Ghosting. It’s an unwelcome trend in business that’s driven by the people your business most needs – new employees.

In the dating world, being ghosting is when someone ends a relationship and severs all contact without warning. Previously in the world of work, it’s been recruiters and organisations who have ghosted those looking for a job. The prospective employee has been screened by a recruiter who never contacts them again (bad practice we know). Or, they have applied for a job and received no communication or a short note says “Thanks, we’ll be in touch” and never hears from the company again. (Again, not good practice.)

Turning the tables

However, in the labour market where demand outstrips demand, applicants are turning the tables. They are ghosting prospective employers by not attending interviews with no notice or explanation. Or, they are accepting the job and even coming into work for one day before disappearing without trace. It’s not just big businesses that are being hit; our small business members here in Woodstock have experienced this first hand too.

As one Canadian recruiting firm told CBC:

“For some jobs, about 20 to 25 per cent of candidates could drop out of an active hiring process without explanation, even after receiving a verbal offer of employment.”

The reason, suggests the CBC article, is that younger candidates in the first few years of their career are looking for the best option possible. That means they may be applying for several roles at once, and so be waiting to see which company offers the best deal for them. They may use one offer as leverage for another, whilst leaving other employers’ offers hanging.

Embarrassment or entitlement?

Older candidates may be embarrassed to admit they have multiple offers and hence never respond to offers. However, younger candidates, especially those working in technology, appear to have a feeling of entitlement. They feel they should be progressing in their careers at a rapid rate, and hence are job-hopping for the promotions and salaries they feel they deserve. Indeed one recruiter reckoned that:

“There’s so much opportunity that the people who ghost feel no need to be transparent or considerate.”

Lindsey Pollak, a consultant on multigenerational issues at work quoted by the Wall Street Journal suggest it’s also a generational shift.

“This is the generation that breaks up by text message, so in a professional context, to have to let someone down or give bad news was terrifying.”

Better to die than reply

Some candidates go to extraordinary lengths to avoid the awkward conversation with their would-be employer. The Wall Street Journal article describes how one recruiter called a candidate’s home to check why he hadn’t arrived for his first day in a new role. The phone was answered by someone saying he was the man’s uncle, and the man had died unexpectedly. He hadn’t:

“He ended up staying with his current employer, but he didn’t have the guts to say so. It was a lot easier to pretend to die.”

The business cost of ghosting

Ghosting candidates are not just an inconvenience for businesses, they also waste valuable time, energy and hiring budgets. A company that invests considerable effort into finding the right people for positions, only to have them disappear without explanation, will take a considerable knock to their brand confidence too. It’s hard not to ask “Why don’t they want to work here? We offer so much!”.

Ghosting and your career

For the candidate, ghosting is a risky strategy for career advancement. The person they ghosted at one company may end up as the recruiter for the job they really want at another company. The same applies to recruiters, who may well refuse to work with candidates who have ghosted them in the past.

Instead, transparency and honesty is much better in the long term. Managing multiple offers is possible and sensible, but it does involve communication and clarity between candidate and company.

  • As a candidate, you’ll want to properly compare job offers, and that takes time. So, let each prospective employer involved know this is what you are doing. When you do accept an offer, make sure you inform the other two companies, explain your reasons, and thank them for their interest in you.
  • As a company, discuss with job candidates the timeframe you require before you need their decision. Don’t be defensive and say you need a reply ASAP when they say they have multiple offers. Set a deadline that works for both you and the candidate. After all, if they don’t stick to the deadline or then ghost you, your company has avoided hiring someone who may not fit your company ethos or work ethics

How to prevent your candidates ghosting you

An article in Personnel Today suggests three straightforward ways your business can avoid being haunted by ghosting job applicants.

1. Show your business as a place where team members progress

“Social media and immersive storytelling have made work environments and company origin stories more tangible than ever to potential new hires.”

2. Don’t overautomate recruitment

“Use candidate engagement techniques and data to increase your chances of success…. You’re far more likely to get a candidate in for an interview if you schedule it in the morning than in the afternoon.”

3. Write great job descriptions

“If your dream candidate applied to other positions more recently than yours, it is likely that these are at the forefront of their mind. Therefore, it’s important that you continue selling your jobs with nuggets of interesting information about your company and the job.”

Recruiting? Start networking!

One of the most reliable ways to find new employees is to ask other businesses how they found their staff. Unless they are a direct competitor, most business owners will empathise with the issues of ghosting, and may share some tips with you.

That’s what our regular monthly networking Business After Five events are all about – sharing experiences, information and helping our Woodstock business community grow and thrive. After all, the more businesses that succeed here, the most potential employees will want to work here.

So, as the movie soundtrack says, when your business is being haunted by ghosting, who you gonna call? Your Chamber!