Texting Talent: Driving Engagement and Candidate Communication

In light of the workforce disruptions caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, talent leaders are quickly adapting and transforming their organization’s talent function to match our present reality. 

The current crisis gives talent leaders the opportunity to assess and fine-tune recruiting practices in a way that will keep both candidates and recruiters safe while better positioning their organization for the future working conditions.  

Technologies such as text messaging tools built for recruiters offer enormous opportunities to improve recruiter efficiency, time to hire and build stronger relationships with candidates. What’s more, text messaging, when paired with a virtual hiring solution, is a safer alternative to traditional recruiting.   

Before you implement a texting solution, you need a solid understanding of use cases and best practices that can help ensure success and mitigate risk. In this article, we will outline the case for texting and share best practices for leveraging texting in your recruiting program.  

The Case For Text Recuitment

Recruiters and talent leaders understand that good recruiting begins and ends with building strong relationships with candidates. So, why add yet another communications channel to the recruiting mix?  

The answer is simple: Times keep changing, and so do the ways we communicate. As that happens, the effectiveness of tried and true methods also changes as demographics and preferences shift. 

Texting is Straightforward: Text messages are typically short and to the point, which makes them easier to read and respond to than email messages. Texting also carries with it an expectation of informality which makes it easier to communicate. For example, saying “yes” instead of “Yes.” is totally acceptable via a text exchange. 

Texting is Convenient: Candidates can respond to texts whenever and wherever while they are running errands, on break at work or home watching a movie.  

Texting Has Greater Reach: Many hourly and elderly workers don’t own or have access to a computer and rely on their mobile devices exclusively for job searches. Texting is also more accessible for job seekers who don’t have unlimited data plans or who do not have a smart phone, making your application process more accessible to a broader population.

Texting Builds Dialogue: The nature of conversation is constantly evolving. That means candidates are becoming increasingly open to beginning conversations via text.   

Use Cases for Text Recruitment  

There are as many ways to integrate texting into your recruiting process as there are topics to communicate about. Below, we cover some of the best use cases for text recruitment. 

Automating Candidate Reengagement 

Many organizations already have a large database of candidates in their ATS. Sending automated text messages is an extremely effective way to reach out to those contacts at scale to rapidly generate interest in new positions. You can also use automation to reach out to previous employees, if they have opted-in for texting. To gain that opt in, you could ask for consent as part of the off-boarding process for departing employees. 

Automated Updates  

Sending automated texts to candidates to confirm that their job application has been received and is under review can be a great way to keep them engaged in the process. What’s more, you can set up automated messages that are triggered at each phase of the hiring process to keep candidates up to date with their status. This makes the recruiting process feel more personal and less like their application was sent down a black hole. 

Automated Scheduling 

Interview coordination is ideally suited to texting. Your organization can send text links for candidate self-scheduling to streamline interviews.  

Enhanced Screening Capabilities 

When handling a high volume of applicants, it can be difficult for recruiters to respond quickly and individually to each candidate. Using texts, you can qualify applicants faster using response templates and automated screening questions. Recruitment texting platforms can be programmed to send back follow up questions, job application links, or other content based on candidate responses. 

This exchange is an example of not just interview scheduling, but also actual interviewing over text. At PeopleScout, we have seen client’s receive an 85% response rate for this type of question and answer exchange, which is higher than other communication channels. 

Better Interview Completion Rate  

Recruiters know that coordinating with the candidate is only half the hiring battle. Recruiting teams can use texts to send automated interview reminders to hiring managers and colleagues, so nothing slips through the cracks. Fewer missed or reschedule interviews means a shorter time to hire. 

Field Recruiting 

Retail, hospitality and other employers with large physical footprints can also utilize text short codes to capitalize on walk-in applicants. Signage placed on doors, at the register, or elsewhere connects job seekers directly to the online job application forms and minimizes distractions for managers in the field.  

SMS short codes are five to six-digit numbers that are often paired with keywords for use in text recruiting (e.g. ‘Text JOBS to 123456’). You can utilize them on signage at job events to maximize ROI.  

Best Practices for Text Recruitment  

While mobile phones and texting have become ubiquitous tools in everyday life, it is important to realize that communication preferences vary from individual to individual. It is also critical to recognize that the attributes that makes texting such a powerful recruiting tool – that’s it is direct, convenient and personal – are the same things that make observing best practices so important. 

Secure Permission from Candidates 

Text messages are governed by different laws and standards than email. Employers in the U.S. will want to consider how the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), or similar laws such as the European Union regulations regarding electronic communications, namely the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), apply to different types of recruitment texting activity. Talent leaders should consult their legal counsel and get comfortable with the ins and outs of the TCPA when formulating a text recruiting strategy and all related policies.   

Before you text candidates, you must first obtain express consent from the candidate and it must be easy for them to opt-out of communications. As a starting point, review your organization’s website and application process and add simple, clear language stating that phone numbers may be used to message applicants. The notice should be placed near the phone number entry field, rather than buried in lengthy terms of service statement and privacy policy should also be updated.  

Consider Compliance Requirements 

Even if your organization does not have a text recruitment platform, chances are that some recruiters are using personal devices to communicate with candidates via text. This may produce positive results, but places you at greater compliance risk because there is no centralized record of communications. Using personal devices, or even dedicated company devices, also makes it difficult to exercise effective oversight to ensure that organizational guidelines are followed. 

Text messaging activity is increasingly likely to be included in compliance audits, so make sure your bases are covered. Follow all of the same protocols – business and legal – that you would in writing, email or telephone conversations. 

Define Messaging Guidelines for Recruiters 

Texting should be professional and consistent with your employer brand, just like any other type of communication. So, it’s helpful to provide high-level guidelines to your recruiting team to ensure that everyone is on the same page about internal text messaging practices. 

Communicate Clearly with Candidates 

The best text outreach messages get straight to the point. In any initial conversations, the recruiter should answer a few key questions candidates may have to get the best possible response: 

Who are you and why you are reaching out? 
 

What are the next steps? 
 

Setting context and expectations up front maximizes engagement. What’s more, these questions can be set up as automated responses, so recruiters may only have to step in once the initial screening questions have been asked and answered.  

Timing is Everything  

Text only during the workday, from 8 a.m. at the candidate’s local time to 5 or 6 p.m. Texting a candidate during off-hours, may lead them to do the same and set an expectation of a response from your team. If job seekers do reach out on weekends or evenings and you do not want your recruiters to engage, you can steer their communications back to the normal business hours. For example, if you receive a text on Saturday, you might set up an automated response that you will follow up first thing Monday. 

Texting is Not Always Appropriate  

Some aspects of the recruiting process require a more personal touch than others. While many consider messaging “personal” and “immediate,” you may want to deliver important information (ex. “you didn’t get the job”) or discuss sensitive topics like salary using other means such as a phone call or email depending on the situation. 

Closing Thoughts  

Automation of the recruiting process is where the candidate experience is headed. As a result, it is going to free up time for your recruiters and allow them to seamlessly connect one-on-one with candidates and holding meaningful conversations.  

Texting has become such a big large part of modern life that embracing it can make your organization an employer of choice to top candidates in your industry.