Why do some stories pull you in? How emotion makes for a powerful employment brand story.


Connecting with another person is powerful. Since the dawn of time, human beings have yearned to find ways to relate with one another, to build a tribe. Human beings, as a species, we’ve always relied on storytelling to unite us.

Stories inspire us, motivate us, connect us. And there’s a really good reason for this. According to science, when human beings hear personal stories, neurochemicals fire in our brains. These chemicals allow us to rapidly form relationships—to trust others human beings—so we can create and form the tribes that help us survive.

Character-driven stories—whether you’re hearing a story first-hand, or via a movie or book—tend to stay with us and change us.

We are hard-wired to connect. Stories are simply the fuel we use to power that connection.


What makes your candidates connect with your brand?

Download your free guide: 5 Steps to Creating a Social Media Recruiting strategyYou can probably think of a dozen great brands that connect with their audiences through the personal stories they tell. When you hear brand names like Nike, whose “Just Do It” inspires by bringing us ordinary people taking on athletic challenges, or Zillow, whose stories of what makes “home” for people (like the boy who wishes his mom goodnight through a star) warm our hearts, chances are one of their storytelling commercials play in your head!

But storytelling shouldn’t be reserved for your consumer brand. In today’s competitive talent landscape, there are few narratives more important than your employer brand story. Creating an emotional connection to the story with your employees and candidates is no less important.

How do you make an emotional connection to your employment brand?

Effective storytelling isn’t necessarily what employer branding teams believe it is. Many career sites are woefully short on content that can elicit passion or excitement. Worse, they often rely on the same testimonial video format of employees talking about how great it is to work at that company, listing some benefits or perks, and then saying things like, “our team is like a family,” “we work hard and play hard,” or “the best thing about working here is the people.”

While those sentiments are nice to hear, they don’t provide emotional “pull.” There is little to keep the listener or reader engaged, spark their curiosity, or add to their knowledge. More importantly, it does nothing to tell candidates why working with your company is different.   

The story needs to go deeper.

 Think about the stories that have stuck with you. Likely, it features at least one character that you can identify with, and a challenge they face or a reason that you do connect with them.  When creating a story for your brand, this same kind of character will be the key to connecting your audience to the story and to your brand. If your audience can put themselves in your character’s shoes, they’ll be more likely to connect with them and follow through with your call-to-action.

 This is the kind of story structure that helps to sell the why of your company, because it reveals what the “hero” of the story has gained by working at your organization. It is much more genuine if it’s told in first person–you could imagine that individual telling you this story exactly the same way at a meeting or party.


The why as told by the hero

One of my favorite examples of this type of story structure is featured in the videos by Ellwood Group, a family-owned producer of metals and custom metal components located right here in our region.

Picture this: you’re a recent engineering graduate trying to figure out your next career step. You’ve already discounted the idea of working in manufacturing: it’s grimy, hot, dangerous…old school. When you come across a video like this.



Like Kendra’s video, all of Ellwood’s first-hand employee stories speak deeply about the pride and sense of purpose they gain from their work. The stories let employees explain why they were drawn to the company, why they believe working there is different. In the process, these stories give candidates a realistic feel for working in an environment that their early perceptions may have kept them from considering.

Because Ellwood employee’s “sense of purpose” and commitment is so key to their company identity, these types of stories aren’t just relegated to the company’s career page. They are a central part of their consumer brand and are featured throughout the company’s website and social outreach.

When Human Resource and Marketing leaders work together to ensure that the company’s brand story includes the people that make things happen, both your reputation as a company and employer become stronger.


Discovering the stories that want to be told

So how do you go about finding the stories that will create a connection that describes your company as an innovative, exciting and forward thinking to candidates? Before putting out a call for stories, first define what it is you are trying to achieve. What do you want people to know, do and feel as a result of reading or viewing these stories? Are you missing out on top talent due to misperceptions about your company or industry? Are you trying to hire more engineers or struggling to attract diverse candidates? Define your goals first in order to measure progress later.

Then align your stories to your employee value proposition or EVP. Your EVP encompasses the central reasons that people are proud and motivated to work there…intrinsic factors like personal growth, working for a common purpose, and being part of a larger mission, as opposed to solely extrinsic factors such as pay and benefits.

To gain a competitive advantage through your employee stories they need to be grounded in purpose and connected to the why. Aligning your stories to your EVP will not only help your narrative create a more emotional connection to candidates, but help you to attract individuals who share similar values and who may thrive inside your unique culture.

Do you know what it takes to drive better engagement with your candidates and employees? Talk with the experts at Newton Talent and learn how we can help you build and implement the right strategy for your company. Connect with us.

Written by Patty Silbert

President of Newton Talent since 2018, Patty Silbert has over 30 years of experience developing the innovative solutions that help HR professionals just like you meet their most pressing recruitment challenges and their companies achieve their talent acquisition goals. She is a regular writer and speaker on the subjects of recruitment strategy, employment branding, HR technology, and leadership.