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3 creative ways businesses turn customers into candidates using text-to-apply

Story highlights:

  • Text-to-apply can be a gamechanger for businesses that hire a lot of the same position, including retail, healthcare, and manufacturing.
  • Amusement park operator Cedar Fair uses text-to-apply to hire 47,000 seasonal workers per year and safely open their parks on schedule.
  • Domino’s franchisee RPM Pizza mimics their beloved customer experience for candidates using text-to-apply and a recruiting chatbot.
  • Transportation company Via Mobility edged out competitors and increased their market share by incorporating text-to-apply into their hiring process.

What do an amusement park operator, a nationwide pizza maker, and a transportation service have in common?

They all saw significant changes in their businesses when they started encouraging job seekers to apply by text message.

For some, the idea of texting an employer to submit your application is still foreign. Does it really work? Do employers get enough information that way to make a decision? Why would you opt for recruiting this way over something more traditional?

All valid questions.

Text-to-apply allows job seekers to apply for a job by texting a word to a specific shortcode – say “FUN” to 97211. Employers can then send automated replies, prompts, or let a recruiting chatbot take over. Text-to-apply works because it encourages applications at the culmination of some in-person experience. In a store or at an amusement park, for example.

There’s also ease of applying to consider. If you’re in a business that hires a lot of the same role, say retail or healthcare, running a text-to-apply campaign can make a lot of sense. Many employees are on their feet most of the day and don’t often find themselves sitting behind a desk. For them, the ability to apply with a quick text message is a big deal.

In many cases, applying by text is just the beginning. Some positions require key skills but don’t require a ton of experience. For jobs that do, a text is the first touchpoint of many – rarely do we need to know everything about a candidate to advance or reject them. If that were true, interviews would have become obsolete with the invention of the resume.

I could go on about how text-to-apply is so great.

I’m not going to do that. Instead, I want to show you how three very different employers incorporated text-to-apply into their hiring process and changed their businesses for the better.

Here are their stories and what we can learn from them:

Success story #1: Job searching is a rollercoaster, so make it fun for candidates


Do you like fun? Of course, you do.

Depending on your definition of fun, you almost certainly enjoy amusement parks. After all, amusement is just like fun, only more wholesome. And since you like amusement parks so much, chances are you’d like Cedar Fair, the operator of some of North America’s most fun and iconic parks.

Who knows, maybe you’re one of the 26 million people who visit their park annually?

As it turns out, those parks don’t staff themselves. Which is why Cedar Fair’s recruiting team is in charge of hiring 47,000 seasonal workers each year.

That’s mission-critical for a company that can’t open parks due to safety protocols without enough trained employees.

But don’t worry – they have a secret ace up their sleeve. That ace is fun.

Fun? Yes, fun. Cedar Fair is in the business of fun! They take fun quite seriously. Don’t believe me? Their stock ticker is literally FUN. Their website is very clear about their stance on fun.

Cedar Fair's website shows people riding a rollercoaster with the headline: "Fun. To us, it's serious business."

With so much fun, it’s no surprise Cedar Fair’s team cashes in good times and converts visitors into applicants.

Here’s how it works. First, people come. They ride rollercoasters and eat cotton candy. This leads to fun, which leads to good feelings. Those people, many of whom are students, think to themselves, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to work here next summer?” A few more rides on the Ferris wheel and – BAM! – Cedar Fair has them right where they want them.

That’s when our fun-loving visitors notice the fliers. “Text to apply for a job? Don’t mind if I do.”

Automated text messages ask questions, gauge interest, and secure candidate contact info. Recruiters follow-up later once the sugar from the cotton candy wears off.

A lot of this hiring takes place months in advance of the next season. Cedar Fair uses a candidate relationship management system to keep candidates informed and engaged leading up to their start dates.

The results? Well, there’s all that fun. But also a 97% application completion rate and 50% faster application time.

Success story #2: When your customer experience is beloved, mimic it for candidates


You’ve probably heard of Domino’s. If you’re a fan, you’ve definitely familiar with their ‘pizza tracker.’

For those who don’t know, the pizza tracker gives customers live updates on their pizza’s whereabouts. This starts with an order confirmation and continues through preparation and delivery.

It’s a fun way to say, “Hey, we know you’re hungry, and help is on the way.” And for those who didn’t grow up in an age when pizza was ordered over the Internet, it’s reassurance they haven’t forgotten about you.

So you’re familiar with Domino’s, but you probably haven’t heard of RPM Pizza. That’s because they don’t operate under their own name. They’re the largest Domino’s franchisee in the U.S. Depending on where you live, chances are you’ve ordered from them.

Domino’s uses text-to-apply campaigns in all their storefronts. They’re always hiring, so sourcing never stops. Sometimes they get more creative, using radio spots and billboards to encourage people to text in their applications.

Here’s where RPM Pizza really turns up the heat: their recruiting team uses an AI-powered recruiting chatbot named Dottie. That’s right, you text in your application and a robot answers you. Turns out they’re really serious about pizza.

Dottie, as you might expect, is named after Domino’s logo. She also has a personality all her own. Dottie is peppy, light-hearted, detail-oriented, professional, and a little saucy. (Bad pun, I know).

Above all, she’s passionate about pizza and doesn’t care who knows it. Text her and you might find yourself on the receiving end of pizza trivia and puns.

How did Dottie come into being? Along with aligning her personality to their brand and values, RPM Pizza’s team scripted Dottie to mimic the value of the company’s pizza tracker. Like hungry customers wondering where their pizza is, Dottie gives candidates regular status updates regarding their application.

Armed with a text-to-apply campaign and recruiting chatbot Dottie, RPM increased applications by 66% and candidate response rates by 95%.

Better still, Dottie does such an excellent job at setting expectations with candidates that she’s helped speed up the hiring process by 80% and reduce turnover to well below the industry average.

RPM Pizza's flier includes a number to text and reads: "Join our team!"

Success story #3: If the candidates don’t come to you, go to the candidates


One of my favorite success stories is Via Mobility. This Colorado-based company is in the people-moving business. Their ‘storefronts’ are their buses. And they use them to great effect.

Such great effect that this one recruiting tactic completely turned around Via Mobility’s business.

Like many transport businesses, Via was struggling to attract and retain enough drivers. Unlike other transport businesses, Via is fined every time it misses a route.

That’s right – having a full roster of drivers doesn’t just keep Via’s buses on the road and making money. They are actively punished and risk losing out on future contracts when they don’t have the talent they need.

All that changed when Via’s team put posters on their buses with a shortcode job seekers could text to apply. Qualified applicants started rolling in that same day. Six months later, they had more than 500 applications sent by text message – a massive number in an industry growing increasingly desperate for qualified talent.

Via’s talent went from a liability to a major asset practically overnight. The company has grown its market share by securing more contracts and picking up last-minute routes competitors can’t complete. Today’s Via’s talent team focuses on retention, using the extra revenue to increase pay and incentives for its team of drivers.

Via Mobility's poster lists job requirements, pay, and a shortcode to apply over text message.

Incorporating text-to-apply best practices


We covered three very different examples of how text-to-apply campaigns can radically change the way you hire. These employers use text to increase their number of applications, source better qualified candidates, achieve higher response rates, and even keep employees longer.

Today we saw how a few iCIMS customers open their parks safely and on time, keep their restaurants fully staffed, and run the buses on time. We’ve also seen how they’ve expanded to new locations, increased revenue, and captured more market share as a result.

Ready to learn more about how text-to-apply can help your business?

Check out our 2021 recruiting strategies by clicking here.

2021 recruiting strategies guidebook


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