The candidate who excelled during their interviews disappears during the final step of the hiring process. That enthusiastic college grad who accepts your job offer never makes it through onboarding. The promising new hire who settles so easily into their new role vanishes after two weeks without formal notice, unresponsive to texts and voicemails.
It’s called ghosting. A concept typically associated with dating, ghosting happens when someone unexpectedly ends a relationship and withdraws from all communication. Today, it’s one more unwelcomed consequence of a tight labor market tormenting the corporate world.
Candidate-Driven Market Shifts the Balance of Power
We’ve all heard stories about companies ghosting on candidates. But now, with more jobs than qualified people to take them, candidates are emboldened, readily disregarding established protocols and disappearing without warning. A recent article in USA Today reports companies finding “20 to 50 percent of job applicants and workers are pulling no-shows in some form,” and this “bizarre trend … is starting to feel like a commonplace occurrence.” LinkedIn Editor-in-Chief Dan Roth concurs, telling “CBS This Morning” in a recent interview that the job market is so hot that it’s becoming “easier just to stop showing up than to say, ‘no,’ or, ‘Thank you for reaching out to me about this job — I don’t actually it want anymore’.”
Although ghosting is more frequent in entry-level or hourly positions, it is also evident at higher levels, especially when companies utilize junior recruiters who lack the experience in engaging more practiced candidates.
Job Hunting Goes Casual
Candidates today have an abundance of job search avenues available to them, causing the job-seeking experience to become more diluted and impersonal. The net is cast so wide that in many cases candidates don’t even recall how they came upon a particular opportunity and approach communication casually throughout the recruitment process. When it gets tough, or if the candidate experience becomes shaky, it creates a decision point which includes exiting quickly and ghosting rather than having a direct and potentially difficult conversation with the recruiter.
Companies, too, are utilizing more technology to engage and communicate with candidates. While this has its benefits in terms of efficiency, there is no substitute for a good recruiter who can engage a candidate throughout the process with a professional, compelling offer and create an experience centered on the candidate, not the job. Plus, candidates may feel more compelled to respond when they know they are communicating with a person rather than a robot.
Candor and Engagement Are Key
The uptick in ghosting is taking a toll on hiring managers and recruiters already dealing with the impact of prolonged hiring cycles on budgets, sales and operations. If you are rethinking practices to keep ghosting in check, here are ideas to get you started:
- Be upfront about ghosting. Clearly communicate to the candidate that you are both investing time in the interview process and committing to keeping each other informed throughout. Tell them you expect to be updated if something changes on their end and encourage openly expressing intentions regardless of how tough that conversation may be. Mentioning whether a candidate is a referral is also helpful since that awareness usually makes the person feel more accountable.
- Keep candidates engaged. Explain the different steps of your recruiting process, giving preset times for each step including when an offer might be made. In addition to shortening the time interval between offer acceptance and the physical start date, work with your hiring manager to start the onboarding process during this timeframe. For example, send out pre-reading material ahead of time and even consider shipping their laptop.
- Close the loop with the candidate. While most teams are seeing ghosting on the front-end, if you are experiencing drop-offs later in the process, do everything possible to close the loop with the candidate and get the feedback you need to understand what went wrong. Send a cordial email recognizing that while they did step out of the process, you’d still value their feedback to help improve your company’s candidate experience — and even consider leaving the door open for them. While you might not get a response right away, your email will be seen.
- Stop treating candidates like commodities. Too many recruiters try to shoehorn candidates. Take the time to make sure your interactions with candidates are welcoming, personalized and demonstrate the benefits you offer relative to their unique situation.
In a growth economy where labor pressures are high, ghosting is likely here to stay. But, it should become less of a problem when companies get smarter about engagement and keep their focus on the candidate.