December 12, 2022 by Andrea Rajic
Table of contents
In the past few years, recruiters and candidates have been ghosting each other more than ever. But what’s behind this trend, and is there a way to prevent its impact and go back to the levels of ghosting pre-2019?
Read this article and find out!
Workplace ghosting is a phenomenon in which an employee unexpectedly ends contact with an employer — or the other way around. The term originates from the online dating world, and it is used to describe situations in which employees and employers ignore the other party instead of sending a formal rejection or notice.
Professional ghosting has several forms:
While ghosting has probably been happening in the workplace for a while now, what made it land in the spotlight is just how common it’s become. An Indeed survey from 2021 shows ghosting is truly a growing trend that both employers and job seekers are contributing to.
The Covid-19 pandemic seems to have worsened the issue, as the stats are showing increases in ghosting on both sides since 2019:
Sometimes, no matter how much effort and attention you invest in your company procedures or job search strategies, people will ghost you. But most of the time, it can be avoided if both candidates and employers pay attention to their processes, communication skills, and expectations.
Lack of communication is surprisingly high on the list of reasons for both recruiters and candidates to ghost each other. But eventually, it boils down to poorly designed hiring processes. If a candidate is unsure of whether they need to follow up after an interview, the company and recruiter didn’t do a good job of communicating the process and expectations.
It’s one thing not to respond to every single candidate who submitted a resume and a job application (although this should happen more often!), and an entirely different one to wait for a candidate to reach out after a call. Employers, take note: make sure to clarify each step of the interview process and share it with your candidates. It’ll be easier for you, clearer for them, and you’ll avoid at least a few situations that could turn into a ghosting scenario.
In some companies, recruiters are working on filling multiple positions at once and are reaching out to hundreds of candidates to get a better talent pool. When you’ve got this high of a workload, it’s likely you, as a recruiter or HR manager, will become a ghoster at one point.
Recognizing that you have hundreds of people to speak to is one thing, but excusing it as the reason to ghost people is another — and one we don’t really support. Reaching out to a potential employee just to ghost them right after sends the wrong picture about yourself, the position, and the prospective employer.
The takeaway here: Don’t bite more than you can chew!
We’ve all been there: an application process that takes so long and is so complex that you give up along the way because it’s just not worth it. Companies want to get the best people for the job, but they often resort to recruitment processes that are incredibly long: one or more tasks to complete, scheduling interviews with the recruiter, the hiring manager, the wider team members, and the executives... and more steps in between.
If a job offer takes several months to arrive, and the interview process takes too much time and effort, your candidates may not just politely withdraw... they will ghost as well. To avoid job interview no-shows, reevaluate how you hire people and make adjustments to the length and complexity of the process, especially for entry and mid-level roles.
Another reason people ghost employers is a bad impression of company culture. And while this happens in the hiring process, too, it’s most likely to occur with a new hire, especially if they have a bad experience during onboarding.
If a company’s onboarding process is vague, unclear, too long, or leaves the new hire struggling to kickstart their role and find their way in the new job, they are more likely to ghost on the first day or even before they officially start.
In the era of remote and distributed work, onboarding is essential for both talent acquisition and employee retention efforts. It’s a cross-functional task for hiring managers and human resources experts to come up with a detailed, thorough, and welcoming onboarding experience to ensure their new hires have a good start... and don’t ghost them!
So what happens when ghosting becomes frequent, and what is the impact it has on recruiting as a process?
If you’ve had several instances of ghosting, particularly as a candidate, you will begin to dread the process of applying for a new job in the first place. Recruiters who ghost candidates can lead to a talent pool that is uninterested, disengaged, and less willing to engage in conversations about new jobs.
In the world of social media, your company practices can easily become the news of the day. If your company and its recruiters routinely ghost candidates, it’s a matter of time before a LinkedIn post or a Twitter thread appears, and a disgruntled candidate tells their story.
A company that is known for a bad candidate experience can have a hard time attracting good talent and hiring new employees. A bad reputation is easy to acquire but hard to shake off, which is why employers should invest in their candidate experience process and not let ghosting become standard practice.
If it gets harder for a company to hire new talent, their existing teams’ will suffer. For example, if a sales team needs more people to cover the volume of meetings they have, a prolonged hiring process and a bad company reputation will make it harder for the team to expand and increase their output, leading directly to fewer sales and fewer profits.
Whether you’re communicating with a candidate or a new hire, make sure expectations are clear at all times. If the next step in the interview process is for the candidate to follow up, make sure that is communicated clearly, so they aren’t expecting you to make the next step.
Additionally, provide guidelines to candidates on how long each step of the process takes and the time frames they can expect when it comes to moving forwards. Delays sometimes happen, and most people can understand that, but only if you reach out and let candidates know that you will need more time to make a decision.
The same goes for new hires going through onboarding — make sure to communicate what they can expect, the goals of their onboarding, and what they need to do once they start the job. Bonus tip: communicate these expectations in writing, so it’s never down to one side to interpret or memorize the conversation.
To fight candidate ghosting, HR managers, recruiters, and hiring managers should be proactive in their communication with candidates. This means being clear about the next steps of the hiring process and providing timely feedback.
Additionally, HR managers should aim to establish personal connections with job applicants. Showing genuine interest in an applicant can help build a relationship of trust and reduce the likelihood of candidate or employee ghosting.
In the modern workplace, how you communicate often indicates what candidates and new hires can expect once they land the job. If you give task deadlines that are too short in the hiring process, it’s a signal to candidates that the company does the same to employees.
If you expect candidates to get back to your emails almost instantaneously, it’s a sign of a company culture that leads to burnout, which is something candidates (especially millennials and Gen-Z) aren’t willing to accept.
In a tough job market, one of the best ways to hire the best people is to showcase a culture of collaboration, trust, and respect — and candidates attract to a culture like that are less likely to ever ghost you.
Long story short — ghosting will probably continue to happen to candidates, recruiters, and companies. But with clear communication, well-designed processes, and transparent company culture, you can minimize the amount of ghosting on all sides and reduce the time, costs, and effort needed to get a new employee who is happy to jump into their new role.
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