Snag the Holiday Workers You Need with Texting

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The very nature of seasonal hiring, specifically in the retail industry, means that you must be able to move quickly, engage candidates, and communicate with a large potential candidate pool in order to be successful. When it comes to high-volume holiday hiring campaigns, adopting technology is a no brainer. Text messaging or SMS 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 the holiday hiring season.

Text messaging is part talent funnel and part communication tool used to engage a large and segmented audience faster than emails or phone calls. In retail, and especially during the holiday season, we must scale quickly in order to reach, engage, and hire the best candidates for our job openings. We also have to ensure that our staff is operating in the most strategic manner. In retail management, it’s easy to get sidetracked by activities that (while important) could be delegated to other members of your team.

In retail, we’re heavily focused on recruiting Gen Y and Gen Z employees, or those most likely to be willing to work part-time seasonal 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 about 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.

Related: How to Compete for the Next Generation Workforce

And it’s not just for younger candidates. A 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%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.

Engaging Job Seekers via SMS

When I first started working in retail, seasonal hiring meant distributing job flyers and stuffing bags with promotional materials for holiday hiring job openings and events. It was a great way to raise awareness of our openings and encouraging people to apply—and it still is. However, now we have better technology.

For the retail market, text messaging offers a personal option that can be customized to each store location. Below are some best practices to consider when including text messaging in your seasonal (and year-long) hiring strategy.

1) Use short code 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.

Once candidates use your text code, it’s important to take advantage of the short time frame when you are on the candidate’s mind by asking the right questions, providing incentives, 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 specific location or to attend a job fair.

2) Use text for scheduling to save time. Text messaging is an easy and efficient way to engage and communicate quickly to seasonal employees to fill scheduling openings, alert your team about upcoming scheduling needs, and to quickly fill shifts when an employee calls out sick or doesn’t show.

This also aligns with the competitive retail hiring market. While applicants for temporary 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 messaging business card so your store leadership can share their contact information and store 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, remind candidates about interview days, pre-screen candidates with programmed text questions, and direct potential hires to your company career site via a mobile apply process. Say goodbye to wasted time leaving voicemail messages, playing phone tag, or sitting in your office sending and responding to emails.

As far as implementation is concerned, there are many free and low-cost platforms to use for text messaging that allow you to set up the short codes and digital business cards, and they’re easy to use.

If you're not using texting for your seasonal hiring strategy, you're missing out on a lot of benefits. And you're likely wasting precious time on resources or tactics that don't help grow your talent pool for seasonal hiring.

Topics: Recruiting Strategies

Updated August 29, 2018