The Recruiter Texting Rules!

Here we go! Your boy is back with some more rules! You know I love me some rules! I’m high rules, and low details, which drives most people crazy!

I was having a conversation recently with some recruiters about texting candidates. For the most part, in recruiting, we’ve gotten to this point where we believe every candidate prefers texting over every other kind of communication. And, if they don’t want a text message, then they want email.

This isn’t exactly true! I did some research and surveyed over 1600 candidates we screened to find out the facts and published it – 6 Things Candidates Want You to Know – you can download it here for free. But I’m not here trying to sell you a free whitepaper!

The entire reason we believe candidates prefer text over any other form of communication is some creative marketing around text vs. email response rates in overall text vs. email communications. Now, this is where all of this falls apart. I get over 500 emails per day. I get maybe 25-50 messages. Of course, I’m going to respond more to text messages vs. email. But that doesn’t mean, as a candidate, I want text vs. email, necessarily!

This all lead me down a path where I believe we need some rules around texting as recruiters!

The Recruiter Texting Rules:

Rule No. 1 – As the first outreach to a candidate you don’t know, texting is not preferred by candidates. They don’t know you, and they certainly don’t want you jumping into their private text messages with a spammy job offer!

Rule No. 2 – No one of quality ever accepted an interview and job offer through text message without first speaking to a real human. Pick up the god damn phone. Once a candidate is all in with you, then yes, they will most likely only want texts from you.

Rule No. 3 – Give me a way to opt-out of your bad text recruiting automation hell! For one, it’s the law. But, most still make it way too difficult to stop the automated texts.

Rule No. 4 – Just because you have my number as a candidate does not give you permission to stalk me for a date. It’s super creepy!

Rule No. 5 – If we aren’t friends, don’t text me like we are friends. Avoid sarcasm. Keep it professional and short.

Rule No. 6 – If it feels like you’re sending candidates too many text messages. You are sending candidates too many text messages! Also, don’t text me a novel! Send long stuff in an email.

Rule No. 7 – If I ask you a question, answer the damn question! We are adults. You can tell me the truth I don’t need some run-around answer that doesn’t really answer my question.

Rule No. 8 – If you expect me to respond within minutes. I expect you’ll respond within minutes. Set the ground rules around expectations early.

Rule No. 9 – Never! And I mean, NEVER! Text with a green bubble! Just Kidding! 😉

Okay, peeps, what did I forget? Give me your favorite rule for texting candidates in the comments below.

“My company” vs. “Our company”

I was listening to some of my recruiters talk to candidates the other day. I like to do that from time to time. You learn a lot about your team, your jobs, your hiring managers, and your engagement levels.

One of the things I overheard was something like, “I’m going to tell you about the benefits that “MY” company offers.” There was another conversation where someone used “our,” “I’m going to tell you about the benefits that “OUR” company offers”.

It seems like a small difference, right? Both are positive, for sure.

I will tell you, as a leader, “my company” brings me to tears. The one thing I consistently hear from senior executives is, “I can get my team to care about this company the same way I do”. It’s a very common issue that comes up all the time. How do we get employees to take ownership when they don’t have ‘real’ ownership?

It’s a cop-out and too easy to say, “oh, just give them some real ownership”! Having an employee-owned company isn’t simple or easy. It’s very complex.

Using “My company” says to me that this employee is 100% in. Onboard. Wearing the logo! Reppin the gear! It’s not that saying “our company” doesn’t say that, but “my company” definitely says that!

It’s similar to when you hire a new employee from a competitor, and it takes some time to get them away from “we” vs. “them” vs. “you guys,” etc. “So, I know ‘you guys’ do it this way….” Oh, you mean “us guys,” right!? You’re now on the team. You’re not a ‘them.’ You are a ‘we’!

Sometimes some of the biggest changes we make to culture are simple changes in our own language and what those changes end up meaning to all those stakeholders in an organization.

4 Strategies to Get Candidates to Open Your Emails!

I found some cool data that probably got overlooked a while back from CB Insights. Now, this data is from 2016, but it’s super relevant!

CB Insights did some testing with their own email newsletter that went out to 175K+. A very big sample, and the reality is they have the exact same goal as we all do, Get Candidates to Open Our Email!

These four things work really well in getting people to open your email:

1. Brand Names. CB found that using a big brand name like Apple, Google, Nike, etc., in your subject line increases your odds greatly of getting someone to open your email. Now, you might be asking yourself, “Tim, how the heck am I going to use a brand name in my recruiting emails!?” How about something like, “3 Ways we are a better place to work than Apple!”

2. Short Titles. Less is more when it comes to attention-grabbing subject lines! I suggest under five words if possible. “Are we paying too much?” or “I’ve Got a Quick Question” or “Sackett” – Yep, in my own testing, the one email that gets open at a higher rate than any other is when I only put my last name in the subject line!

3. Negativity. This seems counter-intuitive. No way! People love positivity. You are right, but negativity draws them in! “How Candidates Fall on their Face!” will get opened way more than “How Candidates Succeed!” Again, in ten years of blogging and making headlines, this data also rings true. I get way more interaction on negative headlines than positive headlines.

4. Surprises. Different viewpoints that people don’t expect. “Punching Your Boss Can Get You a Raise!” or “Older Workers Have More Energy Than Millennials!” or “Hiring Dumb People!” Basically, people open these because they don’t agree with the headline. What the heck is Tim talking about today!?!

So, if all of these things work. What does CB Insights say doesn’t work?

What should we stop doing with our subject lines? 

  • All of the opposites of the above! Long headlines, positive headlines, boring, etc.
  • Question Headlines. “What 3 Things Are You Doing to Hurt Your Brand!” While Buzzfeed has made billions with these clickbait headlines, CB found readers are getting fatigued with these types of headlines. (I will tell you “The X Things to do…” headlines still work in my world. 5 Ways to Hire More People! Will always do well.
  • Broad topics do worse than Niche. A headline that says “5 Ways to Attract More Talent” will do worse than “5 Ways to Attract More Nurses Right Now!”

The key to great email subject lines is they get opened! If you send out a hundred emails to candidates and no one opens them, it doesn’t matter what the content is and how much time you spent making it perfect. Get Them To Open Your Emails! Is the single most important thing you should worry about first!

It’s very Recruiting 101, and it’s something almost every recruiting shop struggles with, but then we go and focus on the picture we’re using. Does it have a puppy and a kid in a wheelchair? No, stop the presses! Stop it. Fix the basics first, then worry about doing the higher-level stuff.

What is your most responsive email subject line?

What is your CEOs #1 Priority in Talent Acquisition? I bet it’s different than yours!

If we could all just be on the same page with most things, life would be considerably easier. I work with a lot of Talent Acquisition and HR leaders who are new to the role, and one of the things I try to advise them on is ensuring the c-suite knows exactly what their plan is, and to make sure it’s also the c-suite’s plan!

I find rarely the two are on the same page about what’s most important and it’s the major reason most HR and TA leaders fail in their role. Nothing to do with functional expertise, and everything to do with misalignment of priorities!

The Conference Board recently did a survey with 750 c-suite executives about this very topic, and here are the results:

Is Promoting Your Hybrid Work Model Your #1 Priority in Talent Acquisition!?

No, it’s not!

Now, moving more quickly in your process to get people hired and onboard definitely might be. Adding automation and technology that will definitely help will be high on your list. Having a more efficient recruiting process would also be very high. So, not completely a misalignment, but #1 seems completely off-base!

I wonder how many heads of TA or HR would have promoting our Hybrid Work Model as their #1 priority right now? I doubt it would be a ton. My guess is filling jobs and doing all those things underneath #1 would be much higher, and promoting hybrid would be way down the list.

What should you do with this information?

It’s a great reminder that throughout the year, we should be setting up some one-on-one time with our individual c-suite leaders to ensure their priorities around talent and our priorities around talent align. If they don’t, we need to make sure we have those discussions and leave the room on the same page moving forward!

Too many of us assume we are on the same page without verifying. I find that these discussions are usually the most valuable you’ll have, and just like our business priorities, we have to do frequent check-ins to ensure those priorities aren’t changing.

What is your #1 priority in Talent Acquisition right now? Hit me in the comments.

The Most Important Question You’ll Ever Ask A Hiring Manager!

How are those hiring manager “intake” meetings going?

You know, those meetings you have with a hiring manager every single time they have an opening. You sit down with your hiring manager face to face and ask them a page full of questions.  Why is this position open? What would make a candidate most successful in this role?  What color of skin would you like this candidate to have? Boobs or no boobs? Whoops! Scratch those last ones. We would never ask those…

We begin to hate these meetings. They feel forced.

The reality is Talent Pros really only have one question they need to ask hiring managers. That question is this:

“Do you trust that I can find the talent you need?”

Ultimately, this is all that really matters for your success.  If they trust you, they’ll give you all the information you need to be successful.  If they don’t trust you can find the talent they need, they tend to hold stuff back.

Yes, I know that doesn’t make sense, but that’s real world talent acquisition stuff! Welcome to corporate America. A lot of stuff doesn’t make sense!

Most hiring managers have no faith you’ll find them great talent.  They have this belief because of so many bad Talent Pros before you failed them.  So many before you didn’t really go out and find the best talent, they just delivered whatever warm body came into the ATS.

I just come out and ask the question.  The first answer you’ll get from 99% of hiring managers is a weird, “Well, sure, I do.” If you really dig into this answer, you’ll get the true answer which 90% of the time is, “Hell no! Why would I?  Your department has really never gotten this right!”

Thank you! That’s what I really needed.  I needed to get that out in the open, so now we can really build trust and make great things happen.  They’re mostly right. Talent Acquisition fails many of our hiring managers for a number of reasons. Right now, your hiring manager doesn’t need to hear those reasons, they need to hear why this time will be different.

Then, you have to live up to ‘different’! You have to be better.  You have to get it right. Getting it right earns trust.

Once they trust you, great things will happen. Earn that trust.

The Most Important 20 Minutes of Your Week!

A lot of folks are currently Looking for work and there are a ton of open jobs, like 12.5 million! This means that this week you’re likely to do more phone screens than a similar week a few years ago. Almost everyone in TA is working harder and trying to push more through the funnel. You and your teams will be cranking out phone screens!

You and I (TA Leaders and Pros) don’t consider a twenty-minute phone screen to be an interview. Candidates definitely believe it’s an interview. They prepare for your phone screen at the same level they prepare for an in-person interview with the hiring manager. First impressions and all.

Here’s the problem, that twenty-minute phone screen, one of many you will have during the week, isn’t even in your top 25 most important things you’ll be doing this week. So, how do we address this variance in importance with how the candidate will ultimately view your employment brand, you, your hiring manager, and the job?

That’s a tricky question.

I think the first thing we need to do in talent acquisition is simply to recognize this reality. We are going to be talking with scheduled candidates about who we are, who they are, and what we have, and this is extremely important to them, especially for those out of job. To have some empathy and understanding of the situation. To provide something of value, even as we look to gain some value of information ourselves.

It’s a powerful thing to know you’ll be talking with a number of people in a week, all of whom this could be their most important conversation of the week, month, or year. That we (all recruiters) have a major impact on this event in their lives. We can create an amazing experience, or we can do something less than amazing.

I have this naive belief that all of us humans actually want to do things that make other people happy and satisfied. Isn’t that a great little fuzzy, cute world I live in!?! If we knew we had the power to make someone’s life just a little better, we would use that power for good. That if given the choice to make someone’s day brighter, we would always make the right choice.

Well, we do.

Do Good. Be Kind. As Chris Kurtz would say.

This week, as you go out into the world and phone screen your brands out. Try and make someone’s week. You are worth it. They are worth it. It will be the most important twenty minutes of their week, it’s important we remember that!

Are you “Rainbow Washing” your corporate logo for Pride Month?

I know you’ve seen this going on in June, but you might not have known what it was called. “Rainbow Washing” or “Pride Washing” is when a corporation turns its logo, for the month of June, from its traditional colors to rainbow colors to show its support of Pride Month.

Here are some examples:

Is there any harm in doing this?

My initial impression was “No”. I’ve got gay people in my life and for far too long most companies were scared to even acknowledge gay people were real, let alone show their support, so for me, this is an amazing time. We have billion-dollar corporations willing to come out publicly and state they support their gay employees and customers in a very public way.

But, we also have the bad marketing side of the world.

We have organizations that will Rainbow Wash their logo for June, to act like they are Prideful of their LGBTQ workforce and customers, but then do nothing else the rest of the year. Wait, how do you pronounce “Cinco De Mayo” or isn’t February the shortest of the months for Black History? I joke, this is classic in most organizations. We say we care, but we do the least amount to show we care.

The worst of this is when the organization says one thing, like, hey, look at our rainbow logo, but then goes and gives political donations to politicians who are actively working to reduce or eliminate gay rights. Yes, this is happening. This is far worse than those acting like they care but doing the minimum to increase sales. This is actively lying to employees and the public through behaviors and dollars working to support the other side.

Do you have to rainbow wash your logo to have Pride?

Nope. In fact, I’m sure the LGBTQ community would prefer you not wash your logo and just actually give a damn through your actions and funding of policies that support their community. But, doing those things and washing your logo is also awesome!

Signs and symbols of support shouldn’t be discounted. They are important. A corporation could be the biggest donor to gay rights but hide the fact they do it, that also isn’t great. “Pride” is about having pride for the LGBTQ community and showing your support in a public way that will show those who don’t support that you do and you’re not afraid to show it. Because for way too much of our history way too many were afraid to show their support.

Can Rainbow Washing go too far?

Well, maybe if it goes down the male genital route, you go too far!

This isn’t real, but it demonstrates how a brand can go over the edge with Pride!

Now, you might love the OG and be Gay, and I’m here for it! Everyone loves those breadsticks and salad!

Rainbow washing goes too far when you are doing it for promotion and marketing and not because you want to show Pride for the LGBTQ community. I know, for 100% fact, that some CMO and Revenue officers have had the discussion, “hey, what happens to our sales if we wash the logo? Oh, it’s up 7%! Should we keep it a rainbow for July!? No! That’s the American Flag washing logo, you idiot! Sales went up 8% last year with Red, White, and Blue!”

Rainbow wash your logo. Show support. Give to Gay Rights and Politicians who support Gay RIghts. Show your Pride!

Do Recruiters Still Need To Make Phone Calls?

Recently, I was on a webinar, and in my presentation, I harped on the talent acquisition pros and leaders on the webcast on why 100% of us are not using texting as a primary first form of contact with candidates. The data is in. Texting works! It works better than email by a mile, but still, less than 50% in the room are texting candidates.

After I was done a great TA pro contacted me and said, “Tim, shouldn’t recruiters be calling candidates!” I fell in love! Why, yes, fine, sir they should always be calling candidates! But, let’s not forsake other tools that are working at a high level. We know people, in general, respond to texts at a much higher rate than email and phone calls.

You see a text and within seconds you read it, and you respond to it at more than double the rate of email or voicemail. In talent acquisition, we are in LOVE with email, even when it doesn’t work.

In 2011, I wrote this post below – funny enough, it’s still relevant today (except now I think we need to add in more texting with those phone calls!)

Do we (recruiters) still need to make telephone calls?

I mean really it’s 2011 – we have text messaging, emails, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – hasn’t the telephone just become obsolete?  Does anyone actually use their cell phones to make actual phone calls anymore?

The New York Times had an article: Don’t Call Me, I Won’t Call You, in which they delve into the concept of whether the act of making a phone call has jumped the shark or not.  From the article:

“I remember when I was growing up, the rule was, ‘Don’t call anyone after 10 p.m.,’ ” Mr. Adler said. “Now the rule is, ‘Don’t call anyone. Ever.’ ”

Phone calls are rude. Intrusive. Awkward. “Thank you for noticing something that millions of people have failed to notice since the invention of the telephone until just now,” Judith Martin, a k a Miss Manners, said by way of opening our phone conversation. “I’ve been hammering away at this for decades. The telephone has a very rude propensity to interrupt people…

Even at work, where people once managed to look busy by wearing a headset or constantly parrying calls back and forth via a harried assistant, the offices are silent. The reasons are multifold. Nobody has assistants anymore to handle telecommunications. And in today’s nearly door-free workplaces, unless everyone is on the phone, calls are disruptive and, in a tight warren of cubicles, distressingly public. Does anyone want to hear me detail to the dentist the havoc six-year molars have wreaked on my daughter?

“When I walk around the office, nobody is on the phone,” said Jonathan Burnham, senior vice president, and publisher at HarperCollins. The nature of the rare business call has also changed. “Phone calls used to be everything: serious, light, heavy, funny,” Mr. Burnham said. “But now they tend to be things that are very focused. And almost everyone e-mails first and asks, ‘Is it O.K. if I call?’ ”

Sound Familiar?

Now I could easily turn this into a generational issue because for one it’s easy to do, but this isn’t a GenX vs. GenY issue.  This is a basic communication issue.  An understanding of what we do in our industry issue.  Whether your third party or corporate recruitment, we do the same thing, we search and find talent.  There are two basic ways to screen potential talent for fit for your organization: 1. Meet them in Person (no one would argue that this is the best way, but boy it’s expensive if you are using it as your first-line screen); 2. Meet them over the phone (done in some form or another by 99.9% of recruiters).

There really isn’t any way around this issue, we recruit, we make telephone calls.  If you don’t like to make telephone calls, if you believe what the New York Times article believes, you shouldn’t recruit.  It’s not an indictment on you, this just isn’t your gig.

Recruiters like to talk to people, to question people, to find out more about people, not a career, best done by email and text messaging. We need to talk live to others. That’s how we go to work. Doesn’t matter if you’re 21 or 6. It’s how to deliver great talent to our hiring managers.

So, here’s a tip, if you’re in recruitment and you don’t like making phone calls get, out of recruitment, you will not be successful.  If your first choice of contacting someone isn’t picking up the phone and calling them, instead of sending them an email, when you have their phone number, get out of recruitment. If you’re thinking you want to recruit, and you don’t like making phone calls take another path.

Recruiters make phone calls, that’s what we do.

Is Humor in the Workplace Dead?

I have at times in my career been a part of teams where each day I laughed. The team was a joy to work with and while we still had work and stress, we found times to laugh. I had a group of folks I worked with in Omaha, NE that I specifically recall laughing so hard each week that my stomach hurt, sometimes daily!

I’m not known professionally as someone who is frequently serious. I joke a lot. I love humor and making fun of all the dumb stuff we do. It’s how Kris Dunn found me and I started my blogging career over a decade ago at Fistful of Talent. My entire job was to make people laugh on a Friday.

This past week I posted this tweet on Twitter:

Tim trying to be funny

Now, if you know me, you know this is a joke. If you don’t know me, but you spend twelve seconds looking at my feed, you know this is a joke.

Way too many people thought this tweet was serious and took offense to it!

Let’s dig into how strange it is that someone would believe this was an actual exercise I would do professionally:

  • Your on Twitter and you see this guy with 40K+ followers say he makes candidates write wedding vows and recite them back to him, and you immediately think to yourself, “Well, that’s not good! Why would he ever do that! I must comment! This offends me!”
  • At this point, you’re eihter clinically naive or flat out stupid.
  • What’s the offense you ask? “Well, if you only do this with “attractive” people, you have BIAS!” Okay, I’m listening, but understand, we all judge attractiveness in our own ways. Someone I might find attractive, you might find ugly. So, you’re fighting for a view that is nebulous at best. There was no gender attached to the tweet, so if you think that I’m talking about females, now you are showing your own bias. Maybe in this clearly hypothetical exercise I only do this with attractive men, or attractive non-bianary people!
  • The joke is really around the concept of an interview and wedding vows. That’s what makes it funny. Imagine being asked to write wedding vows to someone you’re interviewing with and then reciting them, in a sense, actually getting married in an interview? Which is in a sense what interviewing is all about, do I want to spend the rest of my life with this company.
  • Foks were beside themselves that I would actually have someone do this. They were OFFENDED! Of course, I would never actually do this, it was always a joke. And if I can pat myself on the back (which I love to do!) it was really well written! It was tight. Not overly wordy. It was, what I thought, fairly innocent, so clean fun in the workplace. It also made fun of crazy interview questions and exercises we make candiates jump through. All in 26 words.

Where are we at with Humor in the Workplace?

We are in a very strange place.

I grew up in my career where very offensive jokes were told in the workplace all the time. Stuff that would get you immediately fired and most likely canceled today. Thankfully, most of us are away from most of that today.

Today, we can basically have humor around very certain topics and can only be told by very certain people. The vehicle of humor is very important in today’s world. Here’s kind of how it’s broken down:

  1. People of the same gender, ethnicity, etc. can fun of each other, to each other.
  2. White dudes can make fun of white dudes, but nothing else. (Oh, there it is, Tim’s Fragility is showing!)
  3. Everybody else can make fun of white dudes, and their own identifiers.
  4. We can all make fun of people and things we’ve deemed culturally fair game – Putin, Kanye, Trump, old white men, Dudes getting yelled at by their spouses, the CEOs of big companies – but only the bad ones, not the ones we like, etc.
  5. You can’t make fun of anything someone would ever, at any time in histroy, find offensive in any slightest way. Like the color purple. “OMG! TIM! Purple stands for safe spaces for puppies! How could you!”
  6. You can always make fun of yourself! (hat tip: Patricia in the comments)

We right ditched, left ditched humor in the workplace, and in many cases socially as well. I hated that people in the workplace could feel attacked by what someone would consider ‘humor’ early in my career. I also hate that humor Nazis are now the norm in our lives believing they can regulate everything that can be considered humorous.

There’s a fine line with humor in the workplace and that line has gotten even thinner in recent years. The problem with humor Nazis is that many employees want to work in environments and cultures that include humor. They want to laugh each day. it helps with engagement. Of course, that humor must be appropriate.

Maybe we just have the dial turned so far up on our offensive meter we struggle to even recognize humor anymore. The best part of this is all those who found my tweet offensive would also say they love humor, just that I’m not funny, and nor was my tweet. That’s their right for sure, but I would argue they’ve lost context around what’s funny.

Do Candidates Really Love to Get Text Messages from Recruiters?

In the past ten years, there hasn’t been a bigger advocate, publicly, for text messaging candidates than myself. When recruitment text messaging software first hit the market I was all-in from day one.

At this point, the data speaks for itself. As compared to other forms of messaging (email, LinkedIn Inmail, snail mail, smoke signals, etc.) text messaging gets at least 5-10x more open and replies than any other form of messaging. So, the answer to the title question has to be, yes, right?!

Not so fast, my friends!

At the beginning of 2021, I was struggling with a lot of the data around candidate experience (CX). While we’ve been focusing on CX for the better part of a decade, we haven’t really seen the numbers consistently in a productive way, and recently we’ve even seen candidate experience numbers drop. My thought was, maybe we are focused on the wrong thing. Maybe it’s not about their “experience” but simply about the “communication,” we deliver.

We reached out to every single candidate we interviewed in 2020, thousands, and got over 1500 responses from these candidates. One of the basic, foundational questions we asked was “What form of communication do you prefer to receive from a recruiter about a potential job, as the first outreach?”…  

The form of communication candidates prefer is…

Read the rest of this post over on Emissary.ai’s site by clicking through here!