The campaign industry is under increased pressure to revamp its recruiting practices beyond the traditional network model. But while the corporate world is fast embracing tech-enhanced hiring, consultants say the campaign industry is unlikely to follow suit just yet.
Innovations including the use of chat bots to conduct candidate screenings and using text to conduct preliminary interviews are gaining adoption as major companies look for new efficiencies to pluck talented candidates from job-opening inboxes.
While campaigns are usually follow-the-leader adopters of corporate tech when it comes to things like digital advertising, a bipartisan group of consultants who do hiring in large volumes told C&E these new, enhanced hiring practices were unlikely to gain cross-industry adoption.
“When you’re hiring a person, you have to really understand what they’re saying beyond the words they’re using,” said Chris Turner, CEO of Stampede Consulting, a GOP grassroots organizing firm. “Only 5 percent of communication is words. It’s 95 percent non-verbal – tone, body language.”
It's widely accepted that millennials are more apt to text than get on the phone, and Generation Z is perhaps even more voice-shy. But for practitioners, there’s no substitute for personal interaction to gauge a potential hire’s suitability.
Turner, who counted the RNC as a client last cycle, estimated that he hired some 1,100 staff in different capacities across a bevy of states. “You could image how many people we talked to,” he said.
Now, part of the attraction of text interviews is that it allows a recruiter to reach more candidates. For instance, Aegis Worldwide LLC, a staffing firm, recently experimented with a group messaging app from Canvas Talent Inc. According to the Wall Street Journal, using the app allowed a recruiter who could typically handle 30 candidate phone interviews a day to juggle 90-120 text conversations in the same period.
Despite the volume of hires that goes into building, say, a presidential field staff, Turner said he would be reluctant to bring texting into the interview process.
“Whether they were field staff or office staff, we needed them to jump on a call or a video conference so we could [determine] their personality types,” he said of last cycle’s hiring wave. “It’s much less about what’s on paper.”
Turner said he could see a role for texting around the fringes of the hiring process. He likened recruiting to sales and noted that texting could be a tool to “get people’s attention, or send links to tests we need them to [take].”
In fact, one political temp agency, CapitolWorks/PoliTemps, is already using texting in that capacity during its hiring process.
CEO Chris Jones said his company started using a messaging service from clubtexting.com to remind candidates about upcoming appointments. “We've had an increase in cancelled appointments or no shows,” he said. “Maybe it's millennials or [the] job market or trends, or all of the above.”
Still, he noted that despite texting being the current preferred method of business communication for millennials, it wouldn’t overtake email. “Because of our desire to keep employment decisions professional, we still default to email unless it's an emergency,” he said.
That said, Jones was still willing to offer advance to those involved in a text interview. When it comes to using emojis, he gave three thumbs up.