Employer Branding Talent Acquisition

How Telling Personal Stories Can Help You Establish Trust

I have mentioned it briefly in other posts but I have Multiple Sclerosis. I have been diagnosed since 2002, about 3 months after surviving 9/11. Let’s say it really wasn’t my best year, eh? Now, the MonSter, as it is called by some, has lots of challenges. Let us go then, you and I, as we go into way too much information about one of them.

One of my worst symptoms is Bowel Urgency. When I need to go, I really need to go. I am constantly aware of the closest bathrooms. I carry around a knapsack with a spare change of clothes, wet wipes and plastic bags. My pockets always have Pepto Bismol. I learned to do this via some very bad experiences. Even then, my emergency kit doesn’t always help. I have befouled and soiled so many places I deserve an award. If you need to know how to work your way into a “Customers Only” bathroom, I’m your man. It sucks and it’s embarrassing. Being afraid of crapping your pants in a sales meeting, on public transit or, well, anywhere, stinks. (Pun Intended). For the right audience I can make this horrid thing an explosively (Pun Intended) funny series of anecdotes but it is an in-person sort of thing.

Why am I leading this post with such a personal story? Sharing a private thing is a great way of establishing trust, of getting to know someone more intimately and achieving as much transparency and better communication from hiring managers and candidates.

I often go back to Robert Anton Wilson speaking in the guise of the character of Hagbard Celine. Celine’s Laws are an amazing read. The 2nd law, “Accurate communication is possible only in a non-punishing situation” is essential to not only being a good recruiter, but a good employee and employer. What this means is that when we want something, say proving to the interviewer why we are right for a role, or showing the Hiring Manager why our candidate is the best, we will change our tone. We will highlight things and perhaps lie by omission. We will answer with what we think the person wants to hear. We reflect back to the person what we think they want in order to get what we want. From your boss, it might be job security. From your spouse, it is probably something else. (See me keeping it clean, Undercover Editor?) No matter what, when one person needs something from someone else, the dialogue isn’t ever going to be 100% honest.

Recruiters don’t do the skill set we are hunting. We have some buzz words, a soft-focus understanding at best, of the roles we fill. One aspect of our job is ferretting out all the information needed to help the Hiring Manager make sure the candidate is the right fit. We want to know the real reason you had a 6 month gap. We want to make sure you are really committed to 75% travel and a relocation with no money to Edinburgh. We need to minimize the amount of bull dookies we are going to get. Establishing a relationship is key to that. Getting someone to share things they’d rather not but are key to smoothing the process of a hire is essential. People share easier, they tell more honest lies, if we’ve already told something perhaps even more revealing and more horrific. Which is worse: shitting your pants during a celebratory drink with a candidate (true story, brah) or that you have bad credit? Crap. I also have bad credit.

I can’t tell you how many people have told me about 6 year old DUIs or 20 year old felonies at some stage of the process. However, an equal amount of people have told me about… incidents…. when they get the paperwork for the background check. Tell me the “secret” before we get there and many times it can be smoothed out. We can make it work. I promise though, a surprise on a background or credit check is a guarantee the offer will be rescinded.

Again, I return to the theme that permeates my posts. Honesty is always better. Transparency is always better. Maximize open communication by any means necessary because we will never have true 100% honest communication. It isn’t possible when one person has “authority” over the other but we can do many things to get as close to it as possible. Sharing an awkward anecdote and self deprecating humor is one way of getting there.

Post Scriptum: 

Just for fun, here is another true story albiet without bowel issues. I tell this one whenever I debrief someone who tells me they had a bad interview. I was 24 years old, thought I was the best recruiter ever born. I had won an award or 2 and had a much better year than many of my more experienced peers. To say I got a bit cocky was an understatement.

So, I go out and start interviewing. One of my all time favorite films is Glengarry-Glenross, a must see for anyone in our field. There is one scene, where Alec Baldwin is asked why he’s so successful. He replies that when he gets up in the morning, he looks in the mirror and says, “Today you will win. You’ll win because your name is F**K YOU”.

Do not give this answer when asked how you psych yourself up for a day of cold calling. It doesn’t go well on a first round interview. Trust me.

Author: Jeff Newman a.k.a. The People’s Recruiter, has been a Full Life Cycle IT Recruiter and Full Desk Placement expert for over 14 years. He prides himself on always making sure that what he is offering a candidate is an Opportunity and not just another job. Jeff Newman contributed to this article in his personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not represent the views of the his employers. Image credit: Shutterstock


By Jeffrey Newman

Jeff Newman a.k.a. The People's Recruiter, has been a Full Life Cycle IT Recruiter and Full Desk Placement expert for over 14 years. He prides himself on always making sure that what he is offering a candidate is an Opportunity and not just another job. He is a Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist at Mobiquity. Watch Jeff live on stage: "Recruiters: The Good, The Bad, and the Devious."