November 30, 2018 / Esther Choy

Companies too often think they have most of the power in recruiting relationships– especially if their brand is a household name, or if every job posting incites an avalanche of applications. But the reality is that attracting top talent and laying the groundwork for future loyalty means dedicating your on-campus time to persuading students to choose you rather than the competition.

Here’s how to do that.

1. Acknowledge, Inspire, Aspire.

In an environment where distrust is your audience’s default setting, you have to begin by building trust. And to do so, I advise my clients to start their presentation from their audience’s point of view. To authentically win their trust, resist the temptation to position the company as the hero in your story.Here’s how the outline of an on-campus presentation might look for a large consumer products company like PepsiCo.


When giving a presentation, the speaker could start with what Annette Simmons has called the “I-know-what-you’re-thinking-story.” People sit up and listen when they feel like you are speaking directly and authentically to them. Thus, the speaker might begin by acknowledging students’ desire to make a big difference in the world. They might describe the problems facing our food systems. Food production puts pressure on water resources. Transporting food pollutes the air. Packaging food results in more plastic.


Then, the speaker could inspire a new way of thinking about the problem, getting students to imagine being able to change all this on a large scale. That’s what PepsiCo has been doing through their Performance with Purpose initiative. PepsiCo has earned the prestigious Stockholm Industry Water Award for their commitment to conserving water. They’re one of the largest users of food-grade recycled PET, and they keep 95% of their waste out of landfills.

Sure, profit plays a prominent role in their thinking, and PepsiCo isn’t shy about that.

“We know we need to deliver the kind of top-tier financial results… all our stakeholders expect,” says CEO Indra Nooyi. “And we also know something else. We know we need to do it with a sense of purpose… recognizing that our success — and the success of the communities we serve and the wider world — are inextricably bound together.”

Aspire… to a better and shared future.

“Our aspiration of being a good company — good ethically and good commercially — is now coming to fruition,” says Nooyi. The aspiration of blending commercial and ethical success is one that more than 260,000 employees around the world currently share in, and the speaker could take the opportunity to invite PepsiCo’s next generation of workers to aspire to this, too.

Want Business Storytelling Examples And tips Delivered To Your Inbox? Sign up here!

  • By subscribing, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

2. Get To Know Their Stories.

Emotions run high for job-seekers, so the way recruiters treat them can be seared into their memory. Getting to know potential candidates’ stories is a win-win. It makes students feel valued while at the same time helping you differentiate candidates.

Here are a few especially helpful questions for driving conversations deeper:

  • Who has been very influential in your academic life?
  • What is one thing you’re very proud of but have not listed on your resume?
  • What is one thing that people seem to know about you but in fact is not true?

If you ask the same question of each student, they’ll likely say similar things. But if you can get to the essence of who they are, you’ll remember them as individuals and get a head start on knowing the character of the person you’d be working with.

In my book, I outline 10 Types of Crazy Good Questions: a question template that is flexible and agile enough for you to come up with endless crazy good questions, including at recruiting events.

Choosing a point of view is one of the first steps in telling any story. When you step onto campus to start recruiting, approach the situation from the students’ perspective, not just your company’s.

Need help recruiting the most qualified candidates? Contact us for business storytelling training! Leadership Story Lab trains and coaches managers in storytelling techniques to help them become more engaging and persuasive communicators. Whether you would like to stand out in the interview process, add punch to a presentation, or make a compelling case for a new initiative, we can help. Schedule a complimentary session with us today!

Esther’s book, Let the Story Do the Work (published by HarperCollins Leadership), is now available!

Related Articles

Discover Someone’s Character In 20 Minutes

Are You Prepared To Tell Persuasive Stories At A Moment’s Notice?

This article originally appeared on

Esther Choy

Esther Choy founded Leadership Story Lab in 2010 to help others leverage the art of storytelling to create extraordinary opportunities.
African mentor gives valuable advice to staff members during workshop training. Diverse workmates brainstorming share ideas and creative thoughts, team listen leader of project during meeting concept

7 Surprising Quotes About Leadership In The 21st Century

Karla Trotman and Robert Pasin

What Happens When Family Businesses Share Their Remarkable Stories

Family Business celebrates grand opening

Family Businesses Need To Tell Their Story Better. Here’s Why.

Leave a Comment

Better Every Story

"This is an amazing and insightful post! I hadn’t thought of that so you broadened my perspective. I always appreciate your insight!" - Dan B.

Join the thousands who receive Esther Choy’s insights, best practices and examples of great storytelling in our twice monthly newsletter.

  • By subscribing, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.