The troubling trend of ghosting in job recruitment

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The phenomenon of ending contact without explanation is on the rise, not just in the dating world, but throughout the enterprise, as job seekers and employers are now ghosting each other.

Image: iStock/iego-cervo

In the summer of 2015, it made its way into the public vernacular as a burn: Charlize Theron allegedly ended her relationship with Sean Penn by not replying to texts or calls, and the media had a field day with a previously little-used term coined by New York writer Hannah VanderPoel, the year before—ghosting.

Now, ghosting has been co-opted to aptly describe what employers and job-seekers have apparently been doing to each other and describes a rather alarming trend, revealed in a new Indeed report, “Employer Ghosting: Troubling Workplace Trend.” Although interestingly, on VanderPoel’s little-seen, but excellently executed satirical video “Ghoster’s Paradise,” the top comment (by Daniel Medrano, 2015) opined, “Interviewers have been doing this for decades to potential employees.”  

In other words, maybe HR ghosting is not really new but developed significantly enough to make the leap from a dating descriptor to a recruitment one. And it’s an appropriate description for what is, at its core, bad behavior, social ineptitude, or laziness. 

SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

From the moment students are taught how to write a resume, they’re advised to complete  socially expected exchanges, apply for a job, or request an interview. During that interview, dress well, be appropriate, highlight what you can bring to the company. After the interview, write a polite, error-free thank you note. If you haven’t received a response in a week (or the time frame the employer wants to make a hire), you can follow up with another email or a call (preferably not at the company’s crunch time). 

Indeed’s survey of 500 job seekers and 500 employers revealed that ghosting appeared to be on the rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed found that since the start of the pandemic (the baseline is after Feb. 1, 2020), 77% of job seekers said they’ve been ghosted by a prospective employer, and 10% were still ghosted after a verbal job offer was presented to them.

And it can leave an applicant anxious to begin a career, confused. “In early March (2020) I had applied for a coordinator position at a media company, and went through multiple rounds of phone and video interviews by late April,” said graphic designer Margaret Gallagher, 23, who graduated from Fordham University Lincoln Center the previous summer, and was staying in the city to work. 

“The hiring manager reached out and said he was ready to make an offer, but the recruiting department told him the company was going into a hiring freeze,” she explained. “Then there was a back and forth of emails over the next few months. He said that they expected the hiring freeze to end by the new year. I told him that I was very flexible on the timeline. In the end, I read that the majority of the employees were laid off in a company reorganization.”

But, as the report notes, ghosting in this situation “is a two-way street,” and 28% of job seekers said in 2020, they ghosted an employer (in 2019, that percentage was 18%). Conversely, and in the same time frame, 76% of employers said not only were they ghosted, but 57% said it’s become more common. 

The report said: “Some employers say candidates are cutting off communications early in the hiring process—after an initial phone screen or interview, for instance. But others take it further, with one-quarter of employers reporting new hires ‘no-showing’ on their first day of work.” 

Almost half of the job seekers surveyed admitted they ceased communicating with a prospective employer, while another 46% didn’t show up for a scheduled interview. And of those actually hired, 7% failed to show up on their first day. 

Job seekers are ghosting because they received another offer (20%), were unhappy with the offered salary (13%), and decided it wasn’t the right job for them (15%). For the last 12 months, 4% of job seekers said COVID-19 was the reason for ghosting a potential employer, and 48% cited the convenient, “employers are probably being ghosted more often during the pandemic,” as if that would excuse their bad behavior. Only 27% of job seekers said they haven’t ghosted an employer in the past year.

Job seekers also don’t have a lot of confidence in employers, as 51% believe employers are ghosting more than before, and they’re worried about the negative consequences of ghosting. Sixty-five percent who ghosted an employer worried they did it; only 41% felt this way in the previous year; 54% regret their decision to ghost (in 2019, it was 32%).

And job seekers should be concerned 54% said they experienced repercussions from ghosting an employer, considerably higher than 6% who reported consequences in 2019. Employers are keeping score: 93% keep records of ghosters (only 7% said they don’t, down from 13% in 2019). Of those who keep records, 26% track applicants who stop responding, 35% note who doesn’t turn up for an interview, and 33% record those who don’t show up on the first day. 

woman-looking-at-watch-person-late-not-showing-up-fluxfactory.jpg

Don’t ghost an interview or worse yet, the first day of a new job.

Image: iStock/fluxfactory

Most employers, 80%, said candidates who ghost will experience a negative impact on their future job search or career (in 2019, it was 70%). They also apparently believe ghosters will learn their lesson, because this year 53% dubbed ghosting a moderate or serious problem, and 59% did last year.

Indeed concluded the report highlighted ghosting’s evolution, noting it started as a practice of job seekers which emerged as a trend among employers. It’s apparently “deeply rooted” in the hiring process, but there are steps employers can take “to minimize the impact of ghosting,” such as keeping detailed records of candidates who ghost and “finding a way to target the source of the behavior in order to prevent it altogether.”

“There needs to be a focus on attentiveness and improved communications throughout every stage of the process is critical to ensure the candidate feels informed,” Indeed said. “Research revealed job seekers ghost when they don’t feel their needs are being met and don’t know what else to do. “Being transparent, empathetic and authentic can go a long way in building more comfort and trust into your relationship with the candidate.”

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Image: iStock/Ivan Balvan

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