Text Messaging is the new frontier for recruiting, but it can all go so wrong. See the biggest gaffs and learn how to avoid the most common faux pas.
Your phone lights up as a new message bubbles to the top of the screen, but you don’t recognize the number. Bloop This is a recruiter. Bloop I have a job I think you’d be great for. Bloop Here’s a link to check out.
It’s surprising to get a text from a stranger regarding a job, but it’s not like a telemarketing interrupting dinner, so you check it out.
Recruiting has begun to infiltrate this traditionally private communication medium, which makes sense given the fact that 15.2 million messages are sent worldwide every minute. And it’s not just under 30s doing the typing, as adults ages 45-55 send and receive an average of 33 messages a day. With text-messaging’s overall open rate of 99 percent…what recruiter could resist?
But, for some reason text messaging, more so than any other medium, is prone to slide into the overly familiar with examples on both sides of inappropriate forrays. Whether it’s a candidate asking a recruiter what church they attend or a recruiter wanting to know if a candidate has any children, questions TA professionals and applicants know not to ask in an interview suddenly become fair game in the world of SMS.
To explore this peculiar phenomenon we talk with a champion of the method, President of Recruiting Daily, William Tincup, on why text recruiting is the future and how most people manage to mess it up.
First, take a look at some real recruiter missteps:
How is texting different than emailing or calling?
Texting is unique because it started out as a personal and casual communication platform. And, for a long time, no one would think to use SMS professionally. That’s not to say it’s all so salacious, a lot of it is just logistics. If we were to look at all the texts all over the world most of what we would find is, “Hey, I’m going to be at this place, at this time. Come meet me.”
How’d we arrive at text recruiting?
Recruiting started out with the yellow page and a landline. Then fax blasts were a big thing (think mass emails over fax). Then boom! The internet comes along with job boards and email, and we’ve been hung up on email for a long time now.
Who does texting reach?
Hourly and professional workers are all mobile. I mean, who doesn’t have a smartphone? Even long-haul truckers in Arkansas, one of the hardest positions to recruit for, have smartphones.
Is texting really better?
I would say that most recruiters today would still prefer to get someone on the phone, but now you can’t get people to pick up — it goes straight to voicemail. If people don’t know the number, they won’t answer.
Email is the next popular option thanks to the anonymity of the computer screen, but emails aren’t getting the response rates they used to. So as a recruiter, if you want that talent you have to change your behavior.
How do you monitor text recruiting?
There are some systems that tie into the desktop, so just as your emails with candidates are tracked so is your texting. To be honest though, that’s not the standard. The standard is I have a phone and the candidate has a phone and I just text them directly. That’s why it’s important to have — I won’t call them rules — but guide rails.
Elaborate on these “guide rails”.
The simple advice is: Don’t be inappropriate. Even if you don’t think of texting as a professional medium…well, now it is. I don’t have a relationship with this potential candidate and I would like a professional one with them. I can’t do the same things that I do on the group chat with my brothers or the thread with my wife. I have to throw those norms out and formalize the conversation. Think of it as a contract: Neither one of you go outside those professional lines. It’s just as wrong for a candidate to go outside those lines and be inappropriate as it is for a recruiter.
Are people trying to break that contract or does it just happen?
The main thing that goes wrong is someone (candidate or recruiter) gets informal too fast. Everyone almost always starts off formal, then nine texts in it starts getting a little personal. “Tell me about your family,” or “How long have you been married?”
Remember that this is someone you will potentially hire. And those are illegal interview questions! You would not ask them under normal circumstances, but while texting they tend to creep in. What’s worse, when one person digresses the other reciprocates. So instead of saying, “Hey, Let’s keep this professional,” they just go along with it.
The candidate wants the job, so if the recruiter goes a little off the rails or says something inappropriate (or more likely just asking something too personal), they let it slide. A similar scenario happens to recruiters because they are desperate to get the talent. It’s a real awkward place, but you need to take the initiative to say “Let’s get back to talking about the job.”
And some real misguided candidates:
PSA from the author: If you are worried about texting the wrong person after you’ve had a few, check out these apps that allow you to lock communication with certain phone numbers for a predetermined amount of time with complex math equations.