In a tight employment market like this one—when talent acquisition teams want to move through the recruitment process quickly, boost candidate engagement, and fill open roles as quickly as possible—it helps to know what insights, tools, and techniques will attract top talent and facilitate the best candidate experience.

Providing a good experience means knowing how candidates prefer to communicate with recruiters and hiring managers during the application and interview process. After all, it’s one thing to pull top talent into your recruiting funnel and quite another to make sure 100% of your candidates—even the ones who don’t end up getting the job—come out on the other side with a positive impression of your organization and a willingness to remain actively engaged members of your talent pipeline.  

Well, you’re in luck, because the 2019 Yello Recruiting Study provides insights on communication preferences by generation throughout each step of the hiring process. The research outlines job search and decision-making behaviors for members of Generation X, Generation Y (also known as millennials), and Generation Z (the young people just now graduating from university and entering the workforce for the first time).

According to our research, candidates across all age groups rank their communication style as follows:

Candidate Communication Preferences by Generation

Generation Z

Email: 50%
Phone Call: 29%
Text Message: 11%
Video Call: 8%
Social Media DM: 3%


Email: 50%
Phone Call: 33%
Text Message: 8%
Video Call: 6%
Social Media DM: 5%

Generation X

Phone Call: 44%
Email: 39%
Text Message: 11%
Video Call: 3%
Social Media DM: 2%

So What Does the Communication Preference Data Actually Say?

Before digging into the data, it’s important to remember that this study gives insight into communication preferences during the application and hiring process specifically. Even though each generation ranked social media DMs lowest on their list, it’s still important to recognize that millennial and Gen Z job seekers are digital natives, and use social media frequently. That means connecting on social networks should still be an important aspect of your recruitment marketing efforts overall.

Similarly, video and texting should still be considered a part of your recruiting strategy even though they’re ranked lower than email and phone calls. A successful recruitment strategy includes a mix of several different communication channels to effectively build relationships with candidates.

Email Takeaways

Email is the undisputed champ of candidate communication. Three out of four generations rank email highest among their communication preferences, and while members of Generation X are more likely to say phone calls are their first choice for updates and information, email still comes in at a close second. This shouldn’t be surprising, as candidates of all life stages are fluent in email communication, and any organization should consider email a baseline mode of communication.

Recruitment CRM technology makes it easy to let candidates know when you’ve received their application, seamlessly schedule an interview, or keep candidates posted about next steps in the hiring process.

Phone Call Takeaways

It may be tempting to look at the data and determine that you should take a phone-first approach with Generation X candidates and table phone calls for millennials and Gen Z, but that’s not necessarily the case.

Of all the communication options, telephone calls are the most intimate and time-consuming. It doesn’t make sense to call someone just to let them know you received their resume. But if you wanted to make an attractive candidate with lots of choices feel important and highly desired, then a phone call is absolutely the right choice.

Phone calls may rate highly among Gen X candidates because of their seniority in the workplace. These older candidates bring more experience and savvy to their roles, and it’s not surprising that some would expect a certain degree of white-glove service when considering a new job. Does this mean that Gen X-ers are going to reject email communications or feel slighted by text messaging? Of course not. It means a phone call offers a more personal touch and makes candidates feel respected.

Text Message Takeaways

Although text messaging looks like it’s among the least preferred modes of communication, it’s important to note that one-third of survey respondents–including members of each generation–rank text messaging in the top two choices.

Your candidates may not want to communicate with potential employers exclusively by text, but they do appreciate the ability to receive updates this way. Text messages are especially useful for delivering quick facts or pointing the way to valuable resources. Texting will continue to grow in importance; ensure your HR tech stack can keep up.

One-third of survey respondents rank text messaging in the top two communication choices.

Video Call Takeaways

There’s a time and a place for video conferencing. Live and pre-recorded video calls are powerful tools to screen conversations and interviews, but when it comes to quick updates, email remains your best bet. However, this may be change as Generation Z continues to join the workforce over the next several years. This generation has grown up with video calls, and is more open to chatting on-screen than other generations, with nearly one in ten selecting video as their most preferred communication.

Social Media DM Takeaways

Social media is a great way to establish connections and build relationships, but it’s not necessarily the most efficient or personal way to communicate with candidates throughout the hiring process. Think about using platforms like LinkedIn to search for leads and make your first point of contact with passive candidates. Once you’ve connected on social media, encourage candidates to submit an application and move your communication to email or phone calls.

As the research shows, the most important factor to consider when communicating with candidates is personalization. While it can be overwhelming to keep up with so many communication channels, tailoring your message to your audience can make all the difference when it comes to attracting and hiring top talent. Think about what you’re trying to communicate, who you’re speaking to, and what stage of the hiring process you’re in. And when in doubt, always go back to the data to choose the right communication method.