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Attract Talent by Telling Your Employees' Stories

A female doctor holding a clipboard in a waiting room.

​Featuring video testimonials from employees talking about their work experience has become an employer branding best practice for many reasons: It's more engaging and authentic than written narratives and offers a valuable, if limited, preview for job seekers.

"We all love a good story, and so do candidates," said Lori Sylvia, founder and CEO of Rally Recruitment Marketing, an online community forum focused on the emerging discipline of using marketing techniques to attract talent. "That's why storytelling has become an important recruitment marketing skill for everyone in HR and talent acquisition."

There's no one better able to tell the story of the organization than employees, experts agree. They can talk about their career path at the company, explain what they do in their role and how they contribute to a project, the industry or the greater good. But one of the neatest things these short videos can do is turn abstract corporate mission statements and organizational values into unforgettable stories.

Lauryn Sargent, a former recruiter and co-founder of Stories Incorporated, a recruitment marketing content producer, recently presented a powerful example of this at an event held in Bethesda, Md., by RecruitDC, a networking group for talent acquisition professionals in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Sargent worked with financial services company Kasasa, headquartered in Austin, Texas. Love is one of Kasasa's core values. That's nice, but what does that actually mean?

Cue the video produced by Stories, where Rae Williams, a technical support engineer supervisor at Kasasa, begins speaking. Back in 2012, she was about to undergo major surgery and was obviously stressed and anxious. She was separated from her family, who lived in North Carolina. The company gave a colleague the day off to stay with her in the hospital, but he could only make it the day after the surgery. She speaks about feeling panicked and scared about being alone on the day of her operation. When she woke up from the procedure, her manager was sitting in her room. When she woke up again later in the day, another team member was there. As she gets emotional remembering it, she explains that seeing those familiar faces lessened her fear during a time of vulnerability. The video, which runs about one minute, gives "love" a meaning.


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"Employee stories are the most important recruiting content you can create," Sylvia said. "By featuring employee stories on your career site, you can educate potential candidates about your EVP [employer value proposition] before you present them with your open requisitions. If you lead with promoting jobs instead, you may get applicants who aren't aligned with your culture, which can lead to attrition and put you back at the beginning."

"Videos make hiring tangible," explained Abby Cheesman, co-founder of Skill Scout, a recruitment services company that uses video and other media to enhance the hiring process. "Candidates crave a window into what the experience working in a company is actually like, and a video helps them get closer than ever to experiencing it themselves."

Organizations Need Content

Employer-branded videos can be used for a variety of purposes, including dressing up careers sites, blogs and job postings, for general recruitment marketing campaigns and for more targeted efforts such as hiring interns or for diversity.

Sargent recently worked with Sodexo, the multinational food services and facilities management company headquartered in Paris. The company needed content for its careers site, and wanted enough to last for years. "They are still putting up content for their site from interviews we shot in 2015," she said.

There was important work to do before Sargent and her team interviewed 45 employees across six different types of workplace settings in a "culture sweep" at the company. Sodexo conducted focus groups and surveyed the workforce to find out how the company was delivering on its brand promise. These efforts armed Sargent's team with content ideas and helped them choose which sites and subjects to include in interviews.

"It's really important to make sure that the [business unit receiving the content] has a say in what the content being developed looks like," Sargent said.

She and her team talked to the selected employees ahead of the video shoot to make sure they were comfortable with the process and to bring out their stories in a constructive way. "We don't overcoach, because the idea is to get real, authentic stories," she said. She added that the secret behind effective video testimonials is to get as detailed as possible about what it's like to work at a specific company. "We cut out generic statements when we hear them, like 'It feels like family here' and ask 'Why?'—digging deeper for details. We know the organization's values ahead of time, so we often know where we are going, but we also let the stories drive the process."

Sometimes the interviewers will walk the employees through a story, crafting it until it's succinct and hits the right notes. Sometimes, it's more organic, Sargent said, as in "'Tell me about your best day at work' and the story just naturally unfolds."

For example, if the employer wants videos on core values, and employees keep talking about how much the company's tuition reimbursement program means to them, the narrative writes itself. "If what comes to the surface is what's important to employees, that's what we want to focus on," she said.

While there's no single right way to tell employee stories, Sylvia said, it's important to be "true to your employer brand—don't try telling employee stories from their manager's perspective or the company's perspective. Employees and candidates will see through it."

In addition to delivering employee video testimonials to Sodexo, Stories created an interactive quiz, a career-pathing tool and a bloopers reel, "to inject some levity into a fairly corporate brand," and hundreds of photos of people doing their jobs, which Sodexo uses for its sites and marketing materials.

Video Shoot Tips

It's important that employees appearing in photos or videos sign waivers acknowledging that the company owns the content being produced. "Bring the physical copy to the shoot, don't rely on them signing an electronic form," Sargent said.

The most common issue on the day of shooting will likely be quelling anxiety about speaking in front of a camera. This is where preparation is key. "On the day of filming, tell your interviewee that 'You are the expert of your job—there is no right or wrong answer,'" Cheesman said. "Celebrate employees as the experts they are. This means just start recording and capture a conversation with them instead of having them deliver lines from a script."

Cheesman provided additional tips to ease nerves or discomfort and get the best video possible:

  • Assure the interviewee that the conversation will be edited to capture two to three minutes of highlights. 
  • Instruct them look at the interviewer and not at the camera.
  • Don't correct what they're saying. "Resist the urge to correct their language or how they're describing things. It's more important to show authenticity than hitting on the right buzz words."
  • Refine the story through multiple takes. Oftentimes, the second or third try is clearest and most concise, Cheesman said.
  • If they're really skittish about being on video, clear the room of an audience, excuse yourself and have one of their peers ask them questions on camera. "We have found having a colleague interview them rather than a boss, HR or camera crew really helps," Cheesman said. "You get that peer-to-peer relaxed vibe."


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