Text Messaging: 7 Best Practices to Connect with Candidates

Recruiters, just like everyone else working with technology these days, have to continue to adapt.  The platforms they use, like LinkedIn, continue to change and grow, while others, like text messaging, are a non-conventional way to reach candidates.  Plenty have made the case that SMS is more effective than email for recruiting, but statistics won’t get you results.  Slack and other team-focused software have made employees more and more used to messaging about business and work via push notifications and text.  Exploiting this still-non-traditional way to reach candidates can help you stand out in a crowded job marketplace, if you go about it the right way.

Why Text Messaging

Of all the reasons to use text messaging, the 98% open rate stands out.  Compared to a little over 20% for emails, the chances that a candidate at least reads what you have to say are increased almost fivefold.  But there are plenty of other compelling reasons:

  • It’s confidential.  You don’t have to worry about sending something to a work email address, which can be read by administrators, or to a personal email address, which may not be checked until after the business day.  An SMS is very much private and preserves confidentiality all the way through the recruiting process.
  • It’s flexible.  You can use SMS for lead generation, screening, interview scheduling, follow-up, etc.
  • It’s simple.  Candidates of all ages are familiar with text messaging and know how to use it.
  • It’s quick.  People tend to respond more quickly to text messages, and by staying out of the clogged and stressful email stream, time-to-interview and time-to-hire windows can be greatly reduced.
  • It’s inexpensive.  You can opt to use a free service like Google Voice, but even if you use a managed service, which those with larger recruiting duties definitely should, the costs of those services are not high compared to other SaaS solutions.
  • It’s on trend.  Our society continues to see smart phones less as phones and more as the “everything” device of our lives.  People pay bills, order books and groceries, and have long distance video chats with their loved ones, all on this special device.
  • It’s good for your brand.  Candidates who are jaded by the cold email reachouts from other recruiters will be at least intrigued by your contact via SMS…as long as your message is engaging and authentic.  They’ll associate this different way of thinking and unconventional approach as a part of your brand, and that’s a great way to start a conversation.

Best Practices

So, if I’ve managed to convince you that text messaging is a tool well worth adding to your recruiting efforts, it’s important to maintain best practices from day one.

  1. Keep it short.  Most don’t know that the original 160 character limit for text messaging came from someone at GSM (responsible for global standards in the mobile market) who looked at old postcards he had received and found that the messages were often less than 160 characters.  He also looked at a system called Telex which was used by business professionals and found that even though it didn’t have a limit on message length, the messages didn’t exceed 160 characters. The length isn’t as arbitrary as you might imagine: it’s enough to communicate something thoughtfully and well.
  2. Create templates.  You don’t want to reinvent the wheel with each response.  Create appropriate messages for every step in whatever funnel you have a candidate in.
  3. Be human but professional.  Remember that these are the first interactions with a potential new hire, so resist sterile and automated language, but stay professional, as text messaging is by default one of the most casual forms of communication available, using its own shorthand.
  4. Allow for people to unsubscribe from your messages easily.  The reason why email open rates are so much lower those of text messages is because marketers (and recruiters, too) ruined it for everyone else.  Remember to keep your brand free from the feel of spam.
  5. Don’t message outside of business hours.  This relates back to the idea of professionalism, and keeps us in the frame of acting outside of email, which is often automated and coming at all hours.  People are likely messaging with friends and family after hours, and are not interested in “work” related messages. While you are presenting them with a new opportunity, it’s still in “private” time and show that you’re the type of company that respects those boundaries, or they’ll suspect you never will as their employer.
  6. Don’t forget calls to action.  Clickable hyperlinks, like links to a calendar app to schedule an interview, are perfect ways to keep the conversation moving forward.

Final Thoughts

Text messaging is only one weapon in your recruiting arsenal, but used appropriately, can help speed and improve the other methods you may be using, and not just find the candidate you are looking for, but create goodwill among others who may send people your way.

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