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Have you been ghosted?

August 9, 2018

By Kristen Cifolelli, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

When most people think of the term “ghosting”, they think of online dating sites.  Ghosting is an expression first connected with dating, and it’s when someone suddenly cuts all ties and communication with the person they’ve been seeing.  The practice of ghosting is now creeping its way into the workplace and is quickly becoming some employers’ biggest recruiting headache.  
So how does ghosting translate into the workplace?  According to Chip Cutter, LinkedIn Editor at Large, ghosting is when “job candidates schedule interviews only to never show, no reason given.  People accept jobs and clear background checks only to not appear on the first day, again, not saying a word.” The ghosting phenomenon is not only frustrating for employers, but expensive when you have gone through the hiring process and your new hire doesn’t show.  This causes employers to have to start the recruiting process all the way back to the beginning as hard-to-fill jobs stay open longer, hiring resources are wasted, and potential sales opportunities are lost.
So why would a job candidate ghost?  Certainly, the lowest unemployment numbers in two decades is a major contributing factor.  In May 2018, unemployment hit an 18-year low of 3.8 percent and July’s numbers recently released are at 3.9%.  There are currently more job openings than unemployed people for just the second month in the past two decades. In addition, those employed that quit their jobs to take another is the highest it has been in 17 years at 2.4%.  The low was 1.3% in 2010 and it has climbed steadily since.  While ghosting has always been somewhat of an issue for lower paying jobs, it is increasing with white collar jobs.
Candidates for the first time are finding themselves in an unusual position where they are getting multiple job offers and many more options.  If they find something better, it is easier than ever before to go someplace else. Some of the ghosting is a result of inexperience, not from intentional bad behavior.  Many young professionals who entered the workforce a decade ago during the height of the recession have never had to deal with a strong job market and don’t know how to handle competing offers and how to say no.
Another contributing factor is the impact of technology.  While social media and messaging apps have made it easier than ever to connect and communicate, the lack of personal interaction causes those relationships to remain shallow.  It makes it significantly easier for a candidate to simply stop communicating and go silent and avoid letting down an employer in an awkward conversation.
An additional contributing factor is that job candidates are turning the tables on employers.  Whether they realize it or not, many employers have regularly engaged in the practice of ghosting.  This was especially prevalent during the recession of 2007-2009 when there were many more candidates than job openings. Many employers had the bad habit of ignoring job applicants and not following up even on candidates that interviewed.  Many still do this today.
While there is no study that is formally tracking ghosting statistics, many employers are reporting that 20%-50% of job applicants are no shows causing employers to change their hiring practices.  According to Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and employment trends expert, “Instead of narrowing it down to just 1-2 qualified applicants and cutting everyone else loose, companies are now wisely holding onto all possibilities before assuming that their search is over. With so many job openings, applicants can now play fast and loose with opportunities, and sadly many of these applicants take the coward’s way out and simply disappear without any further communication.”
Below are some strategies employers have used to try and reduce their chances of being ghosted:

  • Overbook interviews – schedule a larger than normal amount of interviews knowing some candidates won’t show.
  • Prolong the interview process – don’t stop interviewing until the candidate has actually started work.
  • Speed up onboarding – employers may want to consider a streamlined onboarding process to help employees get up to speed quickly to account for new hires that don’t show.
  • Become an employer of choice – create a work environment that makes job candidates want the job even more. Employers are beginning to look at increasing benefits, expanding growth opportunities, and creating flexible work arrangements in order to attract candidates.
  • Be respectful – remember the golden rule to treat others how you yourself would like to be treated.  Be cautious about being overly aggressive in looking for a response to an offer.  If a candidate feels it would be very uncomfortable to tell an employer no, they may be more likely to go silent.
  • Be transparent – maintain regular contact with candidates and be honest about job opportunities.  Don’t mislead with unrealistic promises.

At the end of the day, as long as the job market stays this hot, there isn’t a whole lot employers can do to prevent ghosting.  If it does happen, keep in mind that past behaviors are indicators of future performance.  Count your losses and blessings and move on to other candidates.

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