Ghosting: A Haunting Trend in Hiring

Want to hear a scary statistic?

Over 47 percent of applicants who have sent in their resume are still waiting to hear back from the company two months later. Even scarier, many applicants are ghosted by companies after they’ve been through one (or, the horror, several!) rounds of interviews. Ghosting is a term borrowed from the dating world, but it essentially means that the potential employee sent in their application or even went through an interview and never heard from the company again. Yikes!

But, employers are not the only ones ghosting any more. Ask most hiring managers or recruiters, and they’ll share a story of a candidate who didn’t show up to the interview or who accepted an offer only later to never arrive on their first day.

Calls, emails, and texts all go unanswered. The candidate has, in essence, disappeared. What’s the reason for this haunting trend?

Ghoulish Behavior Creates Ghosting

There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, where the workplace operated under the implicit agreement that employees who worked hard at their jobs and stayed loyal to a company were rewarded with job security, health benefits, and other serious perks like pension. That’s not the case today. The new norms are portable HSAs, job-hopping, and at-will employment.

Today’s employees have accurately figured out that unless something is explicitly written down, a company doesn’t really owe them anything. In fact, the implicit agreement for many candidates is broken long before they’re employees at the company. Over sixty percent of candidates have been ignored or mistreated during the hiring process. With nothing to lose, they become ghosts too.

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As frustrating as it is for hiring managers and recruiters, the candidates probably don’t suffer any ill effects for their actions. In fact, there are now more job openings than employees to fill them, which some economists believe hasn’t happened since the 1970s. Over sixty percent of separations this year were from voluntary quits. Partly because unemployment is at record lows, many candidates have multiple job offers. A candidate-driven market means that candidates can be more selective about the interviews and offers they take.

Also, social media has depersonalized relationships in a lot of ways. In an effort to avoid an awkward conversation about no longer being interested, a lot of candidates, especially younger ones, will just stop responding to an employer.

This is all very blood-curdling for the average company looking to hire.

How to Bring Your Candidates Back From the Dead

While this ghosting practice is becoming more prevalent, is concerning, and shouldn’t be accepted, recruiters and HR professionals can do a few things to limit losing candidates.

Spell It Out

The number one reason people drop out of the hiring process is a lack of communication from the recruiter or hiring manager. So create a great candidate experience.

Also, if you’re interested in a candidate, but it’s just taking a while to get the team together and the offer made, open communication means you might be able to speed up the process to save your hire who has another offer in front of them. (You should also consider streamlining your process generally.)

As a recruiter, it’s easy to delay and focus saving bandwidth for more pressing issues or more competitive candidates. However, a candidate who has had a negative experience is much more likely to tell others about it, which could affect your hiring down the line. A bad candidate experience can be expensive.

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Just being proactive and responsive in when and how you communicate with a potential employee can ward off a lot of ill will and fend off ghosts. 

Offer More

You know on Halloween how the one house on the block that hands out full-size candy bars is really, really popular? Being a company that offers better benefits or has a better culture is kind of like that to a job seeker.

And it doesn’t have to be more expensive. Although economists have been predicting rising wages due to the tightening of the economy for years, besides offering more money, there are many things companies can do to attract and retain their applicants. For example, consider getting creative with your benefits (pet insurance or a weekly catered meal, anyone?) or offering more flexibility.

Also, a big focus on employer branding is key. Candidates want to know if they will be a good fit, if they will find the work rewarding, and if your organization is a place where they can grow and thrive – so creep it real!

Don’t Be Afraid of Them Going Dark

If ghosting is a common occurrence around your office, take a long look at your hiring practices to make sure your candidate pipeline doesn’t become a graveyard. Try to view the causes of ghosting as areas to improve and grow your company.

However, if you’ve treated the candidate well during the process and they’ve still ghosted on you, don’t take it personally. You probably didn’t want them as an employee anyways, if their communication choices are so ghastly.

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