How to Use Text Messaging to Recruit in the Restaurant Industry

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The nature of hiring for hospitality positions has always been high-volume, but in today’s talent marketplace, recruiters for restaurant and hospitality jobs must be able to move even faster, work with a larger talent pool, and engage candidates quickly before they move on to the next opening. Text messaging can help you quickly scale your hiring efforts, reach a large candidate pool much faster than emails or social posts, and strategically free up more of your time to focus on the hands-on aspects of hiring. Employers in the restaurant and hospitality industries are embracing texting, particularly for filtering early-stage job applicants.

Consider the example of restaurant reservation company OpenTable. It has been on the cutting edge for SMS and email for its restaurant customers, who in turn benefit from the technology for its dining reservations. OpenTable is an early adopter of Canvas, a text-based interview platform that launched in 2017, which allows recruiters to start text conversations with candidates. Starting in 2018, OpenTable replaced its initial phone interview entirely with text screening for hiring its sales team. The text responses are reviewed by a human recruiter and the platform also uses machine learning to recommend responses to questions from candidates – or might automatically generate a link to the company’s benefits page, for example.

In hospitality, we’re heavily focused on recruiting Gen Y and Gen Z employees, or those most likely to be willing to work restaurant or hotel part-time, short-term and hourly jobs. For this next-generation talent pool, it’s important to understand that phones aren’t used to make phone calls anymore. This generation grew up with instant messaging, texting, email, and other forms of written communication. Because they’re just as instantaneous as a phone call, but offer the ability to think over your words, they’re more comfortable and precise communication forms for Millennials, Gen Y and Gen Z, the latter being the first truly “always digital” generation.

A 2015 Pew study found that 33% of American adults prefer texts to all other forms of communication—regardless of who is sending that text or what the message is about. Additionally, texts are more likely to be read. According a study by Singlepoint, texts have a 99% open rate.

A recent survey from Chicago-based talent acquisition software company Yello found that 86 percent of Millennials "feel positively about text messages being used during the interview process." Research from Google has shown that Generation Z prefers texting to all other forms of communication, including messaging apps and meeting in-person. This is your talent pool for hospitality positions, and you can supercharge your hiring by communicating with them on the platform they prefer.

Best Practices for Text Messaging in Recruiting

There are so many advantages of using text messaging as a recruiting tool, including a higher quality of hire, less bias, a lower cost per hire as a result of lower travel costs, an improved candidate experience, and a shorter time to fill open positions.

For the hospitality market, text messaging offers a targeted and personal option that can be customized to each restaurant or hotel location. Below are three best practices to consider when including text messaging in your recruiting strategy.

1) Use short codes for text messaging. You can set up your automated text message or SMS system and advertise that candidates can apply by texting a simple word to a short number. Include the short code on your print materials so potential candidates can opt-in to your job listings and events.

It’s important, once candidates use your text code, to take advantage of the short time frame when you are on the candidate’s mind by asking the right questions, providing the right incentive and knocking down any barriers to applying. Consider adding customized questions like zip code and email address to qualify job candidates before encouraging them to apply for a location, to attend a job fair or directing them to specific job openings.

2) Use text for scheduling to save time. Text messaging is an easy and efficient way to engage and communicate quickly. This aligns to the currently very competitive hospitality hiring market. While applicants for hourly and part-time work generally can't hold out for high pay rates, many insist on flexible schedules that meet their needs, and want to be able to communicate rapidly. Using text for scheduling doesn’t just save time for your employees; your store management can cut their manual scheduling time in half by linking your scheduling platform to text technology.

3) Create a text message business card so your restaurant or hotel leadership can share their contact information and job openings quickly using a short code via text message. Text ‘JMM’ to 55678 as an example and you can see what I mean. This can be a great way to drive referrals when you or your team are out shopping or in the local community.

You can also use texting technology to confirm job interviews, inform candidates about next steps, to pre-screen candidates with programmed text questions, and to direct potential hires to your company career site via a mobile apply process. No more wasted time leaving voicemail messages, playing phone tag, or sitting in your office sending and responding to emails. Texting with multiple people at once is more efficient and allows recruiters to juggle 20-30 conversations on a text dashboard at the same time.

Related: Scale Recruiting for New Restaurant Openings

Additionally, unlike a traditional phone conversation, a transcript of a text conversation provides insight into what questions a candidate takes longer to respond to and at if at any point a candidate seems to have lost interest. This allows you to modify your text outreach strategy in real-time to optimize based on candidate experience.

When adopting a new technology for recruiting, it’s imperative that you remain flexible as you roll it out to job seekers. Back to the example of early text messaging adopter OpenTable. Because texting with recruiters might seem awkward to some job seekers, OpenTable gives candidates the option to have a traditional phone screening if they choose. However, the company reports that few candidates take them up on this offer.

The point of early adoption for text messaging in the hospitality industry is reaching an end. We soon expect to see restaurant and hotel management companies implementing text communication for screening candidates and scheduling interviews in huge volumes, meaning that your company will have to struggle to catch up and refine your own strategy if you wait too long. Additionally, text messaging for recruiting hasn’t quite been saturated yet, so it’s an innovative way for your company to stand out in the hospitality market.

Topics: Recruiting Strategies

Updated October 15, 2018