Ghosting has come full-circle. Dozens of websites are devoted to the complaints of candidates who’ve been ghosted by employers — never receiving acknowledgement for their application, no callback after an interview, being left hanging for a hiring decision. And now employers are seeing the same actions (or non-actions) taken against them.
Recruiters who hire for almost every level of employee, from entry-level to management, are experiencing the phenomenon. It runs the gamut from applicants who never respond to initial calls; those who miss interview appointments; candidates who hem and haw over offers, promising to ‘get back to you soon’ with an answer; and those who simply vanish off the face of the earth, never reporting for their first day on the job.
In relationship-speak, ghosting is clear: no response is the response. As the market tightens, with competition getting even more fierce, ghosting may be a new paradigm.
The new normal
How common is ghosting? The phenomenon may be learned behavior from when employers would ghost candidates.
It may be that some candidates and employees believe its acceptable business etiquette. In a recent piece, LinkedIn suggested ghosting may be partly due to inexperience. Younger workers who aren’t accustomed to multiple job offers may simply not know how to say no politely and professionally.
To save time, some recruiters are starting to act like doctors or airlines, LinkedIn said — double booking interview slots, particularly for entry-level openings, in anticipation that up to half the candidates will no show. Others recommend hiring managers remain in a continuous recruitment mode to adjust for those who will walk off the job without notice. This, of course, could lead to more candidates being held at bay, which of course could lead to them believing they’ve been ghosted: bad manners coming full circle.
At its core, ghosting is a lack of communication. To minimize the chances of it happening at your company, it’s important to communicate in a way that invites job seekers and employees to be forthright. If a candidate can’t make the interview or won’t accept the offer, a recruiter can let them know he or she understands, but that the company would appreciate the honesty and professionalism of an upfront word. Another tack may be to gently let candidates know they would be eliminated from consideration for any future openings if they failed to make the interview or accept an offer without notification.
The vanishing employee
The first weeks can be critical for retention. More than one-fourth of employees quit within 90 days of hire, a Robert Half survey revealed last year — and much of that upfront grief can be tied back directly to a poor onboarding process.
Arun Prakash, chief learning architect and executive vice president at Infopro Learning, said the remedy for the evaporating employee could be a structured onboarding system that creates connections and gives purpose to the work. "HR leaders must evaluate their onboarding programs to make sure they’re communicating how their organization will fulfill their side of the contract," Prakash told HR Dive in an email, "defining what success at the organization looks like, explaining where the new employee will fit in at the organization, and illuminating how their individual impact feeds into the success of the company at large."
The same holds true for existing employees. Whenever there’s a transition — promotion, transfer, even mergers or downsizing — shifting your onboarding programs to re-board employees can keep the lines of communication open.
An eye on the future can be a strong motivator for retention, even in a competitive market. "By ramping up your development plans to include career growth plans, self-directed learning and two-way continuous feedback, HR leaders can make a measurable difference in building and maintaining their talent bench," Prakash said. While recruiters and even bots may be trying to lure staff away, a solid career path within the organization can help keep them on your payroll.
"I am inclined to believe that the primary reason why someone would abruptly leave a job without notice is due to bad relationships in the workplace," Jim Stroud, global head of sourcing and recruiting strategy for Randstad Sourceright, told HR Dive in an email. "People leave bad managers and workplace bullies in order to find a safe space in another work environment. I think explaining that reason makes people feel more vulnerable than they are comfortable with, so they avoid detailing the reason to avoid the discomfort of the situation."
Stroud suggested a secondary reason to walk off the job: "If a worker is feeling that their career is going nowhere, they are disengaged at work and their workplace relationships are nil, then it’s an easy choice to walk away and not look back."
You can curb some of this behavior with a stellar candidate experience, Stroud said.
"Hiring managers should follow up with job seekers as much as possible, give them a timeline on when you expect to fill the role and the negative consequences for the enterprise if it is not filled in a timely fashion," he added. Employers can also try generating excitement about the company by disclosing available career paths and how others have risen within the ranks from the same starting position.
"Create a workplace culture of transparency and communication by personally speaking to each person that was interviewed and/or sending a handwritten note. Such things will reach social media, reflect well on your employer brand and make it easier to attract people who will show up for work," Stroud said.
Whatever the motivation for ghosting, it’s clearly a growing problem for employers. Keeping the employer brand in mind when hiring may help — as well as opting not to ghost employees in return.