Sunday, May 29, 2005

Talent Storytelling

Nelson Ferris of Nike visited our offices a couple years back. I will never forget the stories he told. In fact, the very nature of what he does is storytelling. He is the chief storyteller at Nike. He talked about the transition from Blue Ribbon sports to Nike…how he didn’t even know if Nike would be able to pay him when he first started; he talked about Nike before they hit 1 billion and the growing pains they went through. Any of these stories could probably be found on the web but it’s the art of how Nelson told them that made them so compelling and sticky.

The way Nelson told stories reminded me of my Grandfather. I always admired his ability to tell stories. He could be in a room filled with people and start to tell a story and the entire room would gravitate towards him. For some people telling stories is natural. Others struggle explaining what happened to them that day. Whether it’s natural for someone or not there is an art and methodology to story telling. Being a recruiter in an PR agency also gives me an inside look at what storytelling can do for an organization. But what about recruiting? Why should storytelling be important for us?

Storytelling is crucial in recruiting. A recruiter’s ability to tell a story is the building block of your organization’s relationship with the candidate. It’s what brings the organization to life for them. They may research your company, see the physical surroundings but until they can connect with a phonetic masterpiece their emotional attachment to the company will be no different than any other outsider. If you can bring them inside with a compelling story, one that is sticky, then you will have your candidate’s attention and possibly several others. This is what truly separates great recruiters from good ones. Their ability to tell a sticky story!

You don’t have to be an expert to tell a good story. There are several critical elements in a good story. Most of these elements are consistent in stories throughout history. I don’t claim to know them all but here are few to consider as well as examples of how they might be used in a corporate setting:

1. The Plot: Maybe this is your organization’s win of a major account or client
2. The Struggle: The unbelievable feat your company had to overcome to win
3. The Antagonist: This is your company’s competitor (If Gates this is Jobs)
4. The Hero: The one person in your company that helped overcome the obstacles
5. The Win: How the Hero and the team celebrated the win.

Now think about the close of an interview with an all-star candidate. Let’s say the candidate asks about your clients. You choose to tell them about your companies methodology for targeting and winning top-global brand clients. You also tell them about a recent important win. Think about how you can tell the story so it’s sticky. Do you talk about the struggle, the antagonist, the hero and the win? Or, do you simply tell them that you won this great account. Which one do you think will stick with them? Every question the candidate asks gives you an opportunity to tell a compelling story. Take the opportunity to tell one.

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