May 16, 2012 Philip J.W. Smith & Co.

Once Upon a Time in the Land of Recruiting (a.k.a. The Power of Storytelling)

Apparently storytelling is all the rage.

Excuse my intended facetiousness, but I’m pretty sure that storytelling has been thoroughly utilized incessantly for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s what we generally would describe as “timeless” (insert Disney princess music here).

You know I’m right, too.

Sure, you may no longer drift off to sleep each night to the sound of a parental figure flipping the glossy pages of a picture book, softly reading you a bedtime story, but you are certainly familiar with the concept of a good story as we are relentlessly exposed to story at every waking minute through all media streams and even through the conversations around the good, ol’ fashioned staff water cooler.

So, then, why is storytelling becoming the latest fad? Well, perhaps the power of storytelling is what is really starting to gain widespread attention among the business community.

In a recent post entitled, Why Storytelling is the Ultimate Weapon, which was submitted to a division of Fast Company called Co.Create, author Jonathan Gottschall of the book, The Storytelling Animal, presents insights into the true power of storytelling, saying:

Until recently we’ve only been able to speculate about story’s persuasive effects. But over the last several decades psychology has begun a serious study of how story affects the human mind. Results repeatedly show that our attitudes, fears, hopes, and values are strongly influenced by story. In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than writing that is specifically designed to persuade through argument and evidence.

What is going on here? Why are we putty in a storyteller’s hands? The psychologists Melanie Green and Tim Brock argue that entering fictional worlds “radically alters the way information is processed.” Green and Brock’s studies shows that the more absorbed readers are in a story, the more the story changes them. Highly absorbed readers also detected significantly fewer “false notes” in stories–inaccuracies, missteps–than less transported readers. Importantly, it is not just that highly absorbed readers detected the false notes and didn’t care about them (as when we watch a pleasurably idiotic action film). They were unable to detect the false notes in the first place.

And, in this, there is an important lesson about the molding power of story. When we read dry, factual arguments, we read with our dukes up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally and this seems to leave us defenceless.

In the magical world of recruiting, I want to hear – and subsequently tell – your story. Take every opportunity within the career process to draw your desired audience in by appealing to their emotions, rather than inundating them with facts, figures, and data that seemingly measure “success”.

Intentionally craft your resume to tell the epic tale of how you went from being a waitress at 21 years of age to the National Director of Marketing. Dramatically rehearse your responses to popular interview questions being sure to give attention to tonality, body language, and gestures. Colourfully share the message of what you genuinely value and cherish in this world through your various online social media platforms. Ultimately, bring your desired audience to their feet in rousing applause, cheering you on and chanting your name, leaving them wanting more – all through the power of your story.

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