Should I use email in the recruiting process?

Apart from a resume – possibly completed by a professional – often recruiters are not that familiar with a candidate’s written communication, yet much of professional communication in our world is done by email.

Email’s benefits during recruiting and screening are:

  • Ease: Email eliminates back and forth voice mails, making the process quicker.
  • Contact: Emails can allow you to be in more frequent contact with a candidate without constant calls that seem invasive, mainly if the candidate is at work.
  • Preciseness: Emails can be crafted and re-tooled to ensure the message makes sense. The candidate can refer back to the message later if they need to.
  • Evaluation: Email can speak to a candidate’s written communication skills.

Email’s drawbacks:

  • Complex discussions: For complex discussions, the written word must be exact. When talking by phone, it is easier to tell if a candidate is confused or misinterpreting your communication and to immediately respond to questions.
  • Lack of warmth: The human connection is lessened in an email. A human voice can be reassuring and create a relationship which can’t be formed as quickly by written communication.
  • Depends on recruiter skill: Some hiring managers do better by phone. Their written communication skills just don’t come across the way they intend.
  • Technology Issues: The spam folder is always a possibility with email, or the candidate may miss the email if they receive a lot of emails each day.

When to use email:

  • As a first contact simultaneous to a voicemail: As discussed, it is unwise to use emails when you aren’t sure how often the candidate checks their email or whether your email will go through their spam filter. Therefore, a first contact should never be done solely by email. A simultaneous voice mail reminds them to check their email and allows them to follow up with you by either method.
  • Confirmation of appointments: It is always helpful for a candidate to receive an email summarizing a conversation or reminding them of an appointment.
  • As a pre-screening tool: If you have a good number of resumes, often you could easily narrow the list by assessing responses to a few key questions. These questions often have to do with a skill, an understanding of pay expectations, schedule preferences, etc.
  • Follow-up/to keep candidates engaged: Candidates appreciate frequent updates. A simple follow-up to thank them again for their time or to reiterate why you feel like your culture would be a good fit for them are some excellent uses for email. A follow-up to an interview might include links to benefits information. In addition, if the recruiting process is delayed for any reason, it makes sense to update the candidates to keep them engaged.
  • More detailed screenings or “projects.” You may want to have all of the candidates do a project at a particular stage in the process to help you understand their thinking style. Sending a very short list of thought thoughtful questions can allow you to better understand your candidate, as well as to assess their email communication. There have been multiple occasions where given two resumes that look relatively good, I have sent an email asking a few simple questions and have immediately recognized that one of the two candidates are not a fit for the job. Their email may have been either long-winded or too short, may have had grammatical errors, or come across as brusque or uninterested. This prevented me from having to do a lengthy interview someone did not interest me.

When NOT to use email:

  • As a substitute for an in-person interview: Expecting a candidate to answer a lot of questions that may be better be served in a verbal communication can cause frustration on the part of the candidate.
  • For sensitive communications: If you have a finalist candidate, show them the respect of letting them know about another candidate being selected by telephone. There are times when, if the situation is time sensitive (they have another offer on the table) or when you have played phone tag, you might have to email, but phone is preferable.
  • To make an offer: Offer information can be confirmed by email but using an email to communicate a job offer sends a weak signal about your culture.

Written by a Catapult Advisor 

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