Ghosting is a well-known and nasty phenomenon of the dating world. It’s that moment when someone you’ve been dating or building a rapport with sudden cuts off all communication and contact.
But ghosting is also becoming an increasing issue when recruiting staff, either when a candidate who has been offered or accepted a job disappears or when an employer never responds to an applicant after an interview. As with dating, it’s just as thoughtless, and potentially damaging to those who do it and those who are on the receiving end.
According to a survey of US job seekers and employers carried out by Indeed, 28 per cent of applicants have ghosted an employer, which is somewhat at odds with employer experience, where 76 per cent say they have been ghosted. It’s a two-way street, however, with 77 per cent of job seekers saying they have been ghosted by a prospective employer.
So, why does it happen and what’s the fallout from ghosting?
In a tight labour market like the current Australian one, there may be several reasons why a candidate ghosts an employer. It could be they have had a better offer, or their current employer has made a counteroffer, or it just may be that they’ve decided to stay put for the time being. It could also be that they get a bad feeling during the interview or they’ve read some off-putting comments in the market about the recruiting company, but they lack the skills to turn down an offer.
The same is true from the employer’s side, where failing to follow up with a candidate again might be due to not wanting to give negative feedback or let the person know they’ve been turned down. It’s important to develop the skill needed to lean into those difficult conversations.
The battle to find the right candidate for a role means many recruiters are hyper-focused on where they can make wins, and that can lead some to drop the ball on the follow-up process with unsuccessful candidates. That’s not good for long-term relationships, but unfortunately, it does happen.
Furthermore, since COVID, many interviews have become virtual and it’s much easier to ghost someone you haven’t met in person because you’re less emotionally invested in them.
What employers and recruitment agencies need to do is ensure they have good human resource managers to oversee the process and make sure the candidate’s experience is a good one.
Automation is another tool businesses can use to ensure they don’t ghost candidates – for example, a quick automated email to let an applicant know they haven’t been successful, to wish them well and to say you’ll be in touch if anything else comes up.
We do get applicants who might have been shortlisted for a job and just disappear, only to pop up again three months later responding to another job offer. That’s a dangerous position to find yourself in as an applicant, and one that can easily be avoided by simply sending an email explaining why you’re turning down an offer.
Ghosting is clearly a source of frustration for all parties. Regardless of whether you’re recruiting or a job seeker, be open and honest because no one wants to be ghosted. Recruiters won’t be put off by a candidate who lets them know they are entertaining other offers. It may even put you in a stronger negotiating position. And, honest communications, even those hard conversations about bad company reviews, are good skills to have.