Mobility

CBP job applicants sign up for text messages

text messager

SMS messages can make the federal job application process less frustrating by providing immediate updates and reminders, CBP says. (Stock image)

A six-month-old SMS text messaging program implemented to keep U.S. Customs and Border Protection in better touch with job applicants is transforming the hiring process, according to the agency’s Office of Human Resources Management.

Beginning with its entry-level Border Patrol Agent job opportunity announcements on Feb. 20 and as part of the agency’s online application process, the new system allows CBP job applicants to receive SMS text messages on their mobile device as they progress through the selection process. Of the first 1,000 applicants offered the choice, according to a June 27 statement on HRM’s web page, 343 opted to receive the messages. Applicants can choose to receive or opt out of receiving text messages at any time during the selection process by contacting CBP’s Minneapolis Hiring Center.

With the increasing popularity of mobile phones and tablets, CBP said, SMS capabilities provide the opportunity to connect with the growing number of people who actively use text messaging. CBP officials declined to detail the cost of implementing the new system, but said the agency was pleased with the investment. They stressed that SMS is more familiar to younger applicants than the phone or e-mail as their primary means of communicating, and is often given greater attention than voicemail or other electronic messages.

HRM said it has been using several pre-programmed SMS text message templates, reminding applicants of pending deadlines for required forms or documents, as well as the date and time of their upcoming medical and fitness examinations and interviews. SMS also provides the department with the capability to create and send more personalized messages when needed.

SMS text messaging, said the agency, helps promote timely responses to document deadlines, reduce the number of missed appointments, and increase applicant satisfaction with the hiring process by creating a higher sense of engagement and awareness of processing requirements. It also expects SMS use to boost applicant flow and retention in the process, allowing reductions to overall applicant processing time and costs. HRM said it is monitoring the impact of SMS and planning additional uses for text-based communication, such as providing notification of important changes in an applicant’s status.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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