Mastering This Recruiting Skill Means You’ll Never Lose Your Job to a Robot

May 25, 2017

Recently, there’s been talk about robots replacing recruiters in the not so distant future. “People not in recruiting think recruiters are just going to go away,” says Brendan Browne, LinkedIn’s VP of Global Talent Acquisition. But, according to him that’s not going to happen.

Why? Because recruiters have one particular tool that can make all the difference. And, it can’t be replaced by a robot. “Our contention is… the one thing that will not change and will make the biggest difference in  the world of recruiting today and in the future is your ability to tell a story.”

As we discussed in a post earlier this month, storytelling is a powerful and often neglected tool that more recruiters need to harness. In this week’s episode of Talent on Tap, Brendan sat down with three LinkedIn recruiters to share tips on how you can become a better storyteller:

Here are some key takeaways from the episode:

1. Take the time to really tailor your outreach to candidates

One of the biggest and most common mistakes recruiters make when reaching out to candidates is being too generic. You might think your InMail templates are inclusive, but candidates can spot a copy/paste job a mile away, and it’s hurting your company’s image as well as your own chances at success. After all, you expect resumes to be tailored to your company, right?

“Storytelling starts from the word go,” advises Kate Parton, a Senior Recruiter at LinkedIn. “We all get so many messages from people, and they can be so bland--it could just be any company that is outreaching you. So how do you stick out? You’ve got to pick up on personalized things,” she says.

Luckily, today personal touch points are easy to find. “Just by looking at their LinkedIn profile you can find things to add in your message,” says Kate. Note the specific experience and skills that suit the role you’re recruiting for. You might discover you have something in common--maybe you both lived in Australia at some point or root for the same sports team. Maybe this candidate went to the same obscure alma mater as the hiring manager. These little details allow you to craft a solid, notable message, even if you’re just weaving personalized details through a standard template.

Understanding your candidate goes beyond their personal lives. It’s vital to understand their career ambitions as well.

“You have to start with what’s important to the candidate--what are they looking for?” says Kate. “Then you’ve got to really tailor what you’ve got in your arsenal to them. Are they interested in growth? Talk about your culture. Are they interested in having impact? That could talk to your company’s vision. Are they excited about particular products? Then you could talk about your product line.”

Share details about your company that will really resonate with a candidate. Keep it succinct--just two or three lines. Think of your outreach messages like the blurb on the back of a book. They need to inspire a candidate to read on.

2. Make your story personal, too

Whether you’ve worked with a company for ten years or ten minutes, you’ve got a story to tell. And that story is something candidates will use, even subconsciously, to start imagining themselves in the role.

We have a natural tendency to mentally insert ourselves into stories. The same instinct that makes you envision yourself as the dashing hero of an action movie also makes you consider whether you’d fit in at a company.

“Try to get a more human story,” advises Kate. Recruiter Dominique Brown agrees. “Personalize it--share your story,” he encourages. “Make sure that you are giving stories about yourself, about the team they would be working with and the manager. They need to know that they are going to come in and have support and a great team to work with.”

Consider adding personal flair to every correspondence. Maybe a fellow graduate who started in the same junior position you’re now recruiting for rose to a senior role in record time. Perhaps the team the candidate would be working with has won awards for innovation. Or the on-site fitness center is something you just adore. Every interaction should open a new window for the candidate to peek through, generating interest in seeing more.

Asking better questions helps with this. “The more probing questions you ask, the more information they’re going to give you and the more you’ll have in your arsenal when it comes to personalizing your story," says Dominique. Asking questions also makes the recruiting process more interactive, making it more memorable and meaningful to a candidate.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to hire someone fresh out of school or a person with twenty years of experience at similar companies. The desire for details is universal. Nobody wants to commit to joining a team they know nothing about.

3. Be authentic: Practice your storytelling and get feedback to ensure that it comes across as natural and compelling

People are natural storytellers. But it doesn’t mean all storytelling is good. Not all stories are created equal, and it’s up to you to ensure you’re delivering the best stories you can at every juncture.

The first step is understanding what you want to say. Take the time to build the story of your company, and create a framework that allows you to weave this through every communication you send--both written and verbal. A consistent, relatable company narrative resonates with candidates far more than a few generic buzzwords ever will.

Everyone has the resources to do this. You don’t need formal training. Draw on your own experiences. Draw on those around you.

“Get more examples from other people from your company so that your story can be compelling and speaking from the truth,” says Senior Recruiter Cristina Medearis. “Create a structure and a foundation.”

When you know your narrative, practice it. Tell it to the bathroom mirror. Watch your body language: does it align with what you’re saying? Record yourself, and then try to listen to it objectively, as if you’re a candidate hearing about the company for the first time. Or ask a coworker or friend to hear you speak--incorporate their feedback, and keep trying until you get it right.

Final thoughts

Story telling shouldn't stop at the recruiter. Meeting with the hiring manager to discuss a candidate’s motivations allows the story to flow seamlessly throughout the entirety of the hiring process, letting the candidate know that your company has truly put in the time to approach them as an individual and not merely a number. Small details like this can make all the difference for applicant’s choosing between multiple lucrative offers.

Storytelling can even make your rejection process more positive for your company, and less painful for candidates. We’ve discussed before how generic rejection emails can hurt your employer brand--little personal touches can not only leave a candidate with a positive impression of your company, but can leave the door open for lasting relationships that may benefit you both in future.

If you have an understanding of the applicant, you can tailor your rejection email to give them better advice for future applications, and even mention roles that might better suit their skillset and interests. And since you’ve already done your research, this only needs to take a minute of your time.

If it seems like a lot of work, just remember that candidates will spot where you’ve put in the effort and respond accordingly. Instead of sending 100 bland, templated InMails and getting a handful of vague responses, send five personalized messages and get five enthusiastic replies.  

Talent on Tap is a weekly series where Pat Wadors and Brendan Browne break down some of the hottest topics, biggest challenges, and most enticing opportunities in the world of talent. Talent on Tap will also give you an opportunity to hear from other organizational leaders, subject matter experts, and thought leaders in the space. Stay tuned each week for the latest.

*Image from Forrest Gump

To receive blog posts like this one straight in your inbox, subscribe to the blog newsletter.