Webinar Recap: Improving the Candidate Experience with Employee Stories


‘Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. Tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.’ This Native American proverb captures the essence of the power of story. As a talent acquisition leader or professional, you are constantly challenged with finding and engaging new talent every day to join your organization. Telling stories is one of the best ways to share information with talent or to convey something new in a way that will capture the hearts and minds of your candidates.

During last week’s webinar with Lauryn Sargent, Partner and Co-founder, Stories Incorporated, and Stephen Schwander, Director, Client Solutions, Talemetry, the topic of story was the focus of discussion for these two industry veterans. So if you weren’t able to join us, we wanted to share five key highlights from the discussion that you can use to leverage employee stories that will reinforce your employer brand and create a positive experience for your candidates, including:

  • webinarstoriesThe importance of a positive candidate experience and the ramifications of a negative one
  • The impact of your employer brand on the candidate experience
  • Why employee stories are such an effective tool to recruit like-minded candidates
  • Best practices on what to include in your employee stories to build a stronger employer brand
  • How you can leverage stories for your diversity hiring or niche hiring recruiting strategies

The Importance of a Positive Candidate Experience and Ramifications of a Negative One

Stephen began the discussion by weighing in on both the good and bad of the candidate experience. He mentioned that one of the first things to consider is what happens when people come to your career site—no matter where they come from. Typically, when candidates engage on a career site, employers don’t know who they are. So the quality of that interaction, including what candidates see, learn and even feel, determines whether they leave the site or take the first step toward conversion. When encountering a positive experience, candidates have a greater likelihood to convert—whether it’s applying, joining a talent network or some other call to action.

But negative experiences are all too common. Stephen indicated that there are a lot of missed opportunities and cited numerous studies that support this. A recent Talent Board study found that 31 percent of candidates who report a bad experience indicate that it was a lack of a positive employment brand or lack of a positive company experience—in other words, a lack of what the employer brand was doing for them. Nine percent of respondents report a disconnect between the job description and the position they interviewed for, an additional 11 percent report a company misfit, and another 11 percent experienced bad rapport with the hiring manager.

Stephen also relayed a question posed by the 2017 Talent Board North American Candidate Experience Research Report, which asked candidates how likely they were to refer someone else for the job based on their overall experience. 82 percent of candidates who had a great experience said they would be extremely likely to refer a friend, but 44 percent who had a bad experience would definitely not refer others. The significant impact of a negative candidate experience is clear. Further, 35 percent of candidates who have a negative experience with your brand and recruitment process will share their experiences on social media, while even worse, 46 percent of candidates who have had a bad experience will sever their business relationship with you altogether. So not only does candidate experience impact success for recruiters and for your talent acquisition function, it also influences the candidate-consumer connection that impacts your business performance and overall bottom line.

The Impact of Your Employer Brand on the Candidate Experience

Today’s candidates are interested in more than just title and salary. They want to know what will it be like to work at your organization. Stephen continued the discussion by sharing his experience and citing additional research from the last several years. Specifically, he noted that the number of ‘job quits’—or people leaving their jobs—is at a recent all-time high, according to CNBC. In other words, the candidate market is going active and your employer brand is becoming that much more important.

He then focused on two key takeaways from this candidate environment. The first impact is that there is an increase in active candidates, where messaging is an essential part of attracting talent in a competitive market. Second, based on a recent study from LinkedIn, there is a clear move happening now among top talent from finance to technology, driven by employer brand and employer purpose. There is also a move away from larger corporations to smaller corporations. So from a branding perspective, organizations must be able to demonstrate the value they have to candidates, regardless of their size, and to attract the right type of talent by clearly articulating their employer brand during the candidate experience.

Data further support these assertions. Specifically, Stephen referenced a study by Brandon Hall that indicated organizations that invest in a strong candidate experience will actually improve the quality of their hires by more than 50 percent. Another LinkedIn study found that candidates trust current employees three times more than they trust employer messaging. And finally, of the 44 percent of candidates who research a company before they even consider applying, one-third of those specifically want employee testimonials.

Lauryn then added to this portion of the discussion by turning toward specificity around the candidate experience. She indicated that the top way to improve your candidate experience is to be very specific of what the candidate experience is like. As candidates research your company values, you need to be very clear on what you mean as well. For example, if you say you have a culture of flexibility, you need to not just provide words, you need to provide proof. Let your stories explain what flexibility actually means to employees. By giving candidates what they want, and using employer brand and recruitment marketing content that either turns candidates off or on, you can create a more positive experience and help candidates make an informed decision based on the substance of your content.

Why Employee Stories Are Such an Effective Tool to Recruit Like-Minded Candidates

Stories inc

The discussion then turned to explaining why stories can make such a big impact on your recruitment marketing content. Lauryn indicated that one of the reasons stories are so powerful is based in our brains. We are wired to think in cause and effect. It’s one of the easiest ways to communicate concepts and to convey your mission, vision and values. When you hear a story, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel as if the story is really happening to you, even when it isn’t. Stories are the only way to give someone an experience when they are not actually experiencing it with you. In other words, as Lauryn stated, if you tell a candidate a story, they actually feel like they are with you.

All this is important because it means that stories are one of the most effective ways to create memorable content. With all the information overload of today, Lauryn noted that candidates can feel overwhelmed, and may actually visit between two and 18 different sources for information before they apply. And they may not view all that information at once. With intake happening at different times, candidates will consume significant amounts of information, so you need to make sure your recruitment marketing content is putting out memorable stories that make an impression.

Oppositely, as Lauryn indicated, another reason to use stories is to get candidates to opt in or opt out of your recruitment process. Stories help you convey what is distinct and unique about your organization. And that should be the goal of your employer branding content. But as Lauryn pointed out, you should employ stories that are slightly polarizing—where the right people will be excited to apply for your positions and the wrong candidates will realize they are not the right fit and move on to find a better one.

And finally, one final reason that stories offer compelling branded content for your candidate experience is that they offer a great closing technique for candidates. As Lauryn expressed, stories are the best ways to have candidates identify with the storyteller and to help picture themselves in the environment they are evaluating. For example, stories can provide insight into what it’s like to be in a specific job family in your organization or shed light on the experiences women in technology have or provide relatable personal and professional moments that the company did for them. The combination of these reasons emphasizes the power of stories to recruit like-minded candidates and to drive a positive candidate experience for each organization.

Best Practices on What to Include In Employee Stories to Build a Stronger Employer Brand

So what should a story have to be most effective in expressing your employer brand and to attract the right talent for your organization? According to Lauryn, there are four top questions you can use to gather and capture great employee stories:

1) What was the moment you knew you made the right decision to work here?
This question is important because it identifies a moment that the organization did something for an employee. For example, think of the moment when you knew you made your best friend at work.

2) What was your best day at work?
This question gets employees thinking of moments that have worked out well for them and celebrate the fun they have at work. These are the moments that are important to individuals and are highly relatable through story.

3) What is something that happened that can only happen here?
This question focuses on what makes your organization unique. Something that can only happen at your company and nowhere else.

4) What are you most proud of?
This question emphasizes the importance of stories being personal in nature. It gets the storyteller thinking about personal and professional accomplishments, and brings stories to the forefront that candidates can relate to.

Leveraging Stories For Diversity Hiring or Niche Recruiting Strategies

We know diverse teams make stronger teams. So this portion of the webinar discussion focused on how stories can showcase what the organization is doing for diversity candidates or niche candidates. Lauryn shared several examples of how Stories Incorporated has developed stories of persons with disabilities or veterans or women in technology. By leveraging these types of targeted stories to strategic audiences, candidates can understand how your company uniquely values different candidates throughout the organization.

Stephen then mentioned that from a recruitment marketing perspective, the value of employee stories reaching the needs of strategic audiences—like diversity or military hiring—at the right time with the right technology is extremely powerful. He painted the scenario where a former military veteran views a job posting from a military job site. With the right recruitment marketing platform, you can identify where the candidate is coming from on your career site and present the right personalized story featuring a veteran employee from your organization. This is where the power of employer branding and recruitment marketing technology amplify your employer brand to reach candidates at the right time with the right story. Lauryn reiterated this point as well. If you give candidates what they want, when they want it—immediately—you can tailor to their individual needs and wants and interests.

Lauryn then spent some time providing examples of how stories can be used across the entire candidate journey, including awareness, consideration and decision making stages. Specifically, in the awareness phase, you should use employee stories to grab attention quickly. But as candidates go further into their journey, you may want to feature content and stories that are longer and more substantive.

This portion of the webinar discussion concluded with Stephen focusing on other areas that stories can be featured in recruitment marketing processes. He referenced how stories can be used in outbound marketing strategies and content to increase candidate conversion. For example, in a specific campaign to veterans, you could link to a video story where you embed calls to action at the end to invite unknown visitors to convert into known visitors. He also referenced tracking capabilities through innovative recruitment technologies that can help increase your intelligence based on candidates consuming your story content. For organizations with aggressive diversity hiring or niche recruiting strategies, this type of personalization and storytelling ability can significantly improve the candidate experience and their ability to find the right talent at the right time.

Start Telling Your Employee Stories with the Right Technology

Leveraging employee stories to reinforce your employer brand and create a positive experience for candidates is one of the key ways you can attract and connect with top talent. Understanding that your employer brand is what attracts and appeals to candidates, but your technology is the delivery mechanism for getting your message to them, is essential in building indisputable recruitment ROI. If you are working hard to build your employer brand with compelling employee stories and recruitment messaging, but lack the proper delivery mechanism from your technology, then you should seriously consider how you can prioritize your investment for the future to find the right recruitment marketing platform that supports all your recruitment channels and integrates with your existing systems.

To get the most out of what you’ve put in, you need data-driven insight into your full talent acquisition strategy that also helps you scale recruitment marketing in a cost-effective way. That’s where recruitment marketing technology can have an immediate impact on amplifying the power of your employer brand to create lasting ROI. We hope you have learned some key insights from these industry professionals and we invite you to listen to the webinar replay to hear their expertise first-hand.

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