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Why Tell Stories?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

This post originally appeared on SRSC’s blog.

When my partner Scott and I first started our company Stories Inc, we focused on linear storytelling and organizational history. A progressive People person we pitched said, “We tried that. We created a really expensive book about our history that no one read. What everyone really wants to know are the stories. Could you just do that?”

“Why, yes we can,” we said, and now that’s all we do: gather stories from employees and use them to create content for recruitment marketing and employer branding.

We really beat the drum on the story thing. We even named our company Stories Inc. But, why stories in the first place? It’s all about your brain.

Candidates will remember you

Our brains are wired to remember stories. And, more of the brain is activated when listening to a story, so the information is retained better. Are you going to remember a list of company benefits, or the story about how someone took two weeks off to help her rebuild her parents’ house after Hurricane Katrina hit, thanks to a cool company policy?

Candidates will picture themselves working with you

When I was recruiting, I would schedule interviews with candidates for their final interview at the time they normally start their workday. Instead of the normal routine, they would experience what it would be like to start the gig (bonus points for better commute). I walked them by their desk, “this is where you’ll be working”. Candidates picturing themselves working for you is essential to closing them.

What if you can’t give the candidate that experience directly? There’s a study done at Princeton University, presented in this TED talk, about how a storyteller can align the story listener’s brain with theirs by talking about an experience. You can think of it as planting ideas, thoughts, and emotions into someone else’s mind.

“Bob lives in your neighborhood. When he takes the parkway and listens to the Bee Gees, he can get to work in under twenty minutes.”

See, you’re already boogying to work in under half an hour when you take the parkway to your new job.

Realistic Job and Culture Preview

Stories also humanize lofty mission statements and values. It’s not enough to say, “Love is one of our Core Values.” Candidates aren’t going to remember that unless you give it meaning. What does that mean to you? Here’s how it shows up for Kasasa:

Further, when we hear a story involving our senses, the corresponding sensory cortex reacts.  So, when you hear or read about a smell, your primary olfactory cortex reacts; about a movement, your motor cortex lights up.

… and I’m back, wearing a parka. This is a great technique for realistic job preview.

Candidates will want to join you (if you’re telling the right stories)

More from science: Stories increase oxytocin synthesis, a neurochemical in our brain related to empathy, cooperation, and trustworthiness. Because of this, stories motivate us to engage in cooperative behaviors (join the talent community, apply for the job to fight for a shared purpose).

So, that’s why stories! When used in recruitment marketing, candidates for your company will remember you. They’ll picture themselves working there. They’ll know what they’d be getting into. And, the right candidates will want to join you!

Learn more about telling stories that move candidates in our Ultimate Guide to Creating Content for Candidates, or email me at [email protected].