What is your Talent Narrative?

Tim Sackett Recruiting, Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, Talent Strategy

Your talent narrative is your talent story. When you, or your CEO, or a hiring manager, sit in front of a candidate from entry-level, low-skill, to a c-suite position, what narrative are you sharing? Is it the same for all levels, does it adjust based on the relative value of the position, or maybe you’re selling a narrative about the future or the past?

There is no recruiting technology on the market that will help you draft your talent narrative. This one is on you, and while it doesn’t have to be a novel, it might be the single most difficult thing you put together as a talent pro in your career.

Why is developing your talent narrative difficult?

  1. It’s an organizational and leadership narrative. So, while the leadership might have a talent vision, the narrative is something that the majority can agree with, in the present.
  2. Most of us have a hard time talking about positives, and instead, focus on what we suck at. Pro tip: every organization sucks at some stuff. Lighten up on yourself a bit.
  3. We don’t want to sell reality, we want to sell where we hope to be in the near future.
  4. Our leaders have a different narrative in their heads than most employees, because, quite frankly, they are living a very different talent narrative than your rank and file.
  5. The best talent narratives are exclusive, not inclusive. Now, don’t take that as a hindrance to strategic DEI. The best performing organizations are exclusive in their talent narrative, and also champions of DEI. We want people who are “X” and they are very clear about who they are and who they want to join them.

How many words should our Talent Narrative be?

Ultimately, we have to put pen to paper and actually come up with something. One of the most common questions that is asked, is how long should a talent narrative be? What’s too long, what’s too short?

The reality is, it’s your narrative. I might be one word, “Trust”! I might be a manifesto of a thousand words. But, it has to be uniquely you. If you read it and you go, “hmmm…that’s not really us”, you failed. Start again.

I think most organization’s Talent Narrative has a life of about 3-5 years. Leadership changes also change the talent narrative. Mergers and Acquisitions change your narrative. Big increases or retractions in business change your narrative. Do you think Amazon’s talent narrative is the same today as it was a decade ago when Bezos was truly in Day 1?

Why does having a Talent Narrative manner?

Just get back to work. For the love of St. Petersburg, I’m going to punch someone in the face!

Right!? I hear you.

The reality is, as a GenXer, every single day, I want to go back to a time where this was the talent narrative for most organizations. We pay you. Shut your mouth and produce. Simple times. I’ve got a job. They pay me. I do work. Black and white, crystal clear.

I do believe we have, for the most part, moved past a talent narrative like this with most organizations. I say “most” because there will always be organizations and leaders that are laggard.

GenZ, even more than Millennials, are pushing this change in the world of work. We have younger pros in our workforce that are willing to walk away if the talent narrative doesn’t meet their expectations for their career. You might feel it was always like this, but we all have examples of parents and grandparents who worked the same job for forty years and hated it. GenZ is not going to do this, at all levels, white-collar and blue-collar.

If your organization truly wants to compete for the best talent in your marketplace, your talent narrative matters.

Okay, so what does this talent narrative look like?

I like to think of it as an elevator pitch. You have 3 minutes to tell a candidate this is who we are and what we are all about. Our job, over the selection process, is truly to do two things:

  1. Determine if we think you are one of us or could become one of us.
  2. You have to determine if who we are, is who you are, or who you want to become.


“We are Company X. We believe that there are three successes we need to meet for us to truly be successful. We have to succeed financially as an organization to do all the cool stuff we want to do. So, one of those successes if we have to be financially viable. We also have to offer up growth and opportunity for those employees who desire it. Our second success if you become the person you hope to become. Our third success is we have to ensure all of our stakeholders are taken care of. Our customers, clients, guests, patients, etc.

The problem is, many times these three successes will be competing against each other and we will have to constantly compromise to make it all work. We are confident, with great transparent communication and open dialogue we can all succeed with great effort and realistic timing.”

Maybe your narrative is much simpler. I like those, but simple is really hard! “We work hard and we surround ourselves with people who work harder!” What are you going to tell a candidate you are about, so when they begin working for you they go, “you know what, whether I like or hate the job, I knew exactly what I was getting into”.

What will your Talent Narrative be today?