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Getting to the Heart of Employee Spotlights

How many times have you interviewed an employee for a spotlight with a list of canned questions? (You can't see me, but I'm raising my hand right now).

Years ago, when I started in employer branding, there was pressure to produce new content constantly. That's just how it was back then. Fill the editorial calendars, post everything and anything on social media in real time, stay present and relevant.

More, more, more.

It was as if the more often you shared, the more likely people would listen. However, many of us in employer branding are part of a lean team or are a team of one, like I often was. At any rate, that level of activity is a lot to take on. Before you know it, you're just creating without thinking, trying to meet deadlines as best as you can. But when telling your employees' story, there's more to it than rattling off facts about what they do in their day-to-day. Their stories and voices deserve more too.

For nearly four years, I've interviewed employees while working at Carbon Black, a cybersecurity company where I built the employer brand from the ground up. Know what I learned from talking to these people? Their stories aren't so cut and dried.

More often than not, I had learned that employees' career paths weren’t linear or what they do inside and outside of work impacted their roles, teams, and the company. For example, some people in sales shared that they didn't always go to school for sales, get their start in sales, or move up the traditional career ladder. In fact, we had a math teacher and a higher-level financier who both started over in our entry-level sales roles!

Or take one of my other colleagues, for instance. She went from recruiting to product ownership to managing programs for R&D, all while working at Carbon Black. I didn’t see how any of the roles related, but as we got down to it, she showed me how the skills transferred. More importantly, she shared how working for a company that recognized that and gave her the opportunity had transformed her career unlike any other place she had worked at previously.

There are so many interesting aspects to our people that we might not realize from asking the standard questions created for these templated employee spotlight pieces. From professional stories to personal—such as how they're helping women build skills needed to be on a board or how the IT team is working extra hours to clean up old laptops to donate—these tidbits make spotlights much more engaging and authentic to read. They bring life to our stories.

After doing the whole "canned questions" thing for a bit, I stopped focusing on just getting the info to plug into a template and started listening. As I went through my questions, I'd pick up interesting details about people's lives, prompting me to pull more information through follow-up questions. It usually changed my whole line of questioning for the rest of the interview, and my spotlights were better because of it.

When considering employee spotlights, think beyond simply illustrating the day-to-day of a job and more about the kinds of people who are doing impressive things within these roles. People are multifaceted. They're more than just their job. If you share stories candidates can relate to and make them feel connected to potential teammates, you'll find yourself with engaged people who want to work for you.

Need help writing employee spotlights? Consider Harlow Creative Co. for project-based blogging. Learn more here.


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