Not only are employers nationwide facing a new shortage of job applicants, but they are also facing an increase in candidate ghosting. As job candidates continue to leave employers wondering why they failed to call back or show up to interviews, employers have become increasingly interested in how to prevent these ghosting encounters. Join us as we outline what ghosting is, why it’s happening, and what employers can do to prevent it.
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“Ghosting: the ‘grown-up’ way of putting your fingers in your ears and going ‘Lalala I CAN’T HEEAAR YOU!’” - Kay & Black Talent Management
What is 'ghosting'?
The Society of Human Resource Management defines ghosting as “severing all communication with someone without any explanation or warning” (Deichler, 2021). Ghosting happens when either job candidates or employers experience an abrupt cut-off of communication after conversing about employment. Unfortunately, ghosting happens on both sides of the spectrum: for the job candidate and the employer (Deichler, 2021). Current surveys show that 77% of job candidates say that “they’ve been ghosted by an employer” and similarly, 76% of employers have also reported being ghosted by job candidates. Furthermore, only 27% of employers reported that they “haven’t ghosted a job seeker in the past year” (Threlkeld, 2021). The data tells us that employers and employees are ghosting each other, but why?
Why are people ghosting?
“Ghosting is simple. They were afraid to be honest…” - Myles Scott
Undisclosed motives of candidates seeking higher pay
One possible reason for ghosting is that employers pay a premium for candidates who present with multiple job offers, and they frequently pay more for the candidates that can show higher market value. For example, Google will top any competitor's job offer to get the best candidate… however you have to show you have a legitimate job offer. Therefore, many candidates are spending time getting multiple offers (wasting other companies time) so that they can present their best offers, improve their pay, and work for their desired employers. This has been done for years by corporations that require 3 bids for all purchased items, where one winner is selected, and two companies are losers in this scenario. It’s now the employees doing this to employers.
The reason employers and employees are ghosting might be more deep-seated than organizational challenges. The Society of Human Resource Management speculates that ghosting “may be indicative of the broader social trend” of conflict avoidance. Robin Rosenberg a clinical psychologist and CEO claims that the younger generation of job seekers and hiring managers might be more comfortable with ghosting because they grew up texting. She states that people who grew up texting would practice “not replying to texts that might lead to hard conversations” thus decreasing their ability to have difficult conversations (Deichler, 2021).
When job candidates decide that they are no longer interested in employment, they are likely to ghost the hiring manager in order to avoid a difficult conversation about why they are choosing to do so and potential disappointment from that hiring manager. For much of the same reasons, employers might prevent contacting a job candidate after an interview because they do not want to tell them that their job application was denied. Laura Mazzullo, founder and owner of East Side Staffing, states that “fear” often “paralyzes” hiring managers “from even sending an e-mail” (Deichler, 2021).
Lack of organization
Workplace culture consultant, Heidi Kurter, states that one of the reasons job candidates might be ghosting hiring managers is because “candidates perceive disorganized and drawn-out interview processes as a sign of a disorganized workplace” (2021). Job candidates that perceive a lack of organization in the hiring process, can be signaled to a lack of corporate organization. A stressful and confusing hiring process potentially indicates a stressful and confusing workplace. As the sansdemic increasingly empowers the job candidate versus the employer, job seekers are able to choose from a variety of available jobs. The competition between employers has never been greater and the hiring process of an organization gives job candidates direct insight into their prospective workplace. The newly empowered employee can then invest in multiple hiring processes choosing the one that is best and ghosting the others.
“Clear communication is necessary to management success…” - James Cash Penney
Another potential reason for ghosting is a lack of clear communication between job candidates and hiring managers. Studies have shown that up to 15% of job candidates who have ghosted employers say they did so “because they didn’t know how to remove themselves from consideration” (Lewis, 2019). Another 13% of employers “mention general communication problems with the recruiter” (Lewis, 2019). Furthermore, over 60% of employers believe that “improved communications” could reduce their chances of experiencing ghosting (Lewis, 2019).
How to prevent ghosting
“Your success is based on how many uncomfortable conversations you’re willing to have” - Tim Ferris
Discourage ghosting by increasing the effort needed to apply
Pre-employment candidates that are merely seeking to get an offer from you, to present competitive pay data to their current employers, might be discouraged to ghost you if your hiring process requires more work from them to get an offer. For example, if you require past work samples, homework, or tests, candidates might be discouraged to get their "2nd” offer from you, and might seek an easier target.
Defeat the fear
Because one of the primary reasons for ghosting is conflict avoidance, it is important for hiring managers to be trained in conflict management (Deichler, 2021). Emboldening managers to contact job candidates can reduce the amount of ghosting that job candidates encounter and display to job candidates that ghosting is not acceptable. Employers can also give job candidates a way to notify them without fear of conflict via email or instant messaging. For example, when emailing potential job candidates, emails can include an option for job candidates to indicate that they are no longer interested in the position. This link could serve two purposes by also sending job candidates to a short survey, giving them the option to explain why they are leaving the candidate pool. This survey can be an indicator of errors or challenges within the hiring process or potential issues with compensation rates, etc.
Clarify the hiring process
To avoid job candidate ghosting due to disorganized hiring processes, employers can outline the hiring process, clearly explaining each stage, and what to expect if a candidate continues in the hiring process or are disqualified. This benefits the overall impression of the organization and gives candidates an understanding of when to expect to be contacted (Lewis, 2019).
“Clarity is the key to effective leadership.” - Brian Tracy
Develop clear communication methods
Clarifying how, and when, job candidates will be contacted reduces the ambiguity that several job candidates claim as the reason for their ghosting. In today’s digital age, notifications and emails can easily slip through the cracks. Giving job candidates an additional heads up can prevent this by encouraging them to keep an eye on their emails and voicemails (Lewis, 2019).
The main takeaway
Ghosting has unfortunately become a part of the modern hiring process (Deichler, 2021). However, it does not have to continue. To prevent job candidate ghosting, businesses can embolden hiring managers by training them in conflict management. This can help hiring managers to have difficult conversations about salary, job disqualification, and other negotiations related to the hiring process. Doing this exemplifies the importance of follow-up and the inappropriateness of ghosting behaviors to job candidates. Employers can also make it easy for job candidates to exit the candidate pool by offering automized links or surveys to avoid confrontation altogether. Furthermore, employers can clarify the hiring process and embrace clear communication strategies to further discourage job applicant ghosting.
“Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity.” - Nat Turner
Deichler, A. (2021, May 11). How to Stop Perpetuating 'Ghosting' Culture. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/how-to-stop-perpetuating-ghosting-culture-.aspx
Kay & Black. (n.d.). Ghosting And The Art Of Disappearing. Retrieved from https://www.kayandblack.com/ghosting-and-the-art-of-disappearing/
Kurter, H. L. (2020, January 01). Employers: Here Are 3 Reasons Why Candidates Are Ghosting You. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/heidilynnekurter/2020/12/31/employers-here-are-3-reasons-why-candidates-are-ghosting-you/?sh=1825aa5f39d8
Lewis, L. (2019, August 26). The Ghosting Guide: An Inside Look at Why Job Seekers Disappear. Retrieved from https://www.indeed.com/lead/ghosting-guide?hl=en&co=US
Lewis, L. (2019, August 30). Who You Gonna Call? How to Stop Ghosting in its Tracks. Retrieved from https://www.indeed.com/lead/strategies-to-stop-ghosting?hl=en&co=US
Threlkeld, K. (2021, February 11). Employer Ghosting: A Troubling Workplace Trend. Retrieved from https://www.indeed.com/lead/impact-of-covid-19-on-job-seeker-employer-ghosting
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