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Email and SMS: The key to faster reference check results

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Email is a hugely popular form of communication worldwide, with an estimated user base of just under 4.38 billion people. In modern business, a tremendous amount of communication is carried out using email. Thanks to the ease of sending attachments and links, as well as the tracking and analytics available in many email platforms, email is highly versatile. Email analytics allow organisations to monitor and optimise their communications.

However, more recently, the prevalence of handheld devices and smartphones has also started seeing text messaging being used for official communications. 

Both email and SMS text messaging have their separate benefits. When combined, email and SMS can offer significant advantages to an organisation. For recruiters and the HR industry, uniting email and SMS communications can be the key to achieving faster reference check results. Here’s why:

Email is better than a phone call for reference requests

Email is better for reference check requests than a phone call for many reasons, not the least of them being efficiency. Getting contact details, calling a referee and speaking with them about a candidate can take significant time. Playing phone tag can take even longer if you don’t immediately get in touch with the referee.

Phone calls require the person on the other end of the line to be available. If you make a call and can’t connect with the person you’re calling, there are essentially only three things you can do; give up, leave a message and wait for them to reach you, or keep trying until you get a hold of someone. 

None of these options are ideal. Giving up isn’t an option if you are trying to get a reference for a candidate. Waiting for a call back can be frustrating, and there is a chance you may not be available for the call. Calling until you reach someone can take a lot of time and effort.

Email isn’t reliant on instant contact with the recipient.  Emails are delivered to the recipient's inbox, allowing people to open them in their own time. Email reference requests save HR professionals the time required to chase references via the phone.

Email has long been the go-to channel for recruiters worldwide for HR communications. Communications via email can easily be monitored through various platforms to track open rates, responses, bounces and overall success. The information received is also archived by default. 

While it is possible to record the phone numbers that you have called automatically, little other information can be gathered from a phone call without manual input. The person talked to, the information they give, and even the name of the person responding must be manually saved in some way.

Recording a phone call means that it can be archived, but any information that has to be entered into a form, added to a file or recorded for compliance reasons must be transcribed first. 

Since email leaves a virtual paper trail, the format is ideal for recording communications for compliance.

Trackability is another crucial factor that makes emails a much better way of requesting references than traditional methods, such as phone calls. There is no way to tell if someone on the other end of the phone is who they say they are. An email address is unique and can add authenticity to communications. 

While candidates may try to create fake email addresses to impersonate a referee, there are still identifying factors in emails that can help uncover scams or spam. 

In addition to security and trackability, one of the most significant advantages of an email for reference checks is that it can contain a direct link to a reference survey. This ability to embed clickable links is not available in text messages or phone calls. Links make accessing online reference checks easy.

The benefits of Xref reference request emails

Xref primarily utilises email to request references for several reasons, including automation, efficiency and convenience. 

Using Xref makes the process of collecting references extremely efficient. The entire reference process is initiated with a single email to the candidate. This initial email asks the candidate to enter the details of their referees into an online form. Once that has been done, the rest of the process is entirely automated. Reference request emails are automatically sent to the referees, along with any required follow-ups.

Email automation is critical to faster reference checks and saves hiring managers time they may otherwise spend chasing references. Additionally, the efficiency of Xref email reference requests extends to the turnaround time and completion rate. The average turnaround time for completed references is 18 hours, and requests made by Xref email have a 98% completion rate. 

Thanks to the fast turnaround of Xref email reference requests and high completion rate, HR professionals can reduce time to hire and secure the best talent quickly. 

A feature that Xref customers love is that reference request emails can be sent in multiple languages. Candidates and referees using Xref can easily change language options making the reference check accessible and convenient. The translation is performed automatically. 

With Xref, you can send a reference request in English to a candidate. The candidate can read it in Spanish and then send it to two referees who speak German and French, for example.

There is a large amount of information collected and collated during the reference checking process, starting at the initial request to when the finished reference has been delivered. Requests need the contact details of the candidate and referees, as well as other information such as the referee’s position and workplace. 

Finished references contain additional information about the candidate the referee has given as part of the Xref reference survey. Completed references may include former positions, salary, disciplinary issues or other private candidate information. 

Given the amount of data collected, it’s no wonder we have a security-first mindset. Xref is ISO27001 certified, SSL Secure and GDPR compliant, meaning we meet the highest levels of data security in the business world. 

Xref reference checks can also identify if a candidate or referee opens an email, preventing referees from emailing reference checks back to candidates for completion. Confirming that the correct person is responding to emails means that Xref can detect if candidates write their own references.

This ability to check that the correct person is responding to emails is only one of the ways that Xref verifies that references are genuine. 

Xref reference checks feature an integrated smart algorithm that scans for unusual activity in returned references. The algorithm compares the referee's and candidate's digital body language, flagging any similarities that may indicate that the reference isn’t genuine. 

If any unusual activity is detected, the person requesting the reference check is informed of the nature of the anomaly. The hiring manager can then decide on a course of action, such as speaking to the candidate to verify the integrity of the reference, removing the candidate from the hiring funnel or requesting an additional reference for the candidate.  

Email may be Xref's primary contact form for reference requests, but it is no longer the only format used for requests. In late 2022, Xref launched a new Enterprise platform that features simultaneous email and SMS reference requests. SMS notifications may be new to the Xref platform, but they have already proven to be a valuable tool for recruiters. 

SMS has several unique strengths that can significantly help improve the response time of reference requests.

Xref branded graphic with woman smiling at her phone and text that says "SMS has an open rate between 90 percent and 99 percent

Why use SMS for reference request notifications?

Statista research shows there were over six billion smartphone subscriptions globally in 2021. The predicted number of smartphones will be closer to seven billion by the end of 2023. Due to the massive number of smartphones worldwide, mobile internet usage accounts for more than half of all internet traffic. By November 2022, mobile internet traffic accounted for nearly 59% of all web traffic worldwide.

Given the number of smartphones in use and extensive mobile browsing, sending reference check notifications directly to a recipient’s phone makes sense. This SMS can either prompt them to log into their email via phone or jump on their computer to check their email.

Another benefit of SMS is that people are far more likely to notice and open an SMS than an email. Taking email and SMS marketing as an example, consumers are around four and a half times more likely to respond to an SMS campaign. 

While an SMS reference request is not strictly marketing, the stats clearly show the benefits of the format. People are much more likely to open an SMS from someone they don’t know than they are an email.  

SMS messaging boasts some of the highest open rates of any messaging platform. According to Sender.net, SMS has an open rate between 90% and 99%. The open rate percentages vary due to time. 90% of SMS messages are opened within three minutes of being received. 99% are opened within 20 minutes. A good email open rate typically falls between 17% and 28%.

Why use SMS for reference request notifications? The immediacy and high open rate of SMS exceed that of email by a large margin. Because of this high open rate, Xref leverages SMS to increase the response speed for email reference checks. The quicker referees respond to the request, the faster hiring managers can secure top talent. This is why SMS and email, when working together, are key to faster reference checking results. 

The SMS is sent to the referee or candidate’s phone, telling them to check their email for the reference request. The SMS may not contain a link to the reference survey itself, but it is an effective way of driving people to check their email promptly.

If you look at the key advantages of both email and SMS as communication platforms, you can see ways the two can complement each other. An email has more versatility and accessibility, while an SMS has greater immediacy and open rate. Together they are key to achieving faster reference request turnaround times.   

The benefits of using email and SMS together 

Using both email and SMS for reference requests allows organisations to take advantage of the key strengths of each format. The speed at which an SMS is opened and read can drive referees to check their email. 

The combination of formats helps ensure that HR professionals receive completed references quickly. Quick reference turnaround reduces time to hire and limits the chance of losing top talent to another organisation.

Email is accessible on multiple devices so long as there is Internet access. Emails can contain links or attachments, and they are easily trackable. Email is widely considered more desirable than text messages in the business world. 

The desirability of email is due to the ability to send file attachments and leave a trail of correspondence for record-keeping or legal purposes. The format is also highly efficient and cost-effective for bulk communication. 

Simply waiting for someone to open an email they may not expect isn’t a particularly effective way of requesting prompt action. SMS messages are typically opened within three minutes of being received. SMS reference requests help ensure recipients quickly open and respond to the email request. SMS messaging is especially useful for requests sent outside of regular office hours.

Xref sends a reference request via email and a reference request notification via SMS to take advantage of the strengths of both platforms. The email contains all the vital information for the reference request, including the link to the reference survey. The SMS is a notification to check email for the reference request. 

Using email and SMS together gives users the best chance that candidates and referees will respond promptly to reference requests. The faster a hiring manager can check references, the quicker they can move a candidate through the hiring process and fill a vacant position.

Reduce time to hire with email and SMS reference checks

Businesses worldwide have long embraced email as a primary form of communication. The prevalence of handheld devices has led SMS messaging to become another point of contact with customers and clients. SMS marketing is one of the primary uses. 

Email will likely remain the dominant form of business communication for many years. That said, taking advantage of the saturation of smartphones and the immediacy and open rates of SMS is common sense. Using email and SMS together is key to faster reference check results.

Xref speeds up the reference check process by using SMS notifications to drive referees to their email inboxes to find and complete reference requests. The vast majority of SMS are opened and read within three minutes of being received, greatly improving the chance that referees will find and complete a reference request quickly.    

The faster HR professionals receive completed references, the quicker hiring managers can fill positions with top talent and the easier it is for them to meet their KPIs and business goals. Reducing time to hire with Xref email and SMS reference checks ensure that organisations can secure the best talent quickly.

When combined, email and SMS greatly support HR professionals and recruiters to achieve fast, accurate results from their reference checks.

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