The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on an emerging trend: conducting early-stage interviews via text messages. You’d be forgiven for thinking this sounded a little far-stretched on first impression. But considering we can screen something as important as a potential life-partner with a swipe, tap & quick message, using a text message to interview for our next job doesn’t seem that much of a leap.
The Wall Street Journal article featured Kirby Cuniffe, Chief Executive of staffing firm Aegis Worldwide LLC, who explained that their recruiters were finding that fewer and fewer potential candidates were answering their phones. “People don’t want to have that 10-minute [phone] conversation any more if they could just reply with a quick text” The journal claims this is a widespread issue and because “prospective hires are too slow to pick up the phone or respond to emails, employers are trying out apps that allow them to screen candidates and conduct early-stage interviews with texts.”
But why have applicants become slower at answering phone calls for job opportunities?
The answer is simply a change in the times. With the boom of social media and a whole host of apps that allow instant communication, people are turning away from the phone handset as a tool of vocal conversation and instead using it for snappy, virtual communication. In the context of job interviews, this means a move away from a pre-arranged phone call, to an instant virtual interview on the go, at any time and in any place. This is echoed in a report on internet trends by venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. It found that only 12 percent of Millennials prefer to use the phone for business communications. However, 45 percent prefer to chat online or exchange text or email messages.
This trend has led to the launch of the first text-based interviewing system, Canvas. Using this platform, recruiters can store custom questions and resources (such as company information and benefits) whilst also being given suggestions by the platform on what to ask. When they reach out to applicants, those pings are received as text messages and applicants can reply accordingly. This first-round text message conversation, is stored by Canvas so recruiters can refer to it when considering applicants and conducting the more traditional second-stage phone interview or meeting.
So, what does this trend mean for the recruitment process, applicants and recruiters?
The obvious difference in conducting the first-stage interview is a shift away from recruiters emailing or calling applicants to arrange a date and time to conduct the first phone interview. Instead applicants can receive their first questions at any time of the working day and can reply at a convenient time for them. This is illustrated nicely in the demo video on the Canvas website. Here we see a young woman texting responses to questions such as ‘How would other people describe your leadership style?’ while crossing a busy street, and later sipping a cappuccino.
Using instant messages opens up the time and place of the interview and gives the recruiter more chance of getting the first-stage interview completed in a shorter time than it currently takes to wait for the applicant to reply to arrange the interview in the first place. It also gives the applicant the opportunity to choose the most convenient time for them which decreases the chances of the candidate or recruiter losing a potential opportunity with the interview never actually happening.
Texting is not only a quicker method of communicating, it’s also a more personal one. This enables the candidate to feel they are getting a one-on-one service rather than being one of many applicants. This more personal method also has the advantage of allowing the recruiter to find out more about the applicant. This goes a long way to increasing the chances of a good hire being made because after all, the whole point of that first-round interview is to get enough information to be able to decide whether applicant and recruiter should move forward together.
Text messaging interviews do also offer their own complications though. Recruiters may be reluctant to take up this approach because texting someone you don’t know seems more invasive than a call or email. On the other side, while applicants are more likely to take up this personal approach, they need to be careful to distinguish the texts they send to recruiters to those they send to their friends and family. A different tone is needed when presenting yourself in a professional capacity and aiming to convince the recruiter you’re the right person for the job. Equally by opening up the time and place for the text messages, applicants need to be careful they choose a suitable time to text. For example, a drunken text to a recruiter is a sure-fire way to ruin your chances of being considered for that job!
So, could text messages replace job interviews entirely?
The short answer has to be no! They don’t offer the same experience that all interviews do and can’t match the benefits they offer. Phone interviews allow recruiters to determine whether the applicant can have an adult conversation vocally and face-to-face interviews allow the recruiter to see how the applicant presents themselves and handles the social situation. This growing trend though does strongly suggest that text conversations will speed up the start of the recruitment process and could work well as first contact between recruiter and applicant.