Say "ghosting" and most people's minds turn to dating—it's how daters describe the practice of ending a relationship suddenly and without explanation.
Now ghosting has made its way out of dating apps and text messages and into the hiring and recruiting realm. Potential employees show interest in interviewing for a job—or even accept a position—and then they disappear.
"We've experienced ghosting during the interview process, and it seems to be happening more and more frequently," says Erin Holm, director of talent acquisition at Influence & Co., a content marketing agency. "We'll have multiple engaging conversations with candidates, only to have them go dark."
Sean Weisbrot, CEO and founder of SideKick, a messaging, payments and marketplace ecosystem app, recently had a similar experience.
"Several applicants applied for a remote mobile developer position, but thanks to ghosting we ended up with no new employees," says Weisbrot. "One of the applicants even signed our NDA and received a contract and then disappeared."
What's Behind the Rise in Ghosting?
A few factors can be attributed to the increase in ghosting.
For starters, there's the low unemployment rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate was at 3.7 percent in July. With more options for employment come more chances that potential employees will fail to follow through.
"Between the massive shortage of talent and the rise of the gig economy, organizations are fighting a constant battle to find, hire and retain top candidates," says Madhu Modugu, founder and CEO of Leoforce, an AI recruiting platform.
"Ghosting is symptomatic of fundamental shifts in the way people view work and careers and a tight labor market," continues Modugu. "Many candidates have begun to see ghosting not as a fault, but as an interpretation of career freedom."
For many business owners, the idea of ghosting is perplexing. Why would someone go to the trouble of applying for a job, and even receive a job offer, and then disappear? Here are some potential reasons.
1. Received a better offer.
"The candidate may have gotten a more ideal position and didn't know how to broach the subject," says Vladimir Trubetskoy, head of marketing at Jobsora, an online job search system.
"Accepting a more attractive job offer and not wanting to have a difficult conversation about that fact is a common reason," agrees Kuba Koziej, CEO and co-founder at online resume and career building service Zety.
2. Overstated job experience.
"Some people exaggerate their professional or technical experience and are afraid of being found out through verification," says Koziej. "Often there is a stage in the hiring process where candidates realize they may not be a good fit for the job."
3. Curiosity about what's available in the job market.
"Sometimes candidates aren't truly interested, but instead come for interviews just to see what options are available in the labor market and how potential employers evaluate them," says Trubetskoy.
4. Sudden fear of change.
"Some people think they want a change in employment, but when presented with a new opportunity, they become fearful or nervous and end up ghosting a potential new employer," says Trubetskoy.
What to Do If Your Company Gets Ghosted
"Remain level-headed and professional when you encounter a ghost," says Kelvin Chan, chief marketing officer for Training.com.au, which offers online classes on a variety of subjects in Australia.
"The interviewee may have a good reason for ghosting," says Chan. "When you take the high road, you reduce the risks of a disgruntled candidate bad mouthing your company or losing a star candidate because the person was in a car accident" and couldn't respond.
To create a sense of emotional attachment with a candidate and avoid ghosting, a recruitment team must work in coordination with hiring managers to create multiple contact points. It's important to show that you care about potential employees.
—Simon Royston, managing director, The Recruitment Lab
Do get feedback when possible, though, suggests Chris Brown, vice president of team member success for marketing company Advantage.
"We try to connect with job candidates who ghosted us to discover what happened," Brown says.
It's also a good idea to protect your company from a ghost in the future.
"The best way to deal with ghosting is to make an internal blacklist," believes Weisbrot.
Of course, preventing ghosting from occurring in the first place is ideal. There are a few ways you can go about doing that.
1. Ensure engagement.
"Focus on engagement from the recruiting process all the way through the onboarding process," says Brown. "We have an engaging offer letter that sells potential employees on what their employment experience will be like. Once someone accepts an offer, we send a welcome gift to their home."
Brown also has them fill out new hire paperwork prior to their first day of work, which further helps get them invested.
"It's important that every candidate who has contact with your organization feels a sense of belonging and attachment," says Simon Royston, managing director of The Recruitment Lab, an independent recruitment agency.
"To create a sense of emotional attachment with a candidate and avoid ghosting, a recruitment team must work in coordination with hiring managers to create multiple contact points," says Royston. "It's important to show that you care about potential employees."
2. Be flexible with interview time slots.
"Finding the time to attend an interview while also working full time can be a tricky task," says Chan. "By accommodating candidates and offering multiple options for interview times, you reduce the chances of an interviewee ghosting you."
3. Effectively communicate throughout recruitment.
"Clear communication and consistently touching base will show your candidates that you value them and their time," says Chan.
"Start texting with candidates as soon as they're in your recruiting system," adds Jonathan Duarte, founder of job search board Gojob.com. "Texting tends to get faster and higher responses than emails."
Also don't be hesitant about talking to candidates about their job searches, suggests Holm.
"It's no secret that candidates are probably looking at other opportunities," says Holm. "Let them know you understand they might be looking, but ask that they keep you in the loop with how their search is going."
4. Clearly express expectations.
Since making it clear that ghosting isn't acceptable to her, Sara Hornick, executive partner and financial advisor with Hudson Wealth Management, has seen a dramatic reduction in ghosting.
"When I speak to potential candidates and set up interviews, I end every conversation by saying, 'You'd be surprised how many people schedule an interview and don't show up without letting me know,'" says Hornick. "'Those people's mama didn't raise them right. Do you agree? I understand that life happens, and you may decide not to interview. Please just let me know ahead of time.'"
4. Ensure speed to hire.
"Engage and respond to candidates as quickly as possible to avoid ghosting. The first company to do this will have a leg up in the recruiting process," says Duarte.
"Make your application and interview process as seamless and transparent as possible," says Modugu. "If you make candidates jump through too many hoops—long application process, lack of communication and follow-up—they will be more likely to drop out of the process."
5. Be tactful.
"Sometimes when employers decide who they want to hire, they fail to follow up with the other job candidates to let them know the position has been filled," says Brown. "That opens the door for job candidates to feel they can do the same to companies."
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