Job Candidate Preferences for Recruiter Text Messaging

As many as 60 percent of recruiters now use text messaging to communicate with job candidates as part of their hiring process.

Through a survey of random job seekers conducted by Software Advice, recruiting and staffing agencies will learn candidates’ preferences for recruiter text messaging and how recruiters can best use this medium to communicate with them.

Key Findings

  1. With the exception of those over age 45, more job seekers consider recruiters who use text messaging “professional” (43 percent) than “unprofessional” (32 percent).
  2. In six common scenarios, job seekers prefer to be contacted by recruiters by email (49 percent) or phone (38 percent) over text message (12 percent).
  3. According to job seekers, inappropriate scenarios for recruiter texting include during non-business hours (24 percent) and when following up on interviews (11 percent).


Introduction

In a 2012 survey by Dialogue Communications, 90 percent of recruiters say that text messaging helped their business. When looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why. More than two-thirds of the world’s population have a cell phone with texting capabilities. Moreover, 79 percent of those age 18 to 44 have their phone with them 22 hours a day.

This easy access to current and potential candidates is leading to more successful communication with them—indeed, 90 percent of all text messages are read within the first three minutes of being sent. Erik Kostelnik, CEO of recruiter texting platform TextRecruit, adds that recruiter texts sent through its software have a 26 percent response rate (compared to a rate of just 8 percent for emails).

Because of this success, recruiters are using text messaging capabilities (also known as Short Message Service, or SMS) in some traditional recruiting software platforms, or through specialized mobile recruiting platforms. These platforms allow recruiters to mass-text candidates without using their own personal phones, and have features to track texts for more in-depth reporting on the performance of this mode of communication.

But since texting is a fairly recent addition to most recruiters’ arsenals, many aren’t aware of the best practices for using this method. In addition, not all candidates may like being contacted through a more personal and informal medium.

Jim Durbin, headhunter for recruiting agency Brandstorming (who has also written on the topic of recruiter texting), notes that “texting, like most forms of communication, requires marketing, experience and knowledge” to be done successfully.

To find out how recruiters can use texting most effectively to engage candidates, Software Advice surveyed a random sample of job seekers on their preferences regarding text messages from recruiters. This report highlights our key findings.


Recruiter Texting Considered ‘Professional’ by Those Under 45

Given the informal nature of text messaging, how do candidates feel about the professionalism of recruiters who text them about a position? We asked respondents how they would describe their impression of a recruiter who sent them text messages, assuming they had already opted in to being contacted by that recruiter.

Overall, more job seekers say they consider recruiters who text “professional” (a combined 43 percent) than say they consider them “unprofessional” (a combined 32 percent), with 25 percent describing them as “neither professional nor unprofessional.”

Impression of Recruiters Who Use Text Messages
Impression of Recruiters Who Use Text Messages by Respondent Age

However, when broken down by age, a difference in opinion between younger and older job seekers emerges. Almost half (47 percent) of respondents aged 18-24 describe recruiters who text as “professional,” but that number declines as respondent age increases; more of those 45 and older consider such recruiters “unprofessional.”

With millennials being dubbed “the Texting Generation” by some, it’s not surprising that they aren’t as offended by a recruiter sending texts to them. But older job seekers may not feel the same way. According to the Pew Research Center, Americans 45 to 54 years old only send or receive 14 text messages a day—while 18- to 24-year-olds send or receive a whopping 109.5 daily texts.

Durbin says older candidates still see texting as a means of communication with “just friends and family.” As such, recruiters would be wise to find out if older candidates prefer to receive text messages before sending them.

The same advice rings true for every candidate, regardless of age: As Durbin notes, while most older candidates probably don’t want to be texted, this doesn’t necessarily apply to all of them. Because each candidate is unique, it’s important to find out their preferences beforehand in order to communicate with them using the most effective medium possible.

“Don’t make big assumptions about who you’re sending texts to, because every person is different,” Durbin says. “Someone may be a privacy freak, but someone else may not care.”

Other research confirms that people have differing views on receiving text messages from those outside of friends and family. When Autosend, a Web application company, asked respondents in a study if they would like to receive texts from a business, the answers were split: 35 percent said “maybe,” 33 percent said “no” and 30 percent said “yes.”

Job Seekers Prefer Contact by Phone or Email Over Text

For the next question in our survey about candidate preferences for recruiter text messaging, we presented respondents with six common scenarios in which a recruiter might contact them, assuming they have opted-in to the recruiter’s services:

  • For initial outreach (e.g., an introduction or confirmation of receiving a resume)
  • To clarify or obtain additional information
  • To tell them about a job opening
  • To schedule a job interview
  • To confirm a job interview time
  • To follow up after an interview

For each scenario, we asked respondents to pick the medium they would most prefer to be contacted through, allowing them to choose between phone, email, text message and social media. As the results below show, job seekers do not prefer a text message in any scenario: Email is the most popular option in four scenarios, while a phone call is preferred in two.

Preferred Medium for Recruiter Communication

Preferred Medium for Recruiter Communication

The scenario in which respondents most prefer to receive a text message—to confirm a job interview—still only accounts for 21 percent. Even when we break down the data by age or industry, there is no situation where texting is most preferred. So while job seekers don’t generally view recruiters who use texting as unprofessional, they also don’t prefer to be contacted this way.

For those who have never been texted by a recruiter before, the idea may seem strange—especially given the professional nature of the conversations that take place around the application and hiring process.

According to Kostelnik, because texting for business purposes is relatively new, “Candidates are choosing what they already know and what is popular [as their preferred medium].” But Durbin also says that if a candidate doesn’t prefer a text message from a recruiter, it may be because they had a bad experience in the past.

Many recruiters, Durbin continues, “are really, really bad” at texting.

I think that’s half the problem: Candidates don’t respond as well, because all recruiters want is an answer. They bug candidates until they get a response, and then never talk to them again. I would not be surprised to find that the response to [texting] is entirely based on bad experiences with recruiters.

Jim Durbin, Brandstorming

Kostelnik adds that recruiters haven’t always managed candidate texts effectively because there hasn’t been technology in the past to assist them with the process as there has been for email automation, for example. Today, texting software platforms allow for such functionality as personalization, signatures and the ability for candidates to unsubscribe from texts.

However, Kostelnik says, the historical lack of these capabilities for recruiters has led to “the misrepresentation of the company and the recruiter, and [left] the candidate with a bad experience from the text communication.”

As recommended earlier in this report, recruiters should find out in advance if candidates would like to be texted instead of called or emailed. Additionally, since texting is ideal only for informative, one-way messages, recruiters would be wise to only text in certain situations where they don’t expect a conversation or long response from the candidate; e.g., confirming an interview time.

More importantly, if a candidate can’t be reached through their preferred medium, recruiters should not bombard them with the same message through other ones.

“If you’re going to communicate with a candidate, pick your poison,” Durbin cautions. “Don’t send a message through multiple mediums, because you’ll just make them angry.”

If possible, Kostelnik also recommends that recruiters use a platform that allows for two-way texting communication, as this will allow for more dialogue between recruiter and candidate.

Finally, platforms that allow recruiters to see a candidate’s contact history are also ideal, to “ensure that [recruiters] are staying compliant if a candidate no longer wishes to be contacted,” Kostelnik adds.

Texting to Follow-Up After Hours Considered Inappropriate

To find out when texting is completely out of the question, we next asked respondents if there are any situations where a text from a recruiter is inappropriate (again assuming they had opted-in to being contacted by that recruiter).

The largest percentage of job seekers (24 percent) say that texting during non-business hours is inappropriate. Eleven percent feel likewise about texting as a follow-up to an interview or to inform a candidate of whether or not they got the job.

Inappropriate Situations for Recruiter Texting

Inappropriate Situations for Recruiter Texting

Respondents’ answers show again that personal preferences differ. Regarding texting during non-business hours for example, one respondent says anything outside of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is inappropriate, while another says that only a text in the middle of the night falls into this category.

Conversely, one respondent says that texts during office hours should be avoided, because “there’s a chance other co-workers [could] see the message.” Durbin agrees that there are dangers with recruiters texting during work hours.

“If their phone is buzzing, someone’s going to ask,” Durbin says. “The sender also pops up. So if it’s sitting on the desk, and it pops up, and it says, ‘Tech Recruiter wants to schedule an interview,’ you may have just gotten that person fired.”

Another touchy situation for texting is when following up after an interview, especially when sharing the results. Durbin says that recruiters tend to get excited for their candidates after an interview, which can lead to inappropriate communication.

“Recruiters want to celebrate if something went well,” Durbin says. “But if it’s good news, the company will call and hire the candidate. The manager will talk to the candidate.”

John Paul Engel, president of recruiting firm Knowledge Capital Consulting, also says that if recruiters need to deliver bad news—for example, that the candidate didn’t get the job—then a phone call is “absolutely necessary.”

Job Seekers Prefer Texts During Mid- to Late Morning

Despite the potential drawbacks, asking respondents for their preferred time to be texted by a recruiter confirms that during business hours is best. When asked what time they prefer to be contacted via text message, the greatest percentage of respondents cite 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (29 percent) and 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. (26 percent).

Preferred Time of Day for Receiving Recruiter Text Messages

Preferred Time of Day for Receiving Recruiter Text Messages

Although job seekers prefer morning to afternoon texts, Durbin says it can be hard to figure out when in the morning to text a candidate because of differing schedules. This again points to the importance of learning a candidate’s preferences ahead of time, in order to avoid missed communication or annoying the job seeker.

And even though candidates might prefer a text message in the morning, recruiters should be aware that they might not get a response until the end of the day. According to a study by mobile app company Locket, mobile users are most active in unlocking or checking their phone between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Phone Call or Email Is Preferred for Two Texts or More

One major problem with recruiter texting is that recruiters may have a tendency to abuse the privilege.

As in dating, Durbin says, “The person who texts the least wins. Recruiters in general don’t pay enough attention to do this correctly. If they send 10 texts, and a candidate only sees the last one, they may not know that the recruiter sent nine other ones for days.”

To see how many texts job seekers would prefer to receive, we posed a scenario to respondents in which a recruiter wanted to text them something, but it was so long that it had to be delivered in multiple messages. We then asked, after how many simultaneous texts would they prefer that the recruiter call or email them instead?

The highest percentage of respondents say that after two text messages in a row, recruiters should use another medium to contact them.

Maximum Acceptable Number of
Simultaneous Recruiter Texts

Maximum Acceptable Number of Simultaneous Recruiter Texts

Kostelnik says that one of the benefits of texting for candidates is that the information is “easy to read and respond to.” This benefit can be lost if recruiters try to get too specific or convey too much information in multiple messages.

Multiple simultaneous messages can also be seen as inappropriate on the part of the recruiter, as 6 percent of respondents note in the above question about inappropriate situations for recruiter texting. Kostelnik notes that TextRecruit has found that candidate response rates increase when messages are kept to a 160-character limit.

Conclusions

Texting has many benefits for both recruiters and job seekers, and specialized software is making the medium more robust through the use of tracking capabilities and customizable templates. But the practice is still in its infancy, and recruiters can easily abuse texting—which can come off as unprofessional and scare potential candidates away.

In addition to the advice above, Kostelnik says there are other texting best practices that recruiters should implement.

“Your message should be friendly and non-salesy,” Kostelnik says. “Play to the candidate’s ego, telling them [that], based on their qualifications and experience, this would be a great opportunity for them.”

Kostelnik also says that many times, recruiters will lose a candidate’s interest because they ramble and don’t get to the point in a text message. Texts should stay simple, and any questions should be able to be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

Software can also help recruiters optimize their texting practices. Different templates can be created depending on the situation, and tracking analytics can let recruiters know which messages improve certain metrics, such as open and response rates, and which ones don’t.

But if one trend ties all of our results together, it’s that every person is different, and it is up to the recruiter to be proactive and learn a candidate’s preferences beforehand to avoid a bad experience. Combined with email and phone calls, texting can be a valuable communication tool for recruiters. And when done correctly, texting can lead to successful candidate interaction and placement.

Methodology
To find the data in this report, we conducted a seven-day online survey of eight questions, and gathered 371 responses from random job seekers primarily within the United States, but also within 18 other countries. We screened our sample to only include respondents who were currently looking for a job. Software Advice performed and funded this research independently.

Results are representative of our survey sample, not necessarily the population as a whole. Sources attributed and products referenced in this article may or may not represent client vendors of Software Advice, but vendor status is never used as a basis for selection. Expert commentary solely represents the views of the individual. Chart values are rounded to the nearest whole number.

If you have comments or would like to obtain access to any of the charts above, please contact brianwestfall@softwareadvice.com.

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