August 21, 2018 – Executive search consultants will tell you that developing and maintaining a positive and professional relationship with candidates is one of the main factors that contribute to their mutual success. Clear, concise and timely communication is key to developing that relationship. But what about texting? A new report by WinterWyman Executive Search’s Meghan McFee concludes that texting is acceptable, at least to a certain point.
“This includes not only what is being said and how, but also the vehicles you are using to share your message,” said Ms. McFee. “Different methods are favorable under different circumstances, and there is no one right answer. So, is texting between job seekers and recruiters acceptable? For me, the answer is yes – within reason.”
The WinterWyman report explained why texting is generally permissible. First off, it is private. Texting offers a discrete way to reach and correspond with candidates. “With calling or leaving a voicemail, the candidate needs to be in a private, quiet space to converse with me or listen to my message,” the report said. “This may require stepping away, and if the candidate’s current employer is not aware they are seeking employment, this can add a layer of stress to our communication and the process.”
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It’s also fast. Unlike having to listen to a voicemail message and then call back, texting is nearly immediate. The contract staffing business is fast paced, said Ms. McFee. Real-time communication can mean the difference between grabbing a last-minute opportunity or losing it to another job seeker. Clients will sometimes ask if a candidate can do a phone screen or even an in-person interview same-day. “For me, those requests are best communicated and most successfully scheduled with my candidates over text,” said Ms. McFee. “Speed also benefits our clients. If I have a great candidate I don’t want to lose to another opportunity, I can text and get her into the process quickly – before someone else scoops her up.”
And texting is more casual, which has its pros and cons. Texting is clearly more informal than an email or phone call, for example. When composing an email, one must address it, create a subject line, craft the body copy and include a salutation and signature. That all takes time, said the WinterWyman report. Texting is closer to a live conversation. “This allows both candidates and recruiters to get to know each other,” said Ms. McFee. “This is great when it’s between a recruiter and candidate. I do, however, caution candidates or hiring managers who are interacting with each other to remember to be on their best behavior – texting can sometimes be too informal, and show a less than professional side.”
Before texting with candidates, it is important to create a communication plan and ensure they are comfortable with it. After all, texting is a more personal form of communication, and it may feel intrusive for a candidate to receive a “surprise” text from their recruiter. At the start of the relationship, said Ms. McFee, she simply asks, “Are you comfortable with communicating over text?” She will also explain the specific topics that she will text them about. These include:
- Job updates
- Interview confirmations
- Changes in our process with a current job they are working on together
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According to a report by talent consultant Kevin Sheridan, 86 percent of executive search firms feel they are doing a good job recruiting, yet only 60 percent of candidates report having a positive experience during the recruiting process with them.
- Logistics on scheduling, confirmations, resume submittals, etc.
- To confirm a time to speak over the phone
“I’ve found most of my candidates are comfortable with texting, and even prefer it over other forms of communication,” Ms. McFee said.
Don’t Text This
She will avoid discussing certain topics over text, mainly out of respect to the candidate and because some subjects are simply better handled over the phone, particularly if they are complex and will likely generate questions. These include:
- Salary negotiations
- Benefits and time off
- Other job-search activity the candidate may be involved in
- Anything sensitive or controversial
- Being turned down for a role
For these topics, it is best to stick to the phone to ensure both the recruiter and candidate are aligned, said the report.
It’s An Evolution
When she first started executive recruiting in 2012, said Ms. McFee, she did not text her candidates. “The first time was out of necessity,” she said. “My candidate had an interview starting and I hadn’t heard back from him. I was able to confirm the interview quickly over text, ensuring the candidate was ready to go. As time went on, texting started to get incorporated into my daily practice. At WinterWyman, I have noticed that texting is more prevalent among recruiters and candidates than it is between account managers and clients.”
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“I’m often asked by candidates if they can send a thank you note to the hiring manager after the interview,” Ms. McFee said. “Whenever a thank you note is sent, I prefer an email or even a handwritten note over texting, which feels too informal at the interview stage of the process. Most often we move too quickly for hand-written notes, so email tends to be the best way to communicate this message.”
Overall, texting can offer job seekers a more positive candidate experience. “They don’t have to step out to talk to us, they can get real-time updates and fast answers, their recruiters are accessible and candidates are kept very much in the know about their job search process,” Ms. McFee said. “Texting encourages a more substantial, familiar and positive relationship between recruiters and candidates. I’m confident texting will continue to be a growing method of communication,” she said. “Many applicant tracking systems and third-party plugins are incorporating texting into their candidate communication. It’s not going away!”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media