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Employee testimonials are not stories: Eight tips for creating compelling recruitment marketing content

Reading Time: 7 minutes

We love positive sentiments like “We’re like a family.” We are happy for the person who feels that way! But, an employee testimonial is not a story. 

We’re thrilled you have conducted interviews to learn about your employee experience and created content for candidates from your conversations. But, if you’re sharing jargon-y statements that make your storyteller sound good but give zero insight for candidates….it’s not a story.

Hey, no judgment! We’ve been there. It’s taken us years to hone our craft. Today, we can uncover a compelling employee story from any team member, in any industry, in any company, that will communicate real workplace culture to candidates. We want to help you create the best recruitment marketing and employer branding content (and we know that good employee stories are the key).

So, what elements make up a compelling employee story? You know we’ve got you covered. We know we have a good story when we can check several things off the list below.

Let’s try it out!

This video from Dell features employees talking about their culture. But: are they actually telling stories?

Yes, and here’s why.

The stories give candidates real insight.

Without the supporting stories, you would have heard “One of the reasons I came to Dell was work-life balance.” As a candidate, you don’t know to what extent Dell provides work-life balance. Does it mean you get to leave the office every day at 6 pm instead of 7 pm? With the stories from current employees, candidates understand this means getting hours back to your day by working from home instead of commuting, the ability to travel and trusting you will still get your work done, supporting personal hobbies, and encouraging you to take time for family not only in special circumstances (summer workshop for a science olympiad as a coach) but, as a general practice (volunteering at school as part of a regular routine).

You also hear about the related work expectations and responsibilities. Karen is volunteering at her daughter’s school during the school day, but makes it a point to call out that she is also working. Salina will return to India, but she knows she has to deliver on her responsibilities. Work is still very much a focus on the work-life balance stories.

The stories are specific.

Salina needs to return to India for a month. Her manager says, “Take your laptop. These are the responsibilities. If you can deliver, go ahead.” Because she was supported, Salina went to India.

Mag’s daughter is going to be in a workshop for science olympiad. Mag is a coach and she’d also like to attend the summer workshop. She asks her manager if she can work remotely for the summer and her manager says, “Absolutely. You also need to focus on your family.” Mag had never heard that before in other environments. She attended the summer workshop and worked remotely.

The stories inspire action.

Yes, there are ways you can create the life you want while working at Dell… but the work is there and needs to be done. Salina can’t go to India unless she can meet expectations. Mag doesn’t take the summer off, she works remotely. The emphasis is on the balance. This may resonate with you, or it may not. As long as this video makes an impression on you either way (I would thrive here or I would not), it’s a success.

Candidates get a realistic picture of the workplace.

You see what the visual reality is like in the Santa Clara office. There are spaces to collaborate outdoors and inside, bright hallways, a sprawling campus. You can picture yourself physically in the space.

The story is personalized.

This video is targeted to women in technology. Dell knows from their research that flexibility is important to this target audience. Providing a flexible work culture is something Dell does well. They just need to prove it to their target audience.

So, they provided perspectives of women with an array of backgrounds and experiences that singularly and collectively appeal to a woman in technology seeking better balance. Your story content is successful when the candidate persona you are targeting can see themselves in a storyteller and pictures how their life will be different because of your company.

The stories are personal.

Although it moves fast to keep attention, the storytellers are able to share their personalities (“When Mama’s happy, everyone’s happy”), and what’s important to them (their musical interests, being a science olympiad coach). Each team member is relatable.

The company is a character.

Dell management is never featured, but their philosophies are. It is clear that because these women work at Dell, that they are able to have these experiences important to them.

Dell’s strategy is brought to life.

Dell’s workplace flexibility is defined for candidates and promoted to them. Their flexible culture is a competitive advantage, but instead of touting the flexibility concept, they make it real for candidates through stories. Dell shows how a woman in tech with current work-life challenges (long commutes, family commitments, travel interests, outside passions) could be better off joining Dell as a result of their culture.

Checklist complete! Yes, the video has real employee stories, not just testimonials.

Now, it’s your turn. Next time you’re interviewing for stories that show workplace culture, keep this list handy. Don’t stop at the empty, slick testimonial. Get the good stuff!