Immersion During Employee Recruiting Increases Applications

Immersive Stories Can Be a Powerful Recruitment Tool

The Problem

The U.S. unemployment rate hit an 18-year low of 3.7% in September 2018. This means that 75% of those 15-64 now hold jobs. Equally impressive low unemployment rates are found around much of the world, including Germany (3.4%), Denmark (4%), the UK (4.2%), and Mexico (3.4%). With so many people already holding jobs, hiring qualified team members is quite difficult. Innovative companies are addressing the labor shortage by changing the standard business practice of posting a listing somewhere online and hoping the right candidates will apply.

Immersion Neuroscience collaborated with PathMotion to identify opportunities to improve the employee recruiting process. PathMotion creates recruiting websites featuring stories from employees to engage potential job candidates. We wanted to test whether recruiting using storytelling was more immersive than standard job listings, and if so, why. A global bank that was aggressively hiring agreed to sponsor this study.

Recruiting Through Storytelling

Storytelling has been shown to improve classroom performance, to enrich presentations, to improve training, and to enhance leadership. We worked with PathMotion to see if storytelling would impact recruiting by motivating candidates to apply for jobs. The banking client was using a traditional job listing website to post information about open positions. PathMotion created two additional websites for the bank: one that presented curated narratives written by the bank’s employees, and another where employees chatted in real-time with job candidates.

We recruited 68 undergraduates majoring in business, finance, or economics who wanted to work in banking. They were randomly assigned to one of the three conditions: 1) the bank’s traditional recruiting website (“Bank”), 2) a website with curated employee stories (“Stories”), or 3) a live chat with employees (“Chat”). The Immersion Neuroscience platform was used to quantify how immersive the three experiences were in real-time and to identify what motivated candidates to apply for a job at the bank.


The Stories recruiting site was 18.4% more immersive than the Immersion Neuroscience benchmark. This is nearly one standard deviation larger than the median, indicating a very strong neural response. The Chat website was 5.3% more immersive than our benchmark, while immersion for the Bank recruiting site was 1.8% below benchmark.

Comparing the Stories and Chat websites to the Bank recruiting site, average immersion while job candidates read Stories was 21% higher, while Chat was 7% higher. This shows how powerful employee contact is during recruiting.

Equally important, immersion on the Chat and Stories websites grew as candidates spent more time on them, but immersion dropped rapidly on the bank’s recruiting site. People on the bank site tuned-out neurologically as they viewed the same types of information. Remember, this occurred for people actively seeking jobs. Indeed, the bank’s recruiting site generated high neurologic frustration (1.52), while frustration remained low for the Stories (0.58) and Chat sites (0.75). Digging into this data, we found that the moderate frustration during Chats was driven by delays between job candidates asking questions and receiving answers. Adding to this frustration, text analysis revealed that responses from the bank’s employees were typically functional answers rather than personal narratives.

As immersion rises, good things happen. An increase in immersion during recruiting was statistically associated with a higher likelihood to apply for a job with the bank (correlation coefficient = 0.32) and with a positive change in the perception of the bank as an employer (correlation coefficient = 0.31). Immersion also had a positive impact on job candidates’ moods. On the Bank recruiting website, happiness fell 5.3% from baseline, while on the Stories site happiness increased 23%. The evidence shows that curated stories and live chat with employees drive immersion, increasing the likelihood that candidates will apply for jobs.

Key Take-Aways:

  1. Stories are an effective way to immerse job candidates in the most interesting parts of a job.
  2. Increasing immersion while exploring opportunities effectively motivates candidates to apply for jobs.
  3. High immersion websites leverage recruiting by increasing happiness and positive perceptions of employers, giving candidates reasons to talk to others about job opportunities.

Submit your email to download the case study