Here’s a 21st century business ethics question for recruiters: is it okay to text a job candidate you don’t know (or barely know)?
On the one hand, the open rate for text messages is insanely high, around 98 percent. On the other hand, it’s an oddly personal way to advance a business relationship. Probably one stop short of showing up at a candidate’s home with flowers.
The question then, for recruitment professionals, is how do candidates feel about texting? And how should you text them, if at all?
How do candidates feel about texting?
Thanks to a study by Pew Research, we have an extensive amount of data on how candidates view recruiter text messages. It turns out, candidates are almost perfectly divided on the issue.
According to the study, 35 percent consider it professional, 34 percent consider it unprofessional, and 31 percent consider it neither professional nor unprofessional. On the surface, it would appear you have a 66 percent chance of not offending a candidate you text. Yet when you dig deeper into the study, the results look less optimistic.
When presented with six common recruitment scenarios, including initial introduction, obtaining additional job information, scheduling an interview, and interview follow-up, the overwhelming majority of candidates prefer email or a phone call over texting.
So while only a third of candidates might get “offended” by a text, it’s not the first choice of the other two-thirds either. Where does that leave you? Should you ever text a candidate?
When should you text a candidate?
The benefit of texting is obvious: it’s almost guaranteed to be read and responded to within minutes. But with such a low approval rating, it is a gamble to send a text to a candidate not knowing if it will decrease your chances of hiring them.
That means you should try to preserve texting for one of two scenarios:
- When you have a time-sensitive problem that needs to be resolved quickly
- When you’ve built up trust with a candidate, with their permission to text
If your favorite candidate is suddenly MIA and the hiring manager is kept waiting, then it’s okay to text.
If a candidate is weighing multiple offers and hasn’t returned your emails, then it’s okay to text.
If a candidate has expressly stated they prefer text, then it’s okay to text.
How should you text?
Once you’ve identified the candidates who are open to being texted, and the situations where it’s not creepy, there’s the still question of text etiquette. What do you say, and how do you say it?
According to the Pew study, 40 percent of candidates say that after two consecutive texts, a recruiter should call or email. That means your texts, when you do send them, should be tactical and to-the-point. And if your question can’t be answered in a few texts, you should call or email.
And because a significant percentage of candidates find texting unprofessional, you’ll have to compensate by writing a text like you would write an email: well thought-out, error-free, friendly, and professional. Write your text in an email window first, then type it in your phone. It will help you gauge whether the tone is business appropriate or not.
Becoming text savvy
Texting is becoming more and more common for recruiters, with up to 60 percent using it in candidate conversations. But just because it’s convenient for you, doesn’t mean it’s the best way to build a professional relationship with a candidate. Use the speed and responsiveness of texting to your advantage, but use it sparingly.
And once you’ve lined up interviews with the help of a few strategically-timed text messages, check out our free Employee Hiring Checklist to make the rest of the hiring process fast, thorough, and personalized.
Download the Employee Hiring Checklist here.