The Mobile Phone: The Most Effective Recruiting Communications Platform

The basic foundation for all recruiting is the ability to communicate and share information with potential candidates directly. In our modern, high-tech world, corporate recruiters have numerous channels they can use to communicate directly with candidates ranging from face-to-face visits to video chat.

However, there is only one tool that provides a “single point of contact” allowing the use of every form of messaging in use today at any time during the day and from any location. This tool, of course, is the immensely versatile smart phone.

Today’s modern smart phones pack more computing power than most computers did just a few short years ago. They can not only handle your basic person-to-person and conference voice calls, they can also interact with websites, publish blog posts, aggregate RSS feeds, send text messages, send multimedia messages, record/transmit video, record/transmit audio, send email from multiple accounts, take/send pictures, send and receive faxes, edit office documents, and interact with social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.

While many organizations empower their recruiters with smart phones, few build a corporate-wide recruiting strategy that leverages the phone as the hub of recruiter activity. Aggressively using smart phones requires forward thinking, something many recruiting managers who came up through the ranks as a transactional recruiter dedicate little time to. In organizations where technology isn’t pervasive and doesn’t permeate every process, the smart phone is seen as just a phone that happens to be mobile, despite its potential to be so much more.


With technology advancing at its current pace, there truly are few limits as to how the smart phone can be used to power a modern strategic recruiting function. Advantages as the primary recruiting platform include:

  • The single source communications platform. Obviously, any tool that increases your opportunities to communicate with candidates via a channel they will actually pay attention to and respond to must be considered a valuable recruiting tool. However, so many tools exist that the average recruiter can easily become overwhelmed. Nearly all tools require consistent utilization to be effective; unfortunately, staying on top of blogs, email, voicemail, social network profiles, and the like can consume more time than most recruiters have. Because nearly all of the tools have their own interface, the recruiter’s time can become so fractured that it seems like headway never gets made. However, the smart phone can alleviate many of those frustrations by providing a unified interface to nearly every form of candidate communication. Rather than having to get multiple phone numbers, multiple email addresses, fax numbers, etc. from each candidate, the recruiter can send all forms of your messages to the candidate’s mobile phone. On the flip side, the candidate would also be able to use a single number to communicate with the recruiter.
  • Access during idle times. Traditional messaging platforms like paper letters, phone calls to the office phone, and even emails have a low direct-response rate because they can only be received and read when someone is sitting at their desk or when they are on their computer. When you are in a meeting, you can’t answer the phone, check the mail, etc., despite the fact that the meeting maybe boring as hell and have nothing to do with you! Smart phones, on the other hand, enable you to receive and respond to messages pretty much anytime, anywhere. While I don’t advocate text messaging candidates about interviews while driving down the interstate, you could certainly do so if needed. In high-tech organizations, it is not uncommon to see BlackBerry’s messaging away during meetings and conference calls.
  • Opportunity to communicate while the iron is hot. Many times your mind will process things while you are doing something else. You could be on a hike when you recall meeting the perfect candidate for a hot requisition several weeks back. Historically you would have to have waited till you finished your hike and made it into the office, but today you can whip out your smart phone, look him/her up on Facebook or in your CRM powered applicant database, and fire off a message in seconds. Not only does it make you more productive, it makes you more genuine. Potential candidates often put off visiting the corporate website because it’s simply not a viable thing to do when the mood hits. However, smart phones are accessible most of the time, in part because few would even consider venturing out to the grocery store, the gym, or to lunch without their mobile phone. A Web link or a message sent to a mobile phone has a much higher likelihood of being read and responded to because potential candidates can read and answer them when they are away from her desk and during “idle” times. Mobile phone users (as many spouses will attest) will respond to messages at night, on weekends, and during vacations. If you add up the number of hours where we can answer our mobile phone versus the number of hours when we can access our computer, the mobile phone wins by a 2 to 5 margin.
  • A remarkably fast response rate. For some reason, mobile phone owners respond almost instantly to messages they receive. If you have been out to the movies lately on a Friday or Saturday night, it’s hard to miss the bright phone screen flips every few seconds when the theater is dark, regardless whether the movie is entertaining. It seems those from younger generations can’t even finish reading a message before they start responding. This lack of a “delay” in responding to messages is critical, because any time a candidate postpones responding directly, it lowers the probability that they will ever get back to you. As the pace of messaging accelerates both inside and outside the work environment, expectations for a quick response increases. Failure to keep pace with expectations will influence a candidate’s perception of your organization as a modern organization.
  • Accommodating personal communication preferences. The next advantage of using smart phones as the primary communication platform for recruiting is its broad capability. It is no secret that some people prefer short text messages, others encyclopedia-length emails. Increasingly, video seems to be the communication method of choice for millions around the globe. Smart phones provide recruiters with a means to communicate with candidates via a channel the candidate most prefers. The fact is, if you want a message to be received “live” and responded to immediately, it helps to send it in a format that resonates with the recipient.

Additional Advantages of the Smart Phone as a Recruiting Platform

  • The cool factor. Sending text messages, videos, etc., is viewed by many as “cool,” as opposed to traditional emails and voicemails. Utilizing texting jargon like LOL (laughing out loud) can also send a message that you “get it.”
  • Global capability. modern 3G phones allow you to communicate wherever you are in the world. Candidates in Asia and Europe are extremely text-savvy, and using text messaging saves them money.
  • The generation factor. Some generations, including my current crop of college students, refuse to use email and in many cases, even voicemail, but they love texting.
  • Not blocked by corporate. The ability to use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn is critical for successful recruiting. However, many corporate CIOs foolishly block recruiter access to some Web and social network sites on their computer systems. Fortunately, they seldom block access through mobile phones, so access away!
  • Brevity. The fact that mobile phones are utilized “on the run” forces everyone to be brief in their messages. This brevity makes both reading messages and responding to them easier and quicker. It also forces recruiters to be more concise in their messages.
  • Lower cost. As mobile phone services get cheaper, there is less resistance to using “my minutes” on a job search than there was in the past. In addition, you save money because you can send the same text message to a large number of people at essentially no cost. In contrast, making the same number of individual phone calls would cost a great deal because of the staff time involved in making the calls.
  • Differentiation. Because few firms currently use text messages and take advantage of the entire smart phone platform, it provides you with an opportunity to differentiate your firm from others.
  • Less spam. At least at the present time, the volume of spam that drives users away from email has not inundated smart phone applications. As a result, they are more willing to open and read your messages.

Potential Uses in Recruiting

As you have probably already discerned, the smart phone has a broad range of potential uses in recruiting. Some of the uses you should consider include:

  • Text messaging (SMS or simple message service). Sending simple text messages for a variety of purposes is a great way to communicate and service candidates. Many leading-edge organizations are using text messaging to introduce recruiters to candidates, set up interview times, answer simple questions, and direct new hires through orientation activities.
  • Job opening alerts. You can proactively “push” targeted job openings to candidates.
  • Event alerts. You can notify potential candidates about opportunities to meet with your recruiters at trade shows, seminars, and career fairs. Calendar requests are a great way to make sure the event is added to their calendars.
  • Social networking. Nearly all of the major social networks have applications available for smart phones that let users send messages or check out what people are up to. As many social network users periodically micro-blog, using such applications to track candidates could be a great way of refining when and how you approach candidates.
  • Text and reply information requests. You have probably seen advertisements on TV that allow you to text a single word to a five digit number to get more information about a product or service sent to you. Such systems can also be used to support applicants, candidates, new hires, and employees. For example, college students could text “internships” to 7XXXX to receive more information from your organization on current internship opportunities and instructions for applying. One popular provider of text and reply services is qtag.
  • Physical world hyperlinks. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard about these yet, you will in coming months! Physical world hyperlinks are 2-D barcodes (similar to those printed on a self-service check-in boarding pass) that can be added to nearly anything in the physical world. What is different about these barcodes is that smart phone users can snap a picture of the barcode and an application on the phone will decode the barcode and take the user to the website encoded in the image using the browser on the phone. College students attending a career fair could snap a pic to be transported to a special page on your website to download free toys. Because each barcode can be encoded to pass on specific data, physical world hyperlinks can be used to more accurately track source of hire for candidates met in the field.
  • Blog feeds. Keeping up with the vast array of content being added to the Internet daily is nearly impossible. Luckily, you can subscribe to the RSS feeds of your favorite blogs and have the new posts retrieved for you on your smart phone!
  • Video messaging (MMS or multimedia message service). You can send short recruiting videos to excite and to show the “passion” at your firm.
  • Podcasts. You can make recruiting podcasts available for download.
  • Web links. You can send potential candidates recruiting links or Web links relevant to their profession.
  • Temporary jobs. Filling temporary and contract jobs where you have a “sudden” need is easy when you can instantly send out messages to pre-identified individuals.
  • Friends e-newsletter. Companies can put together a “friends” newsletter at virtually no cost. This newsletter can be used to build relationships with potential candidates by providing them with information about happenings at the company, its new products, and any best practices and innovations.
  • Text message options on the website. Your corporate website should provide candidates with the option to receive text messages and all other communications on their mobile phone.
  • CRM touch points. Mobile phones are an ideal way to keep in touch with candidates over time. Potential uses include sending birthday greetings, congratulations on an accomplishment, wishing students luck on their exams, or just sending periodic “hellos” to build relationships.
  • Surveys/polling. You can send short surveys that cover a candidate’s interests or their job acceptance decision criteria. Mobile phones can also be used to vote (i.e., American Idol) or to get opinions from candidates or even from your recruiters. This polling process can also be used to update your database by periodically asking candidates if they’re still “in the job market?”
  • Mini interviews. The mobile phone can, of course, be used for short telephone interviews and even short text interview questionnaires.
  • GPS. Creative recruiters could even develop mechanisms to alert individuals when they are within close proximity of a recruiter, a job event, or even the location of a facility with a current job opening.
  • Miscellaneous. Mobile phones can be used as platforms for recruiting video games, music, recruitment ads, trivia games, or best-practice sharing.

Best Practice Firms

Using smart phones and text messaging is quite common in marketing. It has widespread use in college sports recruiting and on large job boards, but in the corporate world, most firms have failed to develop a comprehensive smart phone recruiting strategy.

There are a handful of firms that have taken the lead, including Verizon, Fidelity, HCA, the U.S. Army, and Microsoft. Other users include Toyota, Shell, American Express, Accenture, Dell, NYPD, Wyndham Hotels, and RehabCare.

There are also several recruitment advertising agencies, text messaging services, RMS providers, and product marketing vendors which provide services and advice in this area, including but certainly not limited to NAS,, Blast Companies, and

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to deny the fact that almost every individual you may want to recruit constantly carries a mobile phone. It’s also true that the capabilities of these phones have grown to the point where they can be used as a platform to send nearly every recruiting message, no matter what form it’s in.

What is needed now is for the directors of corporate recruiting to take a step back and develop a comprehensive strategy that takes advantage of the mobile phone’s capability as the prime recruiting communications tool. In my opinion, everyone will eventually reach that point, but the smart ones will do it sooner and with a more comprehensive and planned approach.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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