Is Texting Candidate Screener Questions Better Than a Real Conversation?

Tim Sackett Audacious Ideas, candidate experience, Canvas, Communication, Digital Interviewing, Interviewing, Mobile, Talent Acquisition, Tim Sackett 6 Comments

I think it’s common belief that it’s always best to screen a candidate “live”, either in person or over the phone. We believe that the ‘immediate’ response is always best because it doesn’t give a candidate time to make up the ‘right’ answer, and you get a more true answer of what they really believe.

That’s what we all think, mostly, right?

Now think about your actual work life. How often are you held accountable for an ‘immediate’ answer about something at your job? For the vast majority of us, it’s almost never! Someone asks you a question, you probably have an immediate response, but it’s also quite normal not to respond immediately an take your time to give the person asking a complete, correct answer to their question.

That’s real life.

The difficult about screening someone ‘live’ is we have this stigma that when someone takes a few seconds to think about how to answer a question, we immediately assume they’re stupid or slow when in reality they’re just taking a few seconds to think through the best answer to your question. Ten seconds of silence, live, seems like an eternity.

Try it. Go sit in front of someone right now and have them ask you a question. Then look at your watch and wait 10 seconds to respond. It seems super awkward! But, if that same person asked the same question via text or email, and it took you 30 seconds to respond, it would seem like your response was very normal.

I’m arguing that screening candidates live actually gives you less of a true impression on how that person will actually perform. Screening with a process that gives a candidate time to give you their best, gives you a true sense of how they’ll perform because that’s more of like the environment you’ll be asking them to perform in.

I’m interested to hear your pros and cons in the comments below. For me, the future of screening candidates will be finding ways to automate that process that gives you the information you need, while also giving the candidate a great experience as well.

Tell me what you think below – what better real live conversations or giving a candidate time to respond with their best foot forward?

FOT Note:  We here at FOT like to think we get talent and HR at a different level. At the very least, we are probably going to have a different take than the norm. So it made perfect sense to ask Canvas to be an annual sponsor at FOT, where they’ll sponsor posts like this one, allowing FOT contributors to write, without restriction, on all things related to using new and innovative ideas in recruiting, like using text messaging to interview candidates. If you find yourself thinking, “Hey, I should really look into Canvas!” then go do it, I think you’ll love the technology! 

Tim Sackett

If you Google “Tim Sackett” you’ll find our Tim, and a truck driver chaplain. Our Tim is NOT the truck driver chaplain, although how awesome would that be if he was!? He is a prolific writer in the HR and TA space who just happens to also run an Engineering and IT contract staffing agency (HRU Technical Resources) out of Michigan. He also writes every day at his own blog, the Tim Sackett Project. Weirdly, he’s known as an expert in workplace hugging, which was kind of cool years ago, but now seems painfully creepy, but we still love him and he’s fairly harmless. Tim is also on the board of the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals (ATAP), lifetime Michigan State Spartan fan, husband to a Hall of Fame wife, 3 sons, and his best friend Scout. He also wrote a book with SHRM called The Talent Fix, you can find it on Amazon.

Comments 6

  1. I think for high volume roles then screening via text can be effective and the candidates are typically more receptive to it. For skilled labour roles (‘while collar positions’) I don’t see that text messaging would be effective due to the nature of the screening questions and the personal-touch style of engagement that professionals prefer from a CX perspective. Using text messages to coordinate a phone screen, however, can be a good use of text messaging.

  2. Good question Tim. I can see using text for some screening questions that people are more reluctant to answer so it gives them time to think, but not all questions. There are some I do want to hear directly from a candidate, including pauses, long-winded responses, etc. because they’re part of the screening. I will say I’m about ready to start using texts for quick questions and even to schedule because waiting for an email or phone response can seem long, even though realistically it isn’t.

  3. I appreciate the audacious idea and your writing.

    I agree with Brian above.

    I believe it depends on the role and what type of screening questions you are asking the candidates. Screening candidates is a qualifying stage of our recruiting process. Text is great for coordination, but not for getting to know someone. There is no human tone behind text, which I believe makes it difficult to qualify. If I am engaging with a candidate to screen for a career opportunity, I am not using text as that avenue of communication.

  4. You’re my friend, and I like the tech, but you’re on crack.

    You would rather screen via text than screen live via voice? I’m pro text and pro-text screening as a means to a more efficient end. But the tech can’t do every thing a human can do on a screen. Much of this comes down to the level of screen you’re, but you’re making all in statements that include decision-making white collar positions, right?

    I’m gonna have to pay for TA Tech rehab for you now. I knew this day was coming, I just choose to look the other way.


  5. I don’t know Tim, there is nothing like hearing that voice firsthand to gauge excitement enthusiasm, confidence, boredom… So much of that is lost over text.

    On the other hand, AI is gaining traction and I’ve had many exchanges with some very sophisticated bots. What next driverless cars? same day package delivery by drone? As if.

  6. I think there is a lot of easy screening questions that could be answered via text or email to help you decide who to bring in. I’d also like to see us get away from “behavioral based interview questions” and go with a conversation with some set topics you want to cover. I’m a bit over the “tell me about a time when …” line of questioning

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