Using a Narrative to Improve Your Recruitment Results

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For my first article in 2020 I’d like to remind everyone how important and beneficial it is to utilize, and control, your company’s story in all recruiting efforts.

When I started in this business one of my first supervisors, and as it turned out a great mentor, would often tell us that “Preconceived notions kill deals!” The point he was making was that all candidates will have an immediate reaction about our client and that it was our job to educate the candidate and share the real story about our client and their opportunity. It’s amazing that 30 years later with so much information available on so many platforms that we still see companies using the outdated approach seen below.

I recently came across this posting in a major trade magazine concerning a senior level job opening.  (I’ve made a few minor edits in the article to protect the company’s identity.)

“Our Construction Corporation is one of America’s leading construction companies, specializing in large, civil infrastructure. For over 50 years, it has contributed to the development of the country’s network of roads, highways, and bridges. Best Construction Corporation also specializes in tunnels and railway systems, as well as airports. We are seeking a Vice President of Construction”

Obviously, there is nothing in this job posting to compel anyone to send his or her resume. Unfortunately, this type of advertisement in all too common in the AEC industry. I’ve been a part of many new-search calls and meetings where the hiring authorities need to be encouraged to provide much more information than this job posting provides. This reluctance to provide more information and details about the company and the job opening is unfortunate especially now that there are so many ways for candidates to obtain information that could either tip the scales in your favor or cause them to go elsewhere.

It’s Time to Tell Your Story!

The art of storytelling has been around since we lived in caves, both for entertainment and for purpose such as warning others about that big furry thing with pointed teeth.

Everyone loves a good story. Different stories appeal to different people and that is the point. You need to tell your story so it will help describe your company and the role you’re trying to fill while appealing to the type of employee you are seeking. This will help you attract a diverse group of prospects who will identify with and hopefully fit into your culture. Similarly, it has the potential to reduce turnover caused by new employees not understanding who you are prior to joining your team.

Our stories are what connect us. Think of your oldest and closest friends and what bonds you, most likely that you have similar or interconnected stories. Sharing your company’s story will allow you to connect with prospects on a personal level and deliver messages that leave a lasting impact. When a company uses their story to deliver a message, it strengthens their value and allows candidates an insider’s perspective. Sadly, the success rate from using storytelling in recruiting isn’t utilized enough and that is unfortunate especially given the multitude of ways to tell your story to connect with candidates. The truth of the matter is that telling your story makes a huge difference and it should be used in all recruiting efforts. In our search practice, we have considerably more success attracting candidates for clients with a great backstory. The client’s history, attitude toward their employees, their diversity and inclusion programs and their community involvement become the focal point of our conversations.

How Do We Tell Our Story?

Consider the details of your company. It’s ultimately a collection of stories about the founders, past and present employees, why people join, individual success stories, career paths, major projects you’ve designed and or built and your community involvement. These stories will help potential prospects create a personal connection with your organization. Your firm’s overall story combined with the story of why an opening is available will help attract the type of candidates that fit your culture. That’s why I recommend adding a line to the story about the role or opening in your business, why it is available and how it fits into the overall success of the organization.


Culture itself is difficult to define, but the story of your company can help describe it in such a way that prospective employees will have a much better idea of what working for your company will be like. This is because narratives help candidates further understand the culture, values, and interests of your current employees before stepping through the door. Not only does this eliminate surprise after they start, but it helps to target people that will fit in with your company culture before the hiring process even begins. It will not only help keep a steady flow of candidates coming in, but it will also foster a sense of pride and belonging—two things that contribute to low turnover rates.

Control Your Narrative

Remember, first appearances and preconceived notions can be deceiving, but a company’s story documents who they are and why prospective employees might be interested in working there. Simply put, creating connections before hiring can help improve your recruitment efforts.

I’ve rewritten the original job posting adding the company’s backstory, ownership details, company differentiators, information about current employees and their motivation, community involvement, employee perks, why the opening is available, who it reports to and the potential for growth. The format is concise, informative and offers a prospect a much better idea of who your company is and why they should consider your opportunity.

“Our company was founded by a group of individuals who knew there was a better way to contribute to the infrastructure problems facing our nation.  Now, 50 years later, our dedicated employee owners have helped build this country’s vast networks of roads, highways, airports and bridges to connect families and friends from coast to coast. We were early adopters of innovative equipment, materials and project delivery systems. We also recognize our responsibility to give back to our community and develop our employees. Our commitment to diversity and community development includes award winning teaming programs and paid time off for community volunteering.  Our company also takes great pride in our employee development programs beginning with our high school and inner-city outreach programs and our graduate studies reimbursement programs. So, what’s in it for you? Due to strategic growth we have created an opportunity for an industry leader to join our team and help us grow our buildings group. This role reports to the president and will eventually be offered a seat on the leadership committee.  If you’re ready to be a part of something bigger, give back to your community and profession and become the best you can be then we’re ready to welcome you to our team.”

Keep in mind that utilizing your company story in the recruiting process is only half of the equation. Remember the advice of my mentor “Preconceived Notions Kill Deals” also applies to evaluating candidates. Resumes are fine for conveying the basics, but you’ll never really understand someone until you here their story!

Written by:
Jerry Adams
Adams Partners