Recruiter Uses After-Hours Text Test to Weed Out Candidates

This arti­cle orig­i­nal­ly appeared on Insid­er.

You go to a job inter­view at 1 p.m.

At about 10 p.m., you get this text: “Hey, Tim. This is Ben. I work at Van­derbloe­men. I was out of the office . I heard you were there. Heard that every­one was real­ly impressed with you. I’m sor­ry I did­n’t get to meet you. I would love to con­nect with you some­time. Hope that can work.”

Do you reply? If so, how long does it take you?

Your deci­sion might affect whether you’re hired.

The test’s cre­ator and occa­sion­al proc­tor is William Van­derbloe­men. He runs an exec­u­tive-search firm in Hous­ton. Van­derbloe­men’s uses the text-mes­sage test after job inter­views for cer­tain roles at his own hard-charg­ing firm or for jobs where clients expect to be super respon­sive.

Tex­ting back quick­ly might up your chance of snag­ging the job, at least at Van­derbloe­men’s 45-per­son firm.

Sounds sim­ple enough. But the text is also a reminder of the always-on pres­sure pushed some work­ers to ditch hus­tle cul­ture. Tri­al by text mes­sage joins off­beat quizzes meant to help deter­mine whether a job can­di­date should get an offer let­ter. There’s the spouse inter­view over din­ner. And there’s the cof­fee-cup test: A hir­ing shows those who come for inter­views where the kitchen is, offers them a cof­fee, and then rejects those who don’t bus their dish­es after­ward.

The text-mes­sage test is also a reminder of how it can be dif­fi­cult to land a job even as the over­all US unem­ploy­ment rate is low and many indus­tries are hard up for work­ers. But in areas like tech, where many big employ­ers have trimmed jobs in the past cou­ple of years, some work­ers are left send­ing out huge num­bers of résumés. And when job seek­ers do get a bite, inter­views can on for round after round.

Van­derbloe­men is quick to note that how you respond — or don’t — to an after-hours text from some­one say­ing they’re with his firm won’t keep you from get­ting a job. And he said that even respond­ing with­in 24 hours would put most can­di­dates far ahead of their com­pe­ti­tion. “We’re just ter­ri­ble as humans at respond­ing,” he said.

But text back with­in the one-minute response his sales and mar­ket­ing teams oper­ate by? “Then we’re like, ‘Yeah, no, he might be the same kind of crazy that we are,’ ” Van­derbloe­men said. “Is that nor­mal for every job? No. Would it work for every com­pa­ny? No.”

The test came about after Van­derbloe­men hired some peo­ple who seemed promis­ing but then did­n’t deliv­er on the com­pa­ny’s fast turn­around time for clients, which he said is essen­tial for some roles. That led Van­derbloe­men to deter­mine he had to mea­sure for speed — before mak­ing a hire — for jobs in areas like sales and mar­ket­ing.

So about a decade ago, Van­derbloe­men asked one of the peo­ple on his team to text some­one who’d been great in an inter­view. The col­league sent the text at about 10:30 p.m., and the can­di­date respond­ed right away. Bin­go.

William vanderbloemen

William Van­derbloe­men. Cour­tesy Van­derbloe­men Search Group via BI

Van­derbloe­men, the founder and CEO of Van­derbloe­men Search Group, decid­ed the text-mes­sage test could be a good mea­sure of whether a can­di­date would mesh well with a client with a move-fast cul­ture. He com­pared it to pulling off a suc­cess­ful organ trans­plant by find­ing tis­sue that match­es. “Oh, you do things the way they do,” he said. “Does­n’t make it nor­mal. Does­n’t make it right. But you guys match each oth­er.”

Switching the interview location

Van­derbloe­men does­n’t rely just on the text-mes­sage test. One time, in New York City, he got turned around and real­ized he did­n’t have time to make it to the cof­fee shop where he’d planned to meet a job can­di­date. So he con­tact­ed the man and asked whether they could meet some­where else. The man respond­ed: “No, I don’t mind. I like change.”

Van­derbloe­men was impressed. Now he’ll some­times change the loca­tion of an inter­view 30 min­utes before it’s set to take place to see how a can­di­date responds.

He said it’s not some­thing he does all the time. Some jobs don’t require that kind of flex­i­bil­i­ty or speed. Even with the text mes­sage, he said, it’s often some­one at his firm, not him, who might send it. As the boss, he real­izes it’s more intim­i­dat­ing if it comes from him. “It’s not fair because I’m the guy with the name on the door, and now I am being kind of just abu­sive,” he said.

Setting up some rules

Van­derbloe­men, who has a degree in reli­gion and phi­los­o­phy, said his com­pa­ny has guide­lines meant to pro­tect its work­ers from need­ing to be on at all hours. After-hours should get a response with­in 24 hours, he said. Evening Slack mes­sages are rare but should get a response that night “because that’s like Def­con 3,” he said. “Def­con 2 would be if I text you after hours, I need an answer like now,” he added. “And if I call you after hours, pick up.”

He said the firm enforced the rules. It meant he and some col­leagues had to quit a group text about “Game of Thrones” on Sun­day nights.

Van­derbloe­men said the text-mes­sage test still has its place in a world where some work­ers are to avoid being on call all the time.

“For our com­pa­ny, par­tic­u­lar­ly cer­tain teams with­in our com­pa­ny, it’s a direct indi­ca­tor to us of whether you are dys­func­tion­al like us,” he quipped.

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