she loves public speaking and motivates people in her own comic style.

photo credit: TheeErin via photopin cc