Storytelling Improves Hiring Managers Skills & Effectiveness

Feb 18, 2020 | Bias, Recruiting, Talent Acquisition | 0 comments

While the recruiting process is handled by HR departments, hiring managers are the ones that set every recruiting process in motion. They are the ones that originally identify the hiring need, they interview candidates as the recruiting process unfolds, and they are the ultimate decision-makers that finalize the process by selecting the candidates that will receive an offer.

Hiring managers are without a doubt the most important stakeholders in recruiting, as the new employee joins their department creating new team dynamics and  contributing to the department’s effectiveness and target achievements.

Having such a high stake  in hiring the most suitable candidate, it’s absolutely necessary that  hiring managers are involved in interviewing. This brings us to their role as interviewers, which is quite an important factor in the recruitment process. 

According to Google’s internal research, interviewers are  

 “the biggest drivers of a candidate’s overall satisfaction with the hiring process, and can make or break a decision to accept an offer”.


But what if hiring managers are not good interviewers?!  

In such cases recruiters usually intervene and try to help hiring managers. The most common approach is Interview Trainings. These are usually facilitated by internal recruiters or by external recruitment consultants, depending on the level of trust built between recruiters/HR and line managers. 

Most Interview Trainings focus on structured interviews, because the research shows that structured interviews – compared to unstructured – are up to twice as effective at predicting job performance than unstructured ones 

Structured interviews simply means using the same interviewing methods to assess candidates applying for the same job. They usually go along with using the same interview questions, grading candidate responses on the same scale, and making hiring decisions based on consistent, predetermined qualifications.

Unstructured interviews are very commonplace. They are the type of interviews in which the interviewer asks questions which are not prepared in advance. Questions arise spontaneously in a free-flowing conversation, which means that different candidates are asked different questions, leading to recruitment bias.

But does conventional training do the trick? Do hiring managers actually adopt the structured interview approach, as a result of training? Speaking from experience, no, they don’t!

So now, an even greater challenge arises: How can recruiters communicate the message effectively and persuade hiring managers to apply the structured interviewing methodology?


Why storytelling is so effective

According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Assessment & Selection, storytelling can be a valuable tool for organizations and recruiters in their effort towards the adoption of structured interviewing. 

The 2019 study examined the effectiveness of storytelling for overcoming managers’ resistance to use structured job interviews. In the two conducted experiments, the researchers found that participants who read a story about the success of the structured interviews, as opposed to receiving evidence‐based advice, reported more favorable attitudes toward structured job interviews and its adoption. And these results shouldn’t cause surprise. 

For centuries and across cultures people have used stories to instill socially responsible behaviors. Before the human race could even write, people used stories to pass on their knowledge, wisdom and tips on survival by sharing their ancestors’ experiences. One might even say that due to this exposure to stories, we are programmed to consume them. They resonate better, they are easier to process and thus have a greater impact on us in terms of intentional behavior formation.

Besides the anthropological explanation regarding storytelling’s effectiveness, there is also a psychological one. When people receive a message, which contradicts their prior beliefs, they tend to become defensive about it. This behavior intensifies, when the target audience detects a persuasive intent. Luckily, according to research (Moyer‐Gusé, 2008), storytelling can overcome these limitations of evidence‐based advice or rational reasoning because stories can mask the persuasive intent of the message. 

So, instead of focusing on the message itself the audience focuses on the narrative, the characters and their experiences in the story. 

The power that lies within storytelling has turned it into a valuable tool for organizations. Leaders are encouraged to use it to inspire their followers and trainers to transfer new knowledge and competencies to their students. The most popular TEDx talks of all time, often start with a simple story or contain one in the middle. So, undeniably, storytelling incorporates the power to convince, otherwise why would all these disciplines and people be using this technique in their communication?


How to use storytelling when training hiring managers in structured interviewing 

We’ve established that stories are an effective tool of persuasion. But how can recruiters incorporate storytelling in their hiring managers’ training and make them see the value of structured interviewing through this practice? 

 1. Craft your story

Most successful training and speeches start with a story, capturing in this way their audiences’ attention. So the first thing you’ll have to do is work on your story.

A good starting point would be to draw on your own experiences. Try to think about situations where you used structured interviews or encouraged others to do so. Write down your feelings, the stages of the experience, your actions as well as the actions of people involved in it. Finally, analyse the results of your actions. This will become the blueprint you’ll be using during the training.

Now it’s time to organize it. To make your story compelling, follow the scientifically proven checklist below. Make sure your story:  

  • Contains a linear progression of events and actions. Example: The character’s organization was experiencing high intern turnover and so he was entrusted to investigate and find a solution. After talking to hiring managers and other recruiters, he found out that each person was just asking a few random questions and proceeded to a decision mainly based on the resume and the relevance of candidate’s studies. So an intern’s interview guide was introduced.
  •  Is told from the perspective of a character in the story. This could be you or a person you know. 
  • Concludes with a resolution, which describes an outcome to the main character as a result of his or her actions (i.e., moral of the story). The result of this story would be a decrease in intern turnover and better quality hires.

A final tip: highlight similarities and create connections between your story’s context and your organization’s culture. If the audience perceives the context of the story to be irrelevant when compared to how their everyday work is, then the story may backfire and amplify the resistance towards structured interviews. 

 2. Make hiring managers experience the value of structured interviews 

After the story, proceed with a group exercise where the hiring managers could practice both structured and unstructured interviewing styles. Focus on the quality of assessment in each of the two approaches. The result of this exercise should really showcase the benefits of using an interview guide and applying the structured interview in the selection process. 

3. Provide hiring managers with resources 

Finally, make sure to provide hiring managers with interview guides and other resources. Create a bank of questions, which they could use, depending on the position they are trying to fill. 

If you want to make your recruitment even more effective, introduce into your recruiting process scientifically based  assessment tools, capable of generating candidate reports. Sharing these reports with hiring managers will help them ask better questions and thus add extra value to the overall interview process

Bryq, for example, does both. It generates a report based on how the candidate matches  the requirements of a role based on cognitive skills and personality traits and provides interviewers with relevant questions, ensuring systematic candidate assessment. 

The power of storytelling is exactly this: to bridge the gaps where everything else has crumbled.”, says Paulo Coelho, Award‐winning novelist, author of The Alchemist. The very same gap is observed between science and practice in the employee selection research. So let’s close it by telling more purposeful stories.

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