If you want to reach millennials, your best bet is to send a text. In a study by the enterprise mobile engagement firm OpenMarket, 75% of millennials would prefer texting over talking if given the choice of one format. Texts are “more convenient” and “less disruptive than a voice call,” the survey found. That’s probably why texting as a recruiting method is becoming more popular, especially for companies that target millennials and generation Z.
The appeal is rooted in common sense, says Scott Day, senior vice president of people and culture for restaurant reservation platform OpenTable, which started using software called Canvas to communicate with job candidates by text a year ago. “The way most people communicate with one another these days is via SMS text,” he says. “Using it for recruiting made sense, and since it’s a new approach, we felt it would give us a leg up on competition because the novel approach gets attention.”
In addition to being a communication method of choice, using texting to recruit offers these advantages:
It Maximizes Time
Texting offers a much more efficient way to communicate with a larger number of people. “The part of the recruiting process we most seek to replace is the initial phone screen, where recruiters schedules are stacked with back-to-back phone conversations in 30-minute sequential blocks of time,” says Day. “With [texting], you can get through a lot of the same questions, but you can have it all happening at the same time. That creates a lot more time in a recruiter’s day.”
It’s Convenient For Candidates
From a candidate standpoint, texting empowers them to engage on their own schedule, says Day. “Candidates prioritize when it’s an appropriate time, and there isn’t any need to synchronize calendars,” says Day.
Candidates seem to appreciate it, says Tracy McShane-Wilson, executive director of talent acquisition for the audit, tax, and advisory firm Grant Thornton, where recruiters have been using their phones to text with candidates for years. “They don’t have to wait to get to their computer or laptop,” she says. “It’s quick and easy and accelerates the hiring process to the next step.”
A recent survey from the career website Nexxt found that 73% of job seekers say they want to receive targeted jobs via text messaging.
It Provides Consistency
While time and convenience are obvious perks, Day found subsequent discoveries to be as valuable. “In a phone-screen scenario, your consistency asking the same questions is dependent on the discipline of the person asking the questions,” he says. “And the accuracy of the responses is as good as person who is typing the information into an applicant tracking system. There can be a lot of variability.”
With texting, recruiters can ask the exact same questions to a host of candidates, and their answers are saved verbatim. “You can also use the platform for analysis, dialing in on what are most effective questions to be asking,” says Day. “You can test questions against each other to find if they’re more or less attuned to screening candidates for roles we’re needing to fill.”
It’s Good For The Entire Hiring Life Cycle
In addition to capturing information during early screening, texting can provide an efficient and effective way to communicate with candidates as they move through the hiring process.
“We send culture videos about why OpenTable is a great place to work,” says Day. “We can also provide benefit information through this channel.”
It Can Boost Your Response Rate
Text messages have significantly better open rates and response times than email, adds Erik Kostelnik, founder and CEO of TextRecruit, another text recruiting platform.
“If a candidate receives a text message and an email at the same time, they are almost always going to respond to the text first,” he says. “A faster hiring process is a win-win situation for both recruiter and candidate.”
How To Use Texting To Recruit
At OpenTable, texting is generally not the first contact recruiters have with a candidate, says Day. “Often they’re applying to jobs posted online, which gives us all their contact information,” he says. “Our first step would be to reach out by email and say, ‘We’re using a tool called Canvas that enables text-based communication. Would you be interested?’ We get permission to text.”
OpenTable recruiters use texting to ask fundamental questions, such as “Have you worked in restaurant?” and “What is your definition of a satisfied customer?” “It’ helps us get a better sense of who they are,” says Day.
Day says OpenTable gets the biggest impact from texting when it’s recruiting for roles where the supply of candidates outpaces the number of opportunities, such as for its sales and customer support. In addition, texting can be an effective communication channel when recruiting for tech roles, such as software engineers.
Using texting means moving away from the expectations of formality during interviews, says Day. “We have to have far and away more tolerance about incomplete sentences or thoughts, misspelling and auto-correct situations,” he says.
“It’s a ‘business casual’ interaction,” adds Canvas CEO Aman Brar. “No novels are required. A company might ask quick questions such as, ‘Are you available nights and weekends?’ or for a pilot or nurse, ‘What type of license do you have?’ Questions that require quick answers.”
While it seems impersonal, Day says texting allows him to focus more on the people later in the hiring process. “So much time is focused on the mundane phone screen, doing the job a computer could do, asking a set of questions over and over,” he says. “Once someone passes the screening, you’re better able to get to know them on a human level, and that’s a more important function for your focus.”
Texting removes the ability to hear the candidate’s tone of voice, which would convey energy or enthusiasm for the role and company, says Jayne Mattson, senior vice president of Keystone Associates, an outplacement and career services firm. “Being able to articulate why they want the job or how their experience matches with the qualifications is something they will need to do when they do meet in real life,” she says. “Candidates might not take the time to really think of their responses because texting is done anywhere, so being thoughtful in their responses could either move you forward or move you out of the process.”
There are risks if recruiters text candidates from their personal phones, says Kostelnik. “An inability to track candidate opt-outs, sharing recruiters’ phone numbers, and having candidate data on a personal device are just a few of the problems that might come up,” he says. “Recruiting teams need to be protective of candidate data.”
Texting may not be the best method for relationship building, says McShane-Wilson. “It’s not right for us for that task,” she says. “Once a relationship is built, though, we use texting for follow-ups or quick communication, such as confirming appointments.”
Day believes it’s here to stay. “This is how world stays in touch—interactions based on quick bursts of information,” he says. “I know I prefer to text when I can’t talk to someone right then.”