By Jena McGregor

Daily Herald, December 2, 2018 —

If a recruiter texts you about coming in for an interview, which smiley face — if any — is OK to use in response?

How long is too long when texting an answer about which programming skills are your strength?

If a recruiter sends you a Bitmoji avatar leaning up against a water cooler, would you be more apt to write back or hit delete?

These and other questions may increasingly come up as more employers add text-messaging platforms to the hiring process, to coordinate interview logistics, connect with past applicants and ask initial screening questions before taking time for a phone or in-person interview. In a tight labor market, employers are looking for ways to grab the attention of potential workers, save money on managing multiple queries to candidates and better manage how they communicate with jobseekers so they don’t think their résumés have fallen into a black hole.

“More and more people get spammed by job offers via email,” said Brian Kropp, group vice president for Gartner’s human resources practice. Text messages, Kropp said, are “another tool companies can use in a very tight labor market to try to get traction.”

More employers are adding text messaging to the hiring process to coordinate interview logistics, connect with past applicants and ask initial screening questions before taking time for a phone or in-person interview. (Thinkstock photo)

A growing number of technology companies have sprung up to help employers use messaging tools to text potential workers.

Mya, which launched in 2016 and now works with several large staffing firms and more than 40 Fortune 500 companies, uses “conversational” artificial intelligence to text with applicants about basic qualifications, availability and interview logistics.

Canvas, which utilizes machine-generated questions and human recruiters to message with candidates, describes itself as “the world’s first text-based interviewing platform.” Other companies such as TextRecruit and Trumpia also have offerings.

Using text messaging in recruiting or for initial candidate screens provides some inherent advantages, say industry analysts and the companies behind the technology. People are more likely to respond to text messages than email, offering higher response rates from candidates who might overlook job-board email listings or emails from recruiters. Gartner’s research shows that candidates open and read only about 20 percent of the emails that recruiters send via LinkedIn, while the texting platforms anecdotally report response rates of 60 to 70 percent, Kropp said.

Yet if companies aren’t careful, getting a text about a job or the work culture of a company seeking to hire might feel intrusive or like mobile-phone junk mail. The aspects of texting that give it immediacy and make it feel personal can also make it feel invasive if it’s unwanted.

“Somehow your phone number is more personal than your email address,” Kropp said, adding that some people still have data plans with a limited number of texts before they’re charged. “If you’re a company that’s going to go down this path, you need to be much more sensitive to the message you’re putting on that text. How do you make it feel not spammy?”

Eyal Grayevsky, co-founder and CEO of Mya, said his company is in talks with major job boards to possibly enable it to reach people who have posted their résumés with the job boards, have said they are actively looking and have opted in to being contacted about jobs. But for now, Mya has been focused on contacting people who have applied to jobs at the customer recently or in the past.

Text-based recruiting is largely being used for high-volume job categories such as retail, food service, nursing and customer service, though some companies are also using them for professional staff jobs or high-demand positions such as software programming. Brar said Canvas has been used to recruit welders, machinists, graphic designers and software engineers.

Josh Bersin, an industry analyst who studies workplace technology, said: “I don’t know if it’s been super useful for higher-level jobs yet, but it’s getting there. It’s getting sophisticated very fast. It’s more accepted than I would have expected by now.”