Job interview by text? Here’s how to make it work

It’s such an informal medium for a high-stakes relationship. But, don’t worry–it can be a really convenient communication vehicle to add to the mix.

Job interview by text? Here’s how to make it work
[Photo: Luis Villasmil/Unsplash]

If you’re hunting for a job, you might want to pay closer attention to your text messages.


“Texting during the interview process has become increasingly popular as modern candidates have expressed a desire for the process to be fast, convenient, and easy,” says Kurt Heikkinen, president and CEO of recruiting firm Montage. Texting is an efficient way to keep employees updated on the interview progression—a top priority in today’s competitive talent market—and allow them to respond at a convenient time.

This aligns with a survey by talent acquisition software company Yello covered by Fast Company‘s Lydia Dishman in 2017. Eighty-six percent of respondents felt positively when text messages were used during the interview period—an increase from 79% the year before.

Texting is also becoming a more popular method of communication between candidates and recruiters because of the recent “ghosting” phenomenon, says Donna Shannon, president of Personal Touch Career Services, a Westminster, Colorado staffing firm. “There’s been an epidemic of candidates starting to ghost employers,” she says. “So, we want to make sure that we’re going to be communicating with them in their preferred manner to get a higher engagement before they’re even on board with the company itself.”

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t rules, says Michael Sunderland, managing director and CEO at Full Stack Talent, a staffing and recruitment agency in Tampa. Use texts appropriately and develop good texting manners in the recruiting process to be most effective.

Consider the position

Use texting judiciously—and usually with more junior candidates, Heikkinen says. You probably don’t want to recruit your chief financial officer via text. However, if your company needs to hire a slew of seasonal workers, text-interviewing might help you determine whether the candidates can work the hours and complete the tasks you need. “This, in return, saves recruiters countless hours completing introductory calls and relaying basic information about the job position,” he says. Of course, there may be exceptions, but establish the medium you each prefer and do so accordingly.

Heikkinen differentiates between the use of text and chatbots. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots can be useful for preliminary interviews, answering basic questions, and delivering information. But you should be transparent with the candidate about the use of chatbots, as the straightforward nature of the texts may seem different than interacting with a human by text. You don’t want mismanaged expectations to create a poor impression.


Ask first

“At our staffing agency, texting candidates is a fairly new thing. It’s definitely not ‘first contact’ material,” Sunderland says. “We always speak to our candidates via phone first, and then ask if it’s okay to text.” Many candidates go for that because while they can’t necessarily talk on the phone all the time, they can usually send a quick text without arousing suspicion, he says. Similarly, if candidates wish to communicate by text, they should have a conversation about doing so first. Both the recruitment team and the candidate should agree on the best form of communication and abide by that.

Keep it professional

Whether you’re the candidate or the recruiter, keep it professionals. Don’t abbreviate or use unnecessary acronyms. (e.g., U for you, 2 for too, etc.) Resist the temptation to respond with emojis and GIFs, Shannon warns. While texting is an informal medium, you’re still trying to impress each other.

Don’t hide behind texts

When you have bad news or need to have a serious conversation, text is almost never the best way to do so. When Nick Pennebaker was just starting out in his digital marketing career, he interviewed with a technology company in Dallas. The interview was uneventful, but roughly an hour later, Pennebaker received a text that read, “Nick, thanks for coming in 2day. Unfortunately, we’ve decided to go in another direction. Thank u again.”

“I remember thinking One: Who the hell gets rejected from a job via a same-day text? It almost felt like getting rejected after going on a mediocre date—and two: I think what was even more insulting, was the fact he didn’t have the time to spell out ‘today’ and ‘you’ or he just wasn’t mature enough to do so,” Pennebaker says. The digital marketing manager at Northstar Commercial Partners, a commercial real estate investment firm in Denver, says texting is more common today and can be an efficient means of answering questions and communicating job specifics—but it’s still not a good idea to reject someone by text.

Be careful

It’s common to send a text to the wrong recipient or be victimized by an autocorrect function that seems to have been created solely for your abject humiliation. If you’ve got active text exchanges with recruiters or candidates, take it slow. Be sure you’re sending the right text to the right recipient and not inadvertently hitting “send” on an embarrassing faux pas.

About the author

Gwen Moran is a writer, editor, and creator of Bloom Anywhere, a website for people who want to move up or move on. She writes about business, leadership, money, and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites