Technology gives us new opportunities to communicate in an always-on world – and as hiring managers and candidates get to know one another through applications, interviews, and negotiations, technology and shifts in communication are changing the way job seekers find work.
Today’s candidates and companies use new channels of communication as well as technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to aid in the recruiting process.
We surveyed 507 people who started a new job within the past six months to discover how technology impacts the way job seekers communicate with companies.
Hiring managers can use this report to keep pace with current communication trends during recruitment and to learn about upcoming technology.
- Phone calls and email are still essential to hiring. Nearly three-quarters of recent hires connect with companies via phone calls (74%) and email (73%) during the hiring process.
- Nearly one-quarter of job seekers (24%) use texting to communicate with a company during the interview process.
- Nearly 1 in 5 job seekers (16%) use social media to connect with companies.
- Only 3% of applicants communicate with companies via chatbots, but experts see potential for chatbots to become more popular.
- More than half of recent job seekers (51%) believe AI isn’t advanced enough to assist with the recruiting process yet – including 19% who doubt AI will ever be helpful in the future.
- Among those who view AI positively, around one-quarter of people (26%) believe AI can help with some recruiting tasks, while only 11% of people say AI improves the recruiting process overall.
- Job seekers often have no way of knowing whether companies use AI to evaluate their candidacy. An equal percentage doubt (32%) and suspect (32%) that companies used AI to evaluate their resumes or cover letters.
- More than 1 in 10 recent hires (15%) know that AI was used in their application process either because the company told them that this occurred or because they now work there.
Phone Calls and Emails Are the Most Common Communication Channels During Recruitment
Phone calls and emails are still essential to hiring.
Three-quarters of recent hires connected with companies via phone calls (74%) and email (73%) during the hiring process.
Job seekers who live too far away to conveniently schedule an in-person interview also used video calls (11%) to connect with potential employers.
Although these channels are still the most common forms of communication, they are not the only options job seekers and hiring managers use to connect.
Texting Makes Recruitment More Convenient
Today, many job seekers and recruiters embrace text messaging.
Nearly one-quarter of job seekers (24%) use texting to communicate with a company during the interview process.
For candidates and companies alike, texting provides an opportunity to touch base in between formal steps in the recruitment process.
When Laurelei Litke interviewed for her current role as a digital marketing content creator at HealthLabs.com, she occasionally texted an HR representative because her schedule didn’t leave much time for calls or emails during the work day.
“I texted ahead once to let her know that I was going to be late, due to an agency meeting that was running long,” Litke said.
Litke received immediate reassurance that she should take her time and drive carefully.
Litke was impressed: “Small gestures like texting when it was more convenient for me made me feel valued and excited to be a part of their team,” she said.
Texting Keeps Candidates "Warm"
Companies can use texting to keep candidates “warm,” an industry term for providing frequent updates that keep candidates engaged and enthusiastic about the possibility of a job offer.
Some recruiters use texting to keep in touch with candidates about future opportunities.
Jillian interviewed for a job last year, and she and her interviewer agreed to keep in touch when she realized the salary didn’t match her goals. (Because her job search is ongoing, we are only using her first name.)
“Ever since, any time there is a position that fits my qualifications or is near my salary range, the interviewer texts me,” Jillian said. “I do not mind being texted as a form of being recruited. It is a quick and easy way to communicate, and there is no formal process to follow each time.”
“I do not mind being texted as a form of being recruited. It is quick and easy way to communicate, and there is no formal process to follow each time.”
Texting Keeps Candidates in the Recruitment Pipeline
Companies can use texting to keep candidates in their recruitment pipeline, even when things don’t work out.
Courteney Kovacs, a senior professional in HR at Hudson Insurance Group, views texting as a valuable tool for communicating with potential employees.
“Everybody is texting,” Kovacs said “If you can find a way to incorporate it, why not? It’s just another tool.”
Kovacs primarily texts candidates who already have engaged with Hudson Insurance Group, typically to send a quick update or handle logistical details, such as confirming an interview time.
Texting provides a quick, easy way for companies to keep in touch with candidates.
Texting Can Benefit Recruiting if Communication Remains Professional
As texting becomes a more common avenue of communication during recruiting, experts say it should be treated as a quicker version of email, with similar professional standards.
Texting should never be used:
- For making first contact
- As a creative way to get a company’s attention
- To replace phone or in-person interviews
“Texting is only appropriate once an initial contact has been made either in person, in writing, through a relationship, or through networking,” Kovacs said. “If I receive an unsolicited text, I’m just going to delete it.”
Texting is an increasingly important tool recruiters can use to touch base with candidates.
Social Media Provides a Direct Connection to Companies
More than 70% of companies today maintain a presence on social media, with Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube the 3 most popular channels.
For job seekers, a company’s social media presence offers both insight into what life at the company might be like as well as an opportunity to connect. Nearly 1 in 5 job seekers (16%) use social media to connect with companies.
LinkedIn, a social media platform designed for professional interactions, is likely the source of many of these connections.
When Crystal McFerran began a new job search for a digital marketing role, she shared a short, 45-second video on LinkedIn that summarized her goals and experience.
“It led to countless introductions and conversations via LinkedIn direct messaging,” McFerran said. “These conversations led to phone conversations and face-to-face interviews.”
After McFerran posted the video, it had more than 30,000 views. She ended up receiving 6 job offers and ultimately accepted her current role as senior vice president of channel marketing at The 20.
Although most candidates aren’t likely to replicate McFerran’s viral success, her experience provides an extreme example of the way LinkedIn can lead to new connections that later develop into professional opportunities.
LinkedIn isn’t the only channel used for recruitment, however. Candidates and companies also connect on Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms.
David Vallance initially connected with his current employer, LeaseFetcher, on Twitter.
“It turned out, the founder was still handling the social media, so I had actually been having a super informal chat with the person who would be making the hiring decision,” Vallance said.
Some hiring managers welcome social media connections with potential employees.
Emily Rowe is the owner and CEO of Social Sensei, a Florida-based creative agency. She initially connected with three members of her core staff on Instagram before she hired them.
“We’ve ultimately learned that if an individual or business is on social media, they should expect to use it as a main mode of communication,” Rowe said.
Social media communication may be more common for companies such as Rowe’s that maintain an active and engaged presence on social media. In more traditional fields where digital marketing is not a daily activity, such as legal or financial services, social media communication may be less successful.
Companies and candidates who use social media should still uphold professional communication standards, despite the intimate and casual communication style that is common on social media.
Chatbots Are an Uncommon but Promising Tool
Chatbots are becoming a more common website feature, and they can provide value for recruiters and HR professionals.
Chatbots are computer programs that businesses build on company-established rules, such as responding to a certain type of query with repurposed copy from an FAQ page. Users typically interact with chatbots via an instant messaging window that pops up on a company’s website.
Only 3% of applicants use chatbots to communicate with companies, but experts see a lot of potential for this number to grow.
Chatbots provide two key values to recruiters:
- Customer Service: Unlike human workers, chatbots can be available to answer questions and provide assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Screening Candidates: Chatbots can collect candidates’ responses to screening questions, gathering information that recruiters can review before reaching out to candidates.
Chatbots Can Field Candidates' Questions
Customer service might seem unrelated to recruitment – until you consider that 91% of job seekers say the interview process impacts their overall opinion of a company.
When candidates have a question or run into an obstacle while filling out their application, your company should treat them no differently than a customer who wants to purchase a product.
Although chatbots might initially seem less personal, some believe that people are more willing to talk to a chatbot in some cases. Chatbots can also provide quick responses outside of normal business hours.
Brent Mitchell is a career consultant at Keller Williams. He created a chatbot called Willie (after co-founder Joe Williams) to assist aspiring real estate agents.
Although Willie guides users toward common questions, it also handles random questions users might be too embarrassed to ask.
“If there’s a real person on the other end, they might think their question is stupid or silly,” Mitchell said.
Instead, users are free to ask Willie anything they’d like.
Chatbots Save Recruiters' Time
Mitchell’s goal isn’t solely to provide great customer service. Willie also boosts his own productivity by helping to screen candidates.
Before scheduling an interview with a potential real estate agent, Mitchell can review the user’s conversations with Willie to determine if they are qualified. For example, he does not schedule interviews with people who do not have a real estate license or who are only looking for part-time work.
“When you go through the conversation, you can see where people’s minds go: ‘What are the startup costs? What is expected of me? What about part-time agents?’” Mitchell said. “Willie has been very good at weeding out people who aren’t a fit for the business model.”
Chatbots can help recruiters save time by capturing important screening information.
When investing in a chatbot, companies should take several steps to increase the chances of success:
- Ensure your chatbot can capture leads, including a user’s email and contact information.
- Consider how your chatbot will integrate with your existing contact management system (CMS).
- Create content – both for your chatbot’s responses and pages on your website – that anticipates and answers users’ questions.
Although chatbots aren’t common yet, they can provide value in the recruitment process.
Job Seekers Are Skeptical About Artificial Intelligence
Although AI is a hot topic in the world of recruiting technology, job seekers aren’t always enthusiastic about it.
More than half of recent job seekers (51%) believe AI isn’t advanced enough to assist with the recruiting process yet – including 19% who doubt AI will ever be helpful in the future.
Around one-quarter of people (26%) believe AI can help with some recruiting tasks, while only 11% of people say AI improves the recruiting process overall.
Job seekers aren’t entirely wrong to distrust AI. In October 2018, Reuters reported that Amazon discontinued use of its AI recruiting tool when it realized the tool displayed bias against women who applied to work at the company.
Companies must provide data that trains a new AI system. Amazon's AI recruiting tool initially relied on resumes of employees who were hired over the past decade.
Because this pool of hires skewed male, the company inadvertently taught its AI that male applicants were preferable. If an application came from a women’s college or contained keywords such as “women’s chess captain,” the AI docked points.
More than half of HR professionals, however, expect AI to become a fixture in the hiring process in the future. A 2017 survey by CareerBuilder found that 55% of HR managers expect AI to be part of the hiring process within the next 5 years.
55% of HR managers expect AI to be part of recruitment within 5 years.
AI attracts recruiters’ attention because it offers two main benefits to recruiters:
- It automates repetitive tasks to free up time.
- It reveals and leverages data in recruiting.
These two factors reduce the time and cost of recruiting.
Automation Improves Communication
Recruiting is all about communication – and highly responsive communication requires countless emails as recruiters and hiring managers confirm, schedule, and gather information throughout the interview and hiring processes.
Automation can help reduce the time and effort it takes to keep up with this communication. In general, companies can use automation for:
- Sending a confirmation when candidates submit an application
- Communicating standard next steps, such as requesting references or sharing company-wide benefits information
- Rejecting candidates who are not a fit
Automated communication can also help prevent your company from inadvertently ghosting candidates.
Keeping in touch with dozens of candidates will always be challenging, but automation can help reduce the burden on companies and recruiters.
Data Helps Companies Make Informed Hiring Decisions
Companies can also improve employee recruitment and retention by capturing and leveraging data.
As recruitment becomes more data-driven, AI can help recruiters track metrics such as how a candidate’s skills can predict his or her success on the job.
Ketan Kapoor is CEO and co-founder of Mettl, an HR technology company and talent measurement firm. He believes that AI tools are capable of capturing valuable data companies can use to improve their recruiting practices.
“AI is going to redefine the way recruitment is conducted across organizations, and HR managers will be able to derive ‘never-done-before’ insights from the recruitment cycle to make faster, better, and smarter hiring decisions,” Kapoor said.
Mettl offers a hiring platform called HireTRACK that is built, in part, on AI. It automates portions of the hiring process and provides access to data.
Companies that use HireTRACK and similar technology gain access to:
- Metrics about which sourcing channels yield the most promising candidates
- Conversion rates for each stage of the recruiting process
- How candidates perform on technical or other assessment tests
- How candidates’ scores on tests track with their success or performance in a role
When companies notice problems, such as candidates with a certain skill deficiency underperforming in a role, they can make informed adjustments.
Recruiters and hiring managers can identify patterns and solve problems in the hiring process by gathering and analyzing data.
Artificial Intelligence Streamlines – but Cannot Replace – Recruiting
It may be impossible for job seekers to know if companies used AI in the hiring process.
More than half of job seekers (64%) are unsure if companies used AI to evaluate their resume or cover letter during their interview process.
Only 15% of people have confirmed that businesses used AI to recruit them because the company disclosed it or they now work there and have insight into hiring practices.
Harj Taggar moved from London to Silicon Valley in 2007, the same year a company he founded received funding from Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley company that provides seed funding for new startups. In the years that followed, Taggar joined Y Combinator as its first full-time hire.
As Taggar worked with the big-name startups that filtered through Silicon Valley, he became increasingly concerned that they tended to attract a homogenous pool of talent from a small set of universities.
If Used Incorrectly, AI Can Reinforce Existing Bias
Companies risk reinforcing flaws in their existing recruitment when they use AI to scan traditional application materials, such as resumes and cover letters, for keywords.
“[The AI] is still looking for exactly the same thing that the human recruiter is looking for,” Taggar said. “If anything, AI makes the situation worse because now you’re able to do it on a much larger scale.”
When AI reinforces a lack of diversity, companies may suffer financially.
When McKinsey analyzed profits from 366 public companies, diversity correlated with higher earnings: “Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
Companies that hire a diverse group of employees are statistically more likely to achieve higher profits.
AI Can Leverage Data From Skills-Based Testing
Instead, companies should apply AI to skills-based testing, which promises to increase diversity by reducing bias in recruiting.
Some experts even advocate for using AI-aided skills-based testing instead of evaluating resumes or cover letters, which can invite biased assumptions about candidates who fall outside common backgrounds.
Haggar shares this belief. His company, Triplebyte, recruits candidates for technical roles by starting with a skill assessment and ignoring their educational background and personal biography.
“As long as your test isn’t easier for someone who went to MIT to pass than it is for someone who went to a community college, then AI can be tremendously helpful because it allows you to screen lots of these people quickly and efficiently and identify all those people who are good, who don’t have a traditional background,” Haggar said.
This approach has the potential to benefit both companies and candidates.
Companies that compete for the same small pool of candidates can discover new talent by doing background-blind, skills-based recruiting.
Candidates who fall outside the background companies typically recruit from benefit when the recruitment process emphasizes their skills and abilities over race, gender, education, and other factors.
Although AI may reinforce bias when used to evaluate keywords in resumes or cover letters, it can identify and leverage new talent pools when used to evaluate skill-based testing.
Technology and New Communication Channels Are Changing the Way We Hire and Find Work
Most job searches today still involve communication, logistics, and skill assessments. The channels companies and candidates use to interact, however, are changing.
Although phone calls and emails are still the most popular communication channels during recruitment, some job seekers and companies now connect via text or social media. Chatbots aren’t common yet but may become more popular with time.
Most job seekers are uncertain if companies have used AI to evaluate their resumes and cover letters – and whether AI can provide value in recruitment, now or in the future.
Experts recommend that companies use AI tools to evaluate skills-based testing instead. This approach can reduce bias while using data to match candidates with roles in which they are likely to succeed.
Companies should always prioritize transparent, honest communication with potential employees as they adapt to changing communication norms and technology.