Many people who have explored the world of Internet dating in the past would be familiar with the term “ghosting”, when someone you have been having regular communication with suddenly ends all contact with no explanation or even a goodbye. What’s interesting in the recruitment space is we are now seeing similar disappearing acts from both candidates and employers alike. It could be that an enthusiastic candidate who seemed eager for a role stops responding to correspondence, or an employer who verbally offered a potential employee a job fails to send the employment contract as promised or cancels the role and doesn’t notify the other parties. In both cases, the employer and the candidate have been ghosted. In the age of instant communication, ghosting can be a harsh and abrupt way to avoid difficult conversations when minds are changed or organisational circumstances shift. ‘

In this BBC Worklife article, Why workers and employers are ghosting each other, the 2022 Greenhouse Candidate Experience Report is referenced. After surveying more than 1500 global employees and job seekers, it was revealed 75 per cent of jobseekers had been ghosted by a company after a job interview. Not the most favourable statistic! This article references a recent LinkedIn poll, which revealed “95 per cent of recruiters say they’ve experienced ghosting and a full 40 per cent of candidates believe it’s reasonable to ghost an employer”. What is it that makes good people suddenly ghost and how can we avoid it?

Reasons for ghosting

  • Employers grappling with labour shortages overcompensate by sending out feelers everywhere and are then unable to respond to everyone
  • Employees may be exploring numerous job vacancies, but moving away from several they initially considered as they search for their ideal role
  • Employees may simply be overwhelmed
  • Digitised, virtual or Zoom recruitment removes the inter-person contact, so people feel less inclined to provide updates when they haven’t made a personal connection.

This article attributes the rise in ghosting as a symptom of the current hiring market, with “managers struggling to fill vacancies and skilled candidates fielding multiple job offers. Some job seekers aren’t worried about burning a few bridges along the way toward finding a position they really want”. Employees outlined some reasons they ghosted in the same piece:

  • The interview process was poor
  • They received another job offer
  • The job wasn’t what they expected
  • A mandatory return-to-office policy was implemented.

For a hiring employer, being aware of the common reasons that turn employees away is very helpful to ensure this is not what plays out in your recruitment process.

Ghosting helps uncover undesirable behaviours

Occasional ghosting can actually be a good thing because of what it reveals. As this Guardian article simply explains, ghosting “tells more about a person – and an organisation – than any number of interviews, job references, and employment skills and screening tests”. The reluctance to tell a recruiter about changing circumstances provides invaluable insight about how a candidate generally performs under pressure, and how they would communicate change with customers, suppliers, their fellow employees and other stakeholders if they were actually in the role. Likewise, an organisation that ghosts reveals what their culture is really like, as they fail to live up to their mission statements or core values they promote.

Can we discourage ghosting?

My best advice about how to avoid ghosting is to communicate with your candidates. If you make promises to respond by certain times, honour these commitments, build a friendly rapport, and encourage a situation where a candidate feels they should show you the same courtesy to update you on their employment journey. This article reiterates how to reduce your chances of experiencing ghosting:

  • Streamline your hiring process – accept if your candidate is actively looking for work, they will be engaged with other companies and therefore fielding other offers. Make sure your process is not cumbersome and does not drag on.
  • Treat your candidates with the same consideration and respect as you would like them to show to you.
  • Make an offer difficult to refuse. When you find a strong candidate, ensure your remuneration package matches their expectations, and offer it as soon as you can.
  • Communicate in a way that encourages a response – keep candidates engaged after the interview with follow-up emails, progress updates and open-ended questions.

The recruitment landscape is constantly changing, and we often find ourselves managing new challenges and adapting to ensure we stay effective. Ghosting is just one of these new hurdles we must be aware of, so we can ensure our engagement with potential employees creates an environment where both parties can be clear on their needs and evolving situations. Fundamentally, good communication with an emphasis on relationship building is key if you wish to overcome ghosting. If there are strategies you would like to discuss to help manage similar issues during your recruitment processes, please get in touch – you won’t be ghosted!

Happy recruiting!

Alexandra Monks

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko