‘Ghosting’ in recruitment: a growing candidate trend

Man interviews an empty chair
Photo: Shutterstock/Dragon Images

In the world of modern dating, few things leave the sting of confusion and despair as much as being ghosted. Othamar Gama Filho suggests three ways of avoiding the phenomenon crossing over into recruitment

For anyone who has been lucky enough to avoid the experience, ghosting is when someone you’re dating is suddenly unresponsive to your messages and calls, vanishing almost like a phantom on all means of communication. The victim of ghosting is left feeling alone, contemplating what could have been done to have avoided this outcome… and often the answer is nothing.

Ghosting has seeped into other areas of life, particularly the professional world.

Recruiters are dealing with vanishing candidates with increasing regularity. Unfortunately, not every job applicant has the courtesy to show up to a job interview, or even to call or send a note to say they’re no longer going to be there. It’s even common for a new hire to not show up for the first day of work after having accepted an offer.

It’s created a burdensome challenge for companies not only trying to get qualified candidates in the door, but also making sure that new hires follow through on their commitment and top talent doesn’t vanish unannounced.

But unlike the dating world’s version of ghosting, there are concrete steps that businesses – and especially recruiters – can take to defend against it. Understanding why ghosting happens and understanding how to combat it could very well be the difference between building a solid team and being stuck in the cycle of the perpetual revolving door.

Over a period of 12 months, we analysed more than 55,000 interview results for roles, where workers are paid by the hour, and came away with a clear understanding of, not only why candidate ghosting happens, but also what to do about it.

1 You’re blending in with the crowd

If someone takes the time to fill out a job application or craft a CV and cover letter to send to a hiring manager, it’s safe to assume that that person is in fact looking for a job. And yet, according to some estimates, one in 10 job candidates don’t even show up for scheduled interviews. The problem is candidates often cast a wide net, applying to similar-sounding jobs in the same industry, and it becomes hard to tell one company from the other. The job you’re hiring for is lost in an indiscernible heap of career opportunities.

Not every job applicant has the courtesy to show up to a job interview, or even to call or send a note to say they’re no longer going to be there

To be sure, many industries have always had to deal with the issue of ghosting, particularly those involving manual or low-skill work.

But in a thriving job market, this behaviour becomes more common in the white-collar industries. Staffing firms attest to the fact that ghosting behaviour among professional candidates is more common now than it was even a year or two ago, and it’s because jobseekers have more choice.

Solution: Showcase your company as a place where team members thrive.

When a new candidate is checking out your website or social media to get a glimpse of your work environment, what are they seeing? Nothing at all? Consider yourself in danger of being ghosted.

Social media and immersive storytelling have made work environments and company origin stories more tangible than ever to potential new hires, and any company that wants to stand out in a compelling way has never had easier access to the resources to do so.

Of course, the more your company fosters an environment where staff are able to thrive, the easier it is to showcase it, and the easier it will be to attract the best people to build a thriving enterprise.

2 Your hiring process lacks empathy and a human touch

In a world of AI and smart automation it’s easy to try to let the robots handle everything. Recruiters are usually overwhelmed and trying to juggle dozens of tasks at the same time. There are always new positions to fill and, even though there’s never enough qualified candidates, it always feel like an endless stream of candidates that need to be reviewed. With this being the case, you organise your process in a way that suits you best and keeps everything moving.

Solution: Use candidate engagement techniques and data to increase your chances of success.

Our analysis suggested you’re far more likely to get a candidate in for an interview if you schedule it in the morning than in the afternoon. Monday morning between 9am and 10am in particular has proven to be the best time to schedule an interview, if you want to ensure they’ll show up. In fact they are as much as 27% more likely to be there.

We don’t have a specific reason for this. According to author Daniel Pink, the “Monday effect” marks a temporal landmark when people are particularly motivated to start something new, like a job.

Since we have a very good idea of the time that gives your candidate the best likelihood of showing up, why stack the odds against them?

Also, be mindful of the way you interact with the candidate. It’s not just how you communicate with a candidate – always in a courteous and compassionate manner – but also when. Do not keep them waiting for a response.

3 You are relying too much on a job description that’s ineffective

Sometimes a job title is not as descriptive as you would think, and in fact might entail very different things depending on the company. A business analyst may be crunching numbers at one organisation and working on a sales strategy or delivering reports at another.

Job titles can often entail very different functions, depending on the company and the specific niche it falls under. If the job description and the responsibilities of the role the candidate is applying for are not clear, then the position will slip into an abyss of ghosting vulnerability.

Solution: Write memorable job descriptions

Any good job description must not only specify the exact business needs associated with the role, but also the daily tasks, and the type of background and personality that would best fit the position, and when applicable, the team.

Also, keep in mind that candidates often apply to multiple jobs when they are considering a new job. 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.

Professional ghosting becomes even more common in booming job markets, such as that of today. In the US, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that 2.4% of workers quit their jobs in May 2018, nearly double the 1.3% who quit in May 2010. To attract the top talent and to ensure they won’t vanish – both during the hiring process and once they’re on board – understanding these proactive approaches will go a long way.

Othamar Gama Filho

About Othamar Gama Filho

Othamar Gama Filho is founder and CEO of Talentify, a mobile-first recruitment automation start-up.

8 Responses to ‘Ghosting’ in recruitment: a growing candidate trend

  1. Avatar
    Louise Moseley 16 Jan 2019 at 4:45 pm #

    Some great tips here. Thank you.

  2. Avatar
    Jon Bennett 21 Jan 2019 at 10:34 am #

    I recently had the experience the other way. A recruitment consultant phoning me about a senior role, telling me how suitable I was and that they would call me the following day to tell me what the client said. Then nothing.

    • Avatar
      Scott 2 Feb 2019 at 11:52 am #

      I think its a by-product of modern society, we are becoming increasingly connected to a digital world but are forgetting the basics of human communication.

      Within my staffing business, I go “Bat Shit Crazy” if one of my consultants ignores candidates or refuses to reply back as its inexcusable.

      Ghosting is a pain in the arse and both sides need to acknowledge it and make efforts to stop it.

  3. Avatar
    Scott 2 Feb 2019 at 11:49 am #

    Some great ideas here but you seem to be missing one of the major issues facing the staffing sector – a refusal to accept that some candidates are just plain rude, ignorant have absolutely no respect for the person/firm helping them secure a new role.

    I am sorry but there is absolutely no excuse for someone to just stare at their phone as it rings, knowing its someone chasing them to find out where they are, what went wrong etc. To make a conscious decision to just ignore that person simply makes you a “dick”.

    The funny thing is that the people who do act like this always come back & apply for jobs again. They then seem shocked to realise that hiring managers remember them leaving their application rejected before its even had a chance to be considered.

    Recruitment is not tinder – people don’t need to act like this and bearing in mind that we are living in an increasingly connected world – it’s really hard to defend this type of behaviour when you can see how many people rush to look at their phone the moment a “ping ” is heard within a crowded place.

  4. Avatar
    Ryan 5 Mar 2019 at 11:28 am #

    Some good points here.

    It does seem to be something that is happening more and more frequently, as Scott mentioned it’s an unfortunate by-product of modern day life.

    The Tinder-effect maybe?

  5. Avatar
    Erik 9 Mar 2019 at 5:21 pm #

    This reeks of pearl clutching. I’m losing track of the number of employers who haven’t bothered to let me know they’re not interested. Astonishing to see you turn it around, but hey the era at shamelessness.

  6. Avatar
    Bryant 24 May 2019 at 3:29 pm #

    Hi,

    Very good article, thank you for sharing these details! I have to confess that I had to look up what ghosting actually was. Like Jon shared above, it has happen to me multiple times as the one being recruited. I have been ghosted by recruiters and even HR/hiring managers. It is very frustrating to say the least, not to mention unprofessional and, frankly, rude.

    So some friendly advice to recruiters, HR, and other hiring managers: If after having a call or a couple of calls with a potential candidate and it is determined that person is not a fit or you are perusing another candidate(s), have the decency to let them know with an email. I have much greater respect for those that have. It amazes me that about half don’t. It literally takes less than 2 minutes to send that email.

    Not that it should matter, but I am talking about director-level opportunities.

    Another aspect to consider: Candidates will find a job and those that you have “ghosted” could become your customer in the future and/or will not likely recommend you or your company in any capacity.

    So follow up with a brief “Thanks but we are ….. wish you the best in your search.” If not for the right/polite/professional reasons do it for self serving reasons.

  7. Avatar
    Rabadniertokentorer Marashiona 10 Oct 2019 at 12:02 pm #

    I generally find, as a candidate, this is the other way around. Recruiters constantly ghost candidates. If the trend is happening to recruiters now… well, you only have yourselves to blame.

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