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The spooky reality of business ghosting is it could come back to haunt you

Posted on: October 29, 2018

Categories: Career Advice | Featured

By Greg Whitesell, Marketing Director, Sherpa

With Halloween right around the corner, it seems appropriate to talk about ghosting – and not the “two holes cut out of a white sheet” variety.  Recent pieces by CBS News, LinkedIn, The Ladders and others are casting light onto a haunting reality – candidate and employee “ghosting” is on the rise. 

Derived from the online dating world, the term refers to an abrupt discontinuance of communication between two individuals.  In the workplace, it’s being used to describe situations where:

  • Scheduled interviewees fail to show up for interviews.
  • Spontaneous, and uncommunicated resignation.

Employers, do these situations sound familiar?  If they don’t, you’re lucky.  In some situations, companies are reporting that nearly 50% of candidates offered an interview are no shows.  What once was almost exclusively a problem among blue-collar employers has made itself visible in the white-collar realm – and it’s spooking recruiters and hiring managers.  What’s more, while it’s tempting to think that millennials and Gen Z are the primary culprits, that simply isn’t the case.  Ghosting is happening at all age and experience levels and across industries.

Why is it happening?

The primary driver behind candidate and employee ghosting is simple – it’s the economy.  According to the Department of Labor, unemployment is sitting at 3.7% – the lowest rate since 1969.  Additionally, the department also reports that workers are quitting jobs at the fastest rate since 2001 with roughly 3.3 million workers – 2.4% of the workforce – quitting monthly.  Couple these statistics with the ongoing and oft-discussed talent shortage and a picture emerges – it’s clearly a buyer’s market for job seekers and they’re feeling free to shop.

Retribution, particularly for seasoned professionals, could be a second reason.  For example, during the Great Recession (2007 – 2009) candidates were desperate for opportunity to knock.  In those days, many employers didn’t do the best job communicating with potential hires.  Candidates endured resume “black holes,” unreturned emails, unanswered phone calls and rejection via silence on the part of the employer.  Because of this, many candidates adopted a “if they don’t owe me anything, I don’t owe them anything” mindset that is pervasive now that the tide has turned.

Finally, most humans have an innate desire to avoid conflict, confrontation and disappointment.  Indeed, some who ghost simply think it’s easier to disappear than to tell the hiring manager or employer that they are no longer interested in the job opportunity or the company.  In some cases, professionals who’ve been in the workforce for a while haven’t learned how to deal with a situation where they are presented with multiple offers – which are becoming increasingly common.  In choosing avoidance, these professionals feel like they’re sparing feelings.  The reality, communication is always the better option.

What’s the cost?

The scary truth?  Ghosting carries with it very real costs to both parties.  For employers, ghosting extends the hiring process and often leaves them shorthanded.  Time and money spent on advertising, recruiting and interviewing for opportunities are significant – when candidates ghost, the whole process starts over.  Along with time and money, add in productivity and morale, as both can suffer when seats are left empty.

For candidates (and for employees who ghost on their jobs), perhaps the most frightening consequence is the blow to their reputation.  It’s easy for candidates to think that once they ghost, they’ll never have to come across the jilted hiring manager or recruiter again.  That view, however, is shortsighted.  To quote Disney, “It’s a small world after all.” 

It’s not uncommon for HR professionals to transition to hiring roles with other employers regardless of the industry sandbox the employer might play in.  Ghost once, and a recruiter most likely has recorded a “No Show” in their applicant tracking system.  Burn them bad enough (like not showing up for a first day) and it’s likely the perpetrator will be remembered by name.

In either case, there’s a chance the candidate/employee is “black balled” down the road for both interviews and offers.

What can an employer do?

In this case, saying “Beetlejuice” three times won’t exorcise the situation.  The reality is that as long as the job market is booming and talent demand exceeds supply, ghosting will happen.  That doesn’t mean hiring managers should throw in the towel.  To mitigate ghosting, there are a few things employers need to consider.

First, evaluate your candidate experience.  Is it easy and convenient to apply to your job requisitions?  Have you clearly set forth the responsibilities, qualifications and expectations in the job description?  Have you educated the candidate about what your process looks like and what they should expect in terms of communications from you? 

Second, consider your opportunities.  Have you researched the job market for your available roles?  Do you know what benefits competitors are offering?  Is compensation competitive with others?  Remember, it’s a talent war.  If you want to win, you need to arm yourself with ammo to show candidates (and current employers) that you’re the place to be.

Third, if necessary, consider modifying your process.  Some employers have taken steps to account for ghosting by making early round interviews group events.  This method assumes some candidates will fail to show and reduces wasted effort by having other interested candidates present.  Additionally, it creates a competitive atmosphere among applicants, which could motivate them to come back for subsequent rounds. 

Other hiring managers have adopted the practice of not notifying out-of-the-running finalists until after the selected candidate shows up on Day 1.  Still others have shortened the time frame between offer, acceptance and start date – in some cases, reducing it to mere days. 

Finally, employers should work to develop a consistent candidate pool – and this is where a talent acquisition partner can be invaluable.  While staffing firms aren’t immune to candidates ghosting on interviews, their vetting process and deep candidate pool reduces the impact and keeps the talent acquisition process moving. 

While not a panacea to all ghosting – these options can at least make the scenario a bit less scary for employers. 

At Sherpa, we have years of experience matching high-caliber candidates with local companies, and we know what it takes to build strong teams. To leverage Sherpa’s expertise, contact us today.


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