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We’ve said it many times before: timing is everything in recruiting. So often it makes the difference between winning enough attention of talented prospects to bring them into your hiring funnel, or getting brushed off as “just another recruiter.”

For many recruiters, text messaging is the secret sauce in getting the timing right. It puts you in the sweet spot of a candidate’s personal communication space. It facilitates synchronous communication, something emails and voice messaging fail to do. It can make each touch more personalized, and get you treated more like a VIP contact. It can put you in the middle of the action for both active and passive job seekers, both of whom increasingly prefer pursuing job opportunities using a mobile device. And, it is indispensable for confirming appointments, coordinating logistics, and sending timely follow-ups.

Much of the etiquette for texting with candidates is common sense. But as we all know, recruiting is intense work. It is very easy to get caught up in the flurry of it all and let your game slip, especially during high season. You shut yourself in your office and are constantly on the phone, trying to get less behind on a massive backlog. You don’t get much chance to come up for air.

Yet doing what you do so well as a recruiter is a lot like breathing: sometimes you’ve got to be conscious of it in order to go back to doing it naturally. Let these rules provide a few waves of fresh air to help you along.

1. Be one to ask permission, not forgiveness

In some organizations, the norm is “better to ask forgiveness than permission.” But when texting with candidates, if you don’t ask permission first, there might not be much forgiveness. Think of it this way: once you and a candidate have each other’s contacts stored in your phones, there is a slight but nonzero probability of pocket dialing. That’s a level of mutual trust that should be established, not presumed.

It is usually best to ask permission to text once you’ve made a verbal connection with the candidate. At that time, briefly set expectations and determine if the candidate has any preferences for time and frequency of texts.

Unsolicited texts are best avoided unless the candidate has reason to expect to hear from you. If the candidate has previously opted into receiving texts from your organization, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself by name, title, and get permission for texting going forward with this particular engagement.

2. Be succinct

Text messaging is by nature a pithy medium. Candidates may be on a metered data plan. Get right to the point, and make every word count. Avoid line breaks, long greetings or salutations, empty phrases, and unnecessary punctuation.p

Texting is effective because it helps free up working memory. Therefore, make it clear to the candidate when a texting session is concluded. Don’t leave them wondering whether they should expect additional follow-up or information from you.

3. Be appropriate

Texting with candidates is most useful for confirming availability and appointment times, coordinating logistics, providing directions, and following up. It is also useful for delivering urgent messages or reaching a candidate who hasn’t responded to earlier emails or voice messages. All of these tasks fit nicely within the two-minute rule of time management and can be done faster by text than email.

Avoid asking for anything that requires a more complicated response than a yes/no or simple multiple-choice answer. If it’s out of scope for an email, it’s way out of scope for texting. Confine your texting sessions to normal business hours in the time zone of the candidate, though perhaps with a little leeway.

4. Be professional

Texting is by nature also an informal medium. But it’s no time to lower anyone’s standards. Correspondence with recruiters often sets the tone for the entire candidate experience.

Avoid using internet jargon, leetspeak, or textspeak in an attempt to seem glib. Avoid emojis, smileys, or any nonstandard text element. Absolutely never respond to a text with, “K” (or “k”). Use familiar abbreviations where appropriate, but always keep the communication businesslike in tone and diction.

5. Be tactful

By texting with candidates, you have been invited into their personal communication space. Always treat it as a privilege, and be careful not to apply a heavy hand. Avoid texting anything that contains strong emotion, weighty content, or summary decisions.

It is an abhorrently bad form to notify a candidate of a decision not to move forward through a text message. You and your organization are better than that. Save that conversation for an email, or even better, a phone call.

6. Be prompt

People expect to conduct business quickly when text messaging. Do your best to deliver on that with candidates. No matter how busy you get, remember that your job is fundamentally about efficient hiring, effective communication, and managing expectations.

If you become delayed, acknowledge receiving the candidate’s text, and convey that you will respond fully by a certain time. Never humble brag to a candidate about how busy you are, or use the phrase, “back-to-back meetings.”

7. Be yourself

If you’ve been allowed into a candidate’s personal communication space, rest assured you’ve done a lot of things right. Proceed with confidence in who you are and what your organization is offering the candidate. Avoid boilerplate or HR operations talk and instead use your natural recruiting voice. It’s what got you invited into that space, to begin with.

About the author: MightyRecruiter is an intuitive, comprehensive, and transformative recruiting solution. Source passive candidates, track and manage applicants, access an expansive, Mighty resume database, and take advantage of Mighty free job postings. Then, hire the most relevant candidates for your jobs, all at no cost.

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