Strategy: An advertising executive asked job candidates to apply via text message — and it changed the way he thinks about hiring

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When hiring for their summer 2018 internship program in New York, Global advertising company Havas took an innovative approach. Havas' c...

  • When hiring for their summer 2018 internship program in New York, Global advertising company Havas took an innovative approach.
  • Havas' chief creative officer, Harry Bernstein, spearheaded the initiative to have candidates simply text him their ideas rather than the traditional application process.
  • He found texting was a great way to personally connect with people before hiring them.

Applying for a job isn't usually as easy as planning a night out with friends.

Unless, that is, you recently applied for a summer internship via text message at Havas New York — a global advertising company.

The hiring campaign — dubbed "Text Me, Harry Bee" — asked internship candidates to text Havas' chief creative officer, Harry Bernstein, with their best ideas about how to change the world for the better. To promote the program, billboards and ads within bus shelters near some college towns were put up, and the agency also used social media to spread the word.

What Bernstein received was a wide range of ideas — coming in from 44 countries across the world, 47 states in the US, and over 2,000 original texts exchanges. Applicants were asked to boil down their ideas to about 6 lines, and a photo if necessary.

Within the first day, Bernstein had exchanged about 400 text messages. He carved out time to reply, but admits that the conversations consumed him. "It became a slight obsession," Bernstein told Business Insider.


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Harry Bernstein at Havas.

(Sarah Jacobs/Business Insider)

One of the main reasons Bernstein wanted applicants to apply via text, rather than the traditional cover letter and resume technique, was to find a broader pool of candidates.

"[Texting] levels the playing ground," he said. "I wanted to democratize this process to find talent — this wasn't about your resume, it wasn't about what school you went to, it wasn't about your past."

Ideas as simple as being nicer to one another flooded his phone, along with more planned and thought out pitches. Bernstein noticed major topic trends including ideas around gun reform and opioid addiction.

Candidates whose ideas floated above the rest quickly moved on to round two of Skype interviews.

Texting with potential job candidates might sound like a nightmare for many hiring managers, but to Bernstein the campaign was a success — and it changed the way he thinks about recruiting.

"I kind of want to only hire this way," Bernstein said. "To be a great creative leader you have to have a personal relationship with the people you work with... When you get down to it, a text conversation is short, prompt, it's very engaging. It's one-on-one."

The only downside? "I have to go to a hand chiropractor — I might have carpal tunnel," Bernstein said.

Ahead, a look at four real conversations and pitches that Bernstein received. These four applicants have been hired.

This candidate pitched a medical kit that would help those addicted to opioids.


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This candidate pitched a medical kit that would help those addicted to opioids.

(Courtesy of Havas)

This applicant told Bernstein about his idea involving hemp as an alternative for plastic.


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This applicant told Bernstein about his idea involving hemp as an alternative for plastic.

(Courtesy of Havas)

This candidate wanted to share his idea about a disaster relief food truck.


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This candidate wanted to share his idea about a disaster relief food truck.

(Courtesy of Havas)

Here, an applicant pitched a class for students that revolves around love.


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Here, an applicant pitched a class for students that revolves around love.

(Courtesy of Havas)

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