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Candidate Experience - Communication Preferences, Part 3 of 6

by Joseph Murphy

This is Part Three of a series connected to the Candidate Experience Monograph

We asked job seekers about their preference for how they wanted to communicate with recruiters and hiring managers during the application process.  We wanted to see if there were strong preference one way or another, and in fact there are.

In order of preference:

  1. Telephone
  2. Email
  3. Paper mail
  4. Texting
  5. Chat

You Know My Name, Look Up My Number

Job search is a personal endeavor through a largely impersonal maze or obstacle course.  Candidates want to make a connection on a personal level with another human being.   At the end of the day, each candidate knows the hiring decision will ultimately be made by another human being. As such, candidates have the highest preference for talking with recruiters on the phone.   A very common retort from unsuccessful candidates is the classic:“if only I could speak with someone, I could sell myself.”  The telephone was the communication vehicle of choice for 88% of respondents

Everybody uses the phone somewhere in their recruiting process.  However, the personal connection of a phone call is reserved for the most highly qualified candidates.  And with the applicant-to-hire ratios common to high volume sourcing, this means that 50% to 98% of candidates will never hear the ring, never experience the type of interaction they prefer the most.  It creates a clear and pronounced expectation gap that will not be closed.  Even making the 'No thanks' call to the unsuccessful is impractical, given the number in the rejection pool.

Digital Hand Shake

There is hope.  Email was rated at an almost identical level of preference with the telephone at 87.4% and 88% respectively.  And the number of respondent who are neutral (10%) or do not prefer email (1.6%) are also fundamentally the same as with telephone.  The simple answer here is that an email can fill the communication gap and, if done well, deliver a candidate experience that meets certain expectations for communication.

The similarity here raises my curiosity.  The relative value of each medium is on par.  My assumption is that candidates may sense that a reasonable degree of thoughtfulness might go into each form of exchange – a dialogue or a digital handshake via email.

For candidates receiving an invitation to continue in the process, it is easy to see how an email will have a similar impact as a phone call.  The ‘you are wanted’ message will ring true and provide the needed details for the next step.

In spite of mail-merge mass messaging, that powerful phrase – “you’ve got mail” must meet a certain need and override (at least initially) any negative perceptions of getting rejection spam.  As was detailed in Part II, candidates want to know where they stand.  Email can be expedient and personal to a degree, in conveying the message and closing an expectation gap.

TXT? Not!

Given the heavy balance of twenty-somethings in the survey, it is somewhat surprising to see the strong negative attitude (52.9%) toward the use of texting as a form of communication in the job search process.  Without any qualitative data behind these responses, a few assumptions come to mind.  The foremost being jobs are far too important a topic to be left to abbreviations and truncated phrases.

While not completely discounted, 22.7% of respondents would find texting acceptable.  I only have one personal trend line as a point of reference here.  My college-age son’s use of texting peaked during junior year at about 2,500 per month.  I understand this was a pretty typical volume in 2010, but the 75% fall-off in his use of this form of communication caught my attention.  Certainly not a vehicle going the way of the telegraph, but maybe a shift in the how and why it is being used now. (Excuse me while I tweet this post.)

This also points to the viability of text based job posting such as TweetaJob.  It may make it easy to distribute - the push into a community.  But does it get the attention?

Chat me Up? Not so much.

Chat service has immediacy and it comes with some sense of intimacy.  After all, someone is reading and responding, often pretty quickly.  Job seekers might feel the personal connection with the individual at the keyboard on the other side.  However, having done job observations in contact centers, I know an individual agent may be carrying on six or more conversations at once. It’s easy to see that candidates might feel the person on the other end of the chat box has little or nothing to do with evaluating job-fit or making a hiring decision.  That may be why44.2% of candidates prefer not to use chat for the recruiting process and only 16.9% indicate a preference for this mode.

Give a Letter to the Postman

How can you go wrong with a letter to the candidate?  Think of the reaction you would get from candidates.  Sending snail mail almost seems arcane, but how classy.  And 50% of job seekers still rate this form of communication as highly preferred.  The most consistent use of snail mail in today's staffing process might be the offer letter.  Again, this form of communication only touches the small percent of candidates who make it to the finish line.

However, with a combined 85% of candidates prefering or being open/neutral about hard copy, there may be a place for physical components in your candidate communications.

Final Thoughts

The good news is that job seekers are OK with email.  Email is extremely efficient and low cost.  Automated methods make it easy to use this tool to communicate with your candidates.  All your candidates, the successful and the yet to be.

When considering the need for process information described in Part II, and the preferred method of communication described here, you should be able to add value to your candidate experience and achieve a measurable degree of staffing process improvement.

In the next part of this series, we will explore candidate reactions and behaviors to technology problems with your on-line application.  Patience may not be their virtue.

Part One,   Part TwoPart Four, Part Five,  Part Six