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31 October-2019

Scary Business! Why Job Candidates and Employers “Ghost” Each Other 

“Ghosting” is a trend you’ve heard about — many times in relation to the world of dating. As for the realm of recruiting, we find that dating is very much like what we do for a living — matching the right people with the right companies. So it’s no surprise to us that ghosting has found a place in the employment landscape. 

A recent survey by Indeed found that one in five workers has, at one point, accepted a job offer and then ghosted on their opportunity. Sometimes they just stop responding to communications from employers post-acceptance. Sometimes they fail to show up on the first day. These are frightening extremes, obviously, but we frequently hear complaints from employers about people who disappear from the recruiting process. But what that stat doesn’t tell you is that employers ghost too, and sometimes, the reason the candidate ghosted isn’t all about them. 

Why Employees “Ghost”
First, one in five seems pretty high. In our recruiting efforts around the Triangle and beyond, when we see ghosting, it generally occurs during the interview process — not once someone is hired and has a start date. Ghosting may occur during any one of multiple phases of the interview scheduling and execution process. Email responses may suddenly cease, someone may fail to show for a phone screen or an onsite interview, etc. 

Recently, we were ghosted by a candidate in this way. We had an appointment to speak by phone, but the person never picked up our scheduled call. We reached out, left a voicemail, sent a text, and later sent an email and a matching LinkedIn message. Nothing. Complete vanishing act with no reason why. We may hear from her again, we may not. When this happens, it’s usually for one of the following reasons: 

  • Maybe the current work situation improved. Raise? Promotion?
  • Maybe an offer came through from another interview process. 
  • Maybe life circumstances interrupted the desire and/or ability to search for a new position. 
  • We could go on forever.

In all of these cases, this really boils down to someone desiring to avoid the delivery of bad news, which is part of human nature. Ultimately, telling a recruiter or hiring manager that you don’t want to move forward in the job consideration process is unpleasant. Sometimes, avoiding communication of that bad news (and hoping that the person on the other end just lets you disappear) seems like the path of least resistance.

Photo credit: Ömer Ünlü

Employers “Ghost,” Too


While there are plenty of negative stories out there about candidates who ghost, sometimes this behavior is caused by the employer — who may frequently ghost without even realizing it. For example, maybe a candidate had a phone interview last week that went well, but she/he hasn’t heard anything since. Or a candidate was told she/he is a finalist for the role, but now eight business days have passed, and it is nothing but crickets. 

Communication failures like these are why candidates often feel let down by the interview process. They don’t know what’s going on because they aren’t receiving updates, so they are left to assume and internalize the worst. And then they share those negative feelings with peers, and often with the masses (via vehicles like Glassdoor). 

Why does this breakdown happen between interviewees and recruiters or employers? Well, quite frankly, just like candidates don’t want to deliver bad news about pulling out of a process, hiring managers and recruiters don’t relish delivering bad news either. Sometimes, they fall prey to human nature as well and attempt to sweep that mean old bad news under the rug.

Any of these sound familiar?  

  • You decided to eliminate the candidate who REALLY wanted the job, and you REALLY didn’t want to tell her/him the bad news. 
  • You made an offer to someone else and while waiting to hear back, you left your second and third viable choices in the dark. 
  • You lost the budget for the job, or the role was frozen for a few months, and you didn’t want your talent to completely exit the pipe.
  • We could go on forever here, too.

Prevent Candidates from “Ghosting”
Recruiters and employers who have a strong rapport with their candidates are less likely to get ghosted. Try the following: 

  • Check in with candidates frequently. Communicate in the gaps between steps in the interview process. Inform them of changes or delays, so they aren’t left wondering. 
  • Let them know if they haven’t made the cut at whatever stage of the process it occurs. Keep people informed, even if they won’t like the news.
  • Timing is critical. An efficient interview process, speed to an offer, and a quick turnaround on start date leaves you less vulnerable to ghosting behavior. 
  • Share good news fast and keep warm candidates cozy and fully engaged. 

The Frightening Truth about “Ghosting”
Communication isn’t always easy. Or happy. Or pleasant. But, avoiding negative communication and opting to ghost instead — whether you’re an employer, recruiter, or a job seeker — causes significant and often irreparable damage. 

The last thing a candidate can afford to do is to burn a bridge between herself or himself and an external recruiter or an internal hiring manager or HR team. Once you are marked as someone who ghosts, it’s very difficult to overcome that reputation in an employment marketplace. And the company you ghost today might be the one you want to work for tomorrow.

And on the flipside, as an employer or recruiting firm, if you get a reputation for ghosting applicants and interviewees, word will spread quickly, many times virally. And the end result will clearly and negatively impact your business.

Have you ghosted an employer or been ghosted by a candidate? Share your scary ghosting stories with us on our Facebook page or via Twitter.  

Happy Halloween!

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