Tell a story that will grab the heart as well as the intellect of top talent.

Share story

Most company pitches to job candidates tend to start out the same way: either with an innocuous question (Do you want to make a difference by working for an exciting company?) or a dry statement (Company X is a $100M company in the aerospace industry).

Does this work? While it may not deter candidates who are actively seeking new positions, you aren’t going to see much traction with sought-after talent through this approach. Instead, your company must tell a compelling story to reel in desirable candidates.

As recruiters and hiring managers, we’ve all heard the term “employee value proposition,” or EVP, tossed around inside corporate cultures. A new term that is starting to gain traction, particularly as the hiring market remains heated, is “candidate value proposition.” The difference is subtle, but speaks to the need to understand and market to your target audience — in this case, potential employees — by having a well-thought-out answer to the question, “Why should I work for your company?”

Like a marketing organization, the best way to hook your audience is to understand what it is they want to know, rather than telling them what you think they should know. Place yourself in the shoes of the customer — or, in this case, the candidate — to develop a personalized, relevant introduction to your company that will engage their interest by asking yourself the following questions.

Where did we come from?

Most companies have an inspiring note or two in their origin story. Whether it was the 19-year-old founder building a personal computer in his dorm room, or a happy accident that led to the first chocolate chip cookie, a good origin story is a great way to introduce your company in a personal way. It will also paint a picture of the company’s goals, culture and motivations, which will resonate with potential candidates in a way a fact-filled list of dates and revenue figures will not.

What’s my company sizzle?

Every company is compelling in some way; the key is to understand and articulate what differentiates your company’s products and culture. Did your company make a “best place to work” list? Is it active in the community or focused on environmentally friendly solutions? Does your company boast a long average tenure? Is your product the first of its kind, or on the cutting edge of the latest evolution in a mature or crowded space? Leverage public opinion of your company, but in a concise and meaningful way. Identify ways in which your company deliberately fights the status quo.

What unique challenges does my company face?

Companies tend to pitch themselves in a glossy, Photoshopped light, but your toughest problems can actually be an attraction to potential talent. Everyone wants their work to be recognized and meaningful; show potential employees how they can step up and be a hero.

Most job descriptions provide a laundry list of responsibilities that don’t vary much from one description to the next. Instead of focusing on the tactical work, focus on the results the successful candidate will achieve in the role, and how those results will directly impact the big picture.

Keep in mind not everyone will be the right fit for your company, and that’s OK. Don’t be afraid to use language that will deter candidates who wouldn’t likely be successful in your environment. Not only will this save you time on the back end by filtering out candidates who aren’t a fit, but it can actually make the right candidate even more attracted to the position.

It takes time to hone your company story, and it’s important to stay consistent with overall company messaging. However, don’t fall into the trap of being too uniform in your candidate approach; tell a story that will grab the heart as well as the intellect of top talent.

Karen Bertiger advises companies throughout the Puget Sound area as a managing director of the Seattle-based firm Herd Freed Hartz Inc.