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A Primer on How Texting Works for Reference Checking

According to a Pew Research Center study, more than two-thirds of Americans now have a smartphone (95 percent own some kind of cellphone), and texting is the most widely and frequently used app on their devices.

In fact, texting has become one of America’s favorite pastimes. In 2016, not counting app messages, such as those you can make through Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, Americans sent out more than 1.6 trillion SMS messages, down from 1.8 trillion in 2015, says Statista, a Hamburg, Germany-based market and consumer data provider.

Smartphones are also popular with job hunters. The Pew Research Center survey found 43 percent of respondents use their cell phones to search for information about job positions and 18 percent submit job applications that way.

Fast, Effective Recruiting with Texting

Recruiters love texting, too. It’s a great way to get applicants’ attention immediately. Candidates and their references also appreciate the added convenience of texting. Consider these stats about all kinds of texting from

  • Texts have a 99 percent open rate;
  • 95 percent are read within three minutes;
  • The average response time is 90 seconds.

Texting Makes for Easier Reference Checking

Now, recruiters can use texting to speed up and simplify the reference-checking process. SkillSurvey just added a texting feature to SkillSurvey ReferenceTM.

It works like this:

Step 1: As part of the hiring process, the recruiter guides the job candidate on how the online reference checking process will work and asks for permission to reach out to the candidate and references via text message. Once the recruiter starts the process and enters the candidate, the candidate will receive texts to participate and a link to enter their references.

Step 2: Once the candidate enters their references and contact information, they check a box advising they have permission from their references to reach them via text.

Step 3: The references will receive similar texts with the candidate’s name containing a link inviting them to go online to SkillSurvey and fill out a survey that consists of a variety of behavioral based job-specific questions (the competencies that really matter for each job).

The system also enables candidates and their references to opt-out of receiving the text-based communications and use email instead. And recruiters can determine if all candidates or only certain divisions or workforce segments should receive texts.

Step 4: Once the minimum number of references have completed the surveys, and provided their comments, the recruiter or hiring manager can run the reference feedback report summarizing all of the feedback. Using the Pre-Hire 360® process, all the individual responses are confidential, and the average of all of the ratings are shown for each category.

SkillSurvey has seen a 487 percent increase in candidates using mobile devices to request their references over the past five years (2012-2017). Overall, references who use a mobile device, submit their surveys 18 percent faster than references who use a desktop, meaning that the reference feedback can be in the hands of the hiring manager in less than two days.

Etiquette Around Text-based Recruiting

As you can see, the SkillSurvey product team has spent a lot of time researching texting protocols and ensuring our system includes ways for everyone to accept using the text-based communications. There is etiquette around text-based recruiting. After all, you don’t want to bombard applicants with information about opportunities or schedule interviews—you just want to make it easy for them to respond.

Here are a few tips from about texting best practices:

  • Ask before you text. Establish initial contact via traditional methods first, or allow candidates to apply for jobs via text (mobile infrastructure leader SBA Communications uses social media to reach candidates and offers a way to apply via text). Then follow up with a text, and only if they agree to be texted. It’s also a best practice to provide candidates (and their references) with a way to opt out of your texts messages as a communication method.
  • Keep it professional. Compose pleasant, short business language messages; leave the emojis and hipster slang to your personal texts. Of course, check your spelling and make sure you’ve got the right recipient in the “To” field before you send.
  • Keep it short. Some communication is good for brief texts, for example, confirming an interview (you can even use a link shortener for attached URLs, e.g. or Bitly). More involved communication may be best sent via email, such as an explanation of an interview assignment. And don’t overload candidates or applicants: 70 percent of job seekers prefer to receive two or less simultaneous texts from a recruiter, according to TextMarks.

Through SkillSurvey Reference, organizations on average are getting feedback from 4.5 references per candidate and have access to a reference feedback report in less than two business days. Want to further reduce the time you spend making phone calls following up on requests for input from applicants’ references? Considering how much we all use smartphones and texting outside of the recruiting world, it makes sense to incorporate these powerful tools into the hiring process.

Find out more about online reference checking on our product page.

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