Skip to main content

Telephone vs Email in Recruitment

By July 21, 20112 Comments

Phone or e-mail?  Which form of communication works best in recruitment?  It’s an age old argument that will have many recruiters gushing forth their own pre-conditioned response that the phone, of course, is the best and most effective tool for communication.  I wrote a blog over a year ago reviewing the e-book How to be a Great Recruitment Manager which contained the fabulous line:

“You know the sound of ‘tap, tap, tap’ on those keyboards?  Well, that’s the sound of money landing in your competitor’s bank accounts.”

Very true.  Or so I thought at the time.  But something happened this week that got me thinking about this a bit more.  For those of you misfortunate enough not to have visited us at our Auckland office, we work in an open plan kind of environment, sharing work space as well as lounge areas and meeting rooms.  Our fellow hive workers are all similar-sized companies in a range of industries, including recruitment, but also leadership consulting, remuneration consulting, PR, social media, web designers, and a whole range of other cool and funky enterprises.

It would be no exaggeration to say that my colleague and I spend more time on the phone than all of the other companies put together.  Being recruiters we’re also a bit, you know….LOUD.  Not in a brash, obnoxious kind of way, but just in a kind of…what’s the best way to put it…driven and passionate kind of way.  It is hard to run a successful recruitment desk, with all of the selling, marketing, influencing and negotiating involved by muttering inaudibly into your mouthpiece.  Many of you work in recruitment companies where this kind of behaviour is commonplace, accepted, and encouraged even.  But when you share workspaces with other non-recruitment types, it kind of amplifies your phone mannerisms into stark contrast with the laptop-tapping, headphone-wearing, mini-scooter-riding, directional hair sporting, people around you.

And so it was that one of the said trendy types (from a social media consultancy no less) seemed utterly baffled during a conversation this week as to why we need to be on the phone so often.  “Do you not have e-mail?” was the general tone, as well as references to my own social media habits and why I would even need to resort to the phone when I have so many other communication tools at my disposal.  We in recruitment try to make sure we are at the forefront of new technology, social recruiting, new trends and innovations around sourcing, finding talent, and marketing our services.  So why do we still keep deferring our communication preference to the humble, old-fashioned telephone?

I for one prefer the telephone.  I prefer its immediacy.  I prefer the way nothing will get lost in translation, you can get your point across more effectively, and leave no room for ambiguity.  It gets you results, and outcomes, whether desired or not, and it gets them faster.  It just suits what we do in recruitment.

But still, I sent 104 e-mails last week…

This would be getting close to the number of phone calls I made.  So is e-mail overtaking my communication output even without me knowing it?  Maybe so, but more and more it seems that some people just won’t respond to phone calls, and the only way to get things done is via e-mail.  Not ideal, but if that is what is required then there is really no point making countless phone calls and leaving repeated unanswered messages is there?

So I find myself at a crossroads.  I know that the phone is more effective, right now.  But I also want to make sure I remain at the forefront of the new ways we work (without the directional hair and mini-scooter, you will be glad to know).  Which way is communication in recruitment going to head?

Or alternatively, put down the phone, turn off the e-mail, and get out there and meet your clients and candidates face to face.  Because one thing is for sure:  There is, and probably never will be, an effective substitute for the impact of doing business in person.


Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Stewart Farr says:

    Hate to sound like hippy…..”but can’t they work together?…” 🙂 
    I find the best responses and the best traceability of where my day goes is by doing an email WHILE on the phone if not before (as a warning I’m going to call). 
    Sometimes the “immediate response” required by phone conversations can be quite abrasive. Where as if you warn with an email, people can plan for the conversation……even for only 60 seconds. 
    People are different – while some offer the “think quick!” response…….others will ponder over a clearer thought out response that expresses what they want. This is why recruiting for say a scientist would be different from recruiting for a sales guru. 
    Arghhhhh I’m sounding like a hippy again!!!!
    Anywho while I enjoyed my conversation with Estelle yesterday…….that approach could scare some people of if they are unprepared/distracted. Doesn’t make them any less suitable for the role. 
    Think about how you feel when random people call you? How do you react? 
    As the caller – how do you dig the probing question with the fact you have never seen this persons face let alone had coffee with them?

  • Brad Stewart says:

    I agree with Stewart – sometimes a well thought out email is the way to go instead of a phone call or in some cases of recent – prior to the phone call to give a “heads” up to the the recipient so they do not have to make an “on the spot” decision… but anyway…

    Absolutely the future will be filled with emails and phone calls and face to face meetings because I am certain this new age of online recruitment will not take away those elements.  Plus us recruiters… we like to talk – many like the sound of their voice ha!