Job candidates are busy

4 tips to make sure you don’t waste their time

January 29, 2016
This post is Part 3 of “Tell Candidates What They Really Want to Know: A step-by-step guide to storytelling for recruiting.” Introduction and other posts here.

Now that you’ve gathered the key components of your hiring story and narrowed in on the persona or segment you want to target, you are left with what you could think of as the raw ore of a story. Now it’s time to polish into something that really shines. To do that, you’ll want to make sure your hiring story embodies each of the characteristics listed below.


Your hiring story should not only explain what makes you, you, it should also help you stand out from the crowd. While you might be inclined to lead with your “biggest” value propositions, we recommend emphasizing anything that makes it clear how you’re different from other companies. Humans are curious creatures, and competitive candidates are inundated with pitches; showing them something they haven’t seen before is the best way to keep them reading.

Try This:
Looking back over all the information you’ve gathered so far, reorder it starting with the items that most set you apart from other companies. Not sure which of your value propositions are true differentiators? Identify your top competitors and take a look at their hiring collateral. Figure out the strongest value proposition of your top competition and make sure you lead with something different.

For Example:
If you are getting outbid, you don’t want to lead with compensation; instead, you might focus on autonomy and the opportunity to learn.


One of the oldest, and truest, storytelling adages is “show, don’t tell.” In the case of your hiring story, this means giving candidates specific examples that illustrate your value propositions.

Try This:
Go through your key story components and find a specific, tangible example for each element. This will most likely require you to work with a few team members to find those specific stories.

For Example:
If your value proposition is, “We give our engineers lots of responsibility from day one,” try to interview an engineer about their first few weeks on the job. A broad statement about responsibility will never have the impact of hearing an actual team member say, “I pushed code my first week at the company, even though I was coming straight out of college.”


Candidates, especially highly competitive ones, are skeptical of being “sold” to. They will quickly tune out if your story seems inauthentic. If you can answer a few hard questions with transparency, the trust you’ll win from candidates will far outweigh any potential loss of face. And remember, you don’t want more candidates — you want more of the right candidates. As Crystal Miller, co-host of Drive Thru HR says, “It’s ok to get people to self-select out!” Being honest about challenges is a fast way to prequalify candidates and give you more time to focus on the ones who are a great fit.

Try This:
Ask yourself, or the hiring team, “What might cause someone to struggle here?” or “What is the most common concern you hear from candidates and how are you working to address it?” Make sure the answers come from a range of voices, not just executives and VPs. Candidates know things can look rosier from high above; they’re more likely to trust their potential peers “in the trenches.”

For Example:
Let’s say you are hiring for a relatively new sales organization. Account executives are expected to handle everything from lead gen to client troubleshooting. Lots of candidates will be excited about the potential to own a large territory and have room to experiment with process, but it’s also important to recognize that other candidates might struggle if they are looking for a role with more structure and support.


Your story should be pretty polished now, but don’t ever assume that “if you write it, they will read.” The way you present your story will help compete for candidates’ attention with their overflowing inbox, buzzing phone, and coworker questions.

Try This:
Make a strong first impression with a compelling email subject or headline. Break information into smaller chunks, segmenting a longer video or creating a drip email campaign. Upgrade your visuals to show real employees doing real work in your actual offices.

For Example:
We wouldn’t be very credible writers if we didn’t use these techniques ourselves. For headlines we take the advice of Copyblogger (email required) and Buffer. We break stories into digestible bits — including this one, with its“Try This” and “For Example” subheds. We also created an infographic for the basic story-creation flow and gave you a worksheet to provide actionable next steps. We’re hopeful it worked — now it’s your turn.

Next up, check out
Post 4 for help choosing the right format for your employer story.

BTW, We use storytelling to help high-growth startups scale their teams. If you’d like to hear more, we’d love to talk!

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