Is SMS the new email? (Hint: Text 'Yes' if you're hiring millennials.)

Darren Bounds
Darren Bounds  |  October 23, 2018

If you were born between 1980 and 2004, you are, arguably, a millennial.

And while there's some debate on the exact cutoff date for millennials, one thing's for sure: this generation is unlike any other. Millennials think differently, consume differently, and even talk differently. And, unlike previous generations, they'll gladly avoid picking up the phone.

Author and consultant, Mark Prensky coined the term “digital native[s]” to describe millennials as, “native speakers of the digital language,” who think, process, and seek out information in a way that looks starkly different from previous generations. And, indeed, there's plenty of data to back that up.

A 2010 study by Nielsen found that teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 send 3,339 texts per month. That's more than six per waking hour. More recently, a 2017 report by LivePerson found that over 73 percent of U.S. millennials and Gen Z'ers interact with each other digitally more than they do in real life.

That got us wondering...

Why do millennial professionals love text messages?

Speculating about why millennials love anything can be a fool's errand and contribute to some inaccurate and downright rude stereotypes.

Still, it stands to reason that a generation of people who were raised to see the value in messages that don't interrupt (think: Netflix vs. network TV, cold emailing vs. cold-calling, and subscription-based pay models like, Spotify's, vs. CDs) would naturally prefer a medium that feels less invasive. Enter the SMS marketing.

Like emojis, millennials love using SMS because it allows them to say a lot with a little. Email might be great for longer, less urgent messages, but if you want to share a fun quip or get a lightning-fast reply, text messages are the way to go.

How to engage millennial candidates using SMS/text message

1. Make it relevant

For millennials, if it's not relevant, it's just annoying.

One of the best things about text messages is that, unlike a phone call, it gives you a chance to really think about the words you use. And, more often than not, you get what you put in.

For the same reason personalized emails improve conversion rates by 10 percent, personalized texts matter. Many working millennials are also working parents. They're too busy keeping up with life to waste time on any message that doesn't immediately strike a chord. When reaching out to a candidate by text, remember, context matters.

It wouldn't be appropriate to text a candidate at 9 p.m. hoping to engage them in a lengthy conversation about the ins and outs of an open position, but you can schedule interviews, send reminders, ask for a call back, or instantly engage a lead who visited a role-specific job page. The right tool will let you time delay your SMS so that it never interrupts your lead while they're eating dinner or putting their kids to bed.

2. Make it fast

Ask any salesperson and they'll tell you, speed matters.

If you want to snag candidates faster than your competitors, you can't make them wait for a reply to their chatbot message, email inquiry, application, etc. Same goes for passive candidates. Don't even think about engaging in a conversation if you can't be responsive.

SMS also helps boost the candidate experience by accelerating the hiring process. For example, sending your candidate a link to your Calendly (or an appointment scheduling software of choice) via text message removes the need for endless emails and makes it possible to get the interview scheduled in a matter of minutes. Using SMS, you can also remind your leads that they have an interview coming up and minimize the risk of tardiness and no-shows.

Tied to other tools, such as a chatbot, text messaging could also help automate a huge part of the lead qualification process by helping to pre-screen the candidates who are qualified, available, and interested.

3. Make it ongoing

SMS is just as awesome as email for a variety of reasons, but that doesn't mean you should ignore email and only contact candidates via text.

The reality is, in a tight talent market fastest doesn't always win the race.

Longevity matters just as much. As top-performers become more and more discerning about who they choose to work for, the quality of the candidate experience matters more than ever. That means keeping in touch with candidates, even after they (or perhaps even you) have decided to go another route.

TIP: This guide to recruiting can help you do just that

Let's not forget, millennials are known to demand meaningful work. Showing genuine effort and compassion by continuing to reach out when everyone else has disappeared is a great way to show them there's more on your mind than simply meeting a quota. They crave a job description that speaks to them.

Use SMS as one tool in a larger strategy to nurture your candidates (and we do mean all your candidates) over time. One day, you'll look up and be amazed how much easier it is to pinpoint your next rockstar.

Darren Bounds
Author

Darren Bounds

Darren Bounds is the CEO and founder of Breezy HR, the people-first applicant tracking system that keeps hiring simple and in sync. He's also the former VP of technology at Taleo. Darren thinks great design can save the world, and HR should be human. When he's not building products or businesses, you can catch him watching Office Space.