It’s happened before, but it always astonishes us. We had spent several weeks with a candidate, coaching them through several interviews with a good company. They accepted the offer, set a start date… and dropped off the face of the earth. They did not show up for the first day of work, and didn’t return calls, texts, or emails from us or the company. Gone.
Ghosting has become more common over the past five years as younger workers have entered the workforce. The most recent generations grew up with digital communication; they prefer to communicate by text whenever possible. Digital communication is easy to turn off or ignore, so ghosting feels like a clean way to break off a relationship, whether it’s personal or professional. It also feels consequence-free; if you never listen to the voicemail or read the email, you don’t get the full brunt of your employer’s angry or confused response.
Add to that the fact that we’re definitely in a seller’s market since the pandemic; jobseekers have most of the leverage in the job search process. They also have plenty of options for other jobs, some of which may have popped up after they accepted the interview (or the offer. Or their lunch break on their first day.)
There are factors that make it more likely that candidates or new hires will ghost the company at various stages for the interviewing and hiring process. One is the increased use of virtual interviewing and remote work. A virtual interview doesn’t have the same emotional impact as a face-to-face meeting. A candidate may be wearing a suit and tie from the waist up but board shorts below eye level; that takes some of the gravitas out of the commitment.
There’s no physical contact during virtual interviews; no looking the recruiter directly in the eye and promising to show up next Monday. No handshake to seal the deal. The candidate doesn’t see the company’s building or neighborhood or experience traveling to the office for the meeting, so anything that’s unpleasant about the environment comes as a surprise. A virtual interview is carefully curated and controlled, so meeting the rest of the staff, finding out how small their cubicle will be, seeing a dingy lobby, or smelling fish in the break room could all be factors that make the new hire reconsider.
Candidates have access to much more information that’s not controlled by the company, so input from other sources may spoil the prospect of the new job. Negative Glassdoor reviews, meeting a disgruntled former employee at a party, or an unfavorable opinion from your best friend about your new gig can also change a candidate’s mind.
And it’s hard to tell someone face-to-face that you’ve changed your mind. Candidates feel bad about disappointing someone who has invested time and energy into making an offer. Channeling your mom means you can expect the recruiter or the manager to be disappointed in you at best – downright angry at worst. Who needs the hassle? Easier to just disappear.
Hirehive.com says the company may be part of the problem. You’re more likely to be ghosted if your hiring process is too long or your communication is ineffective. You’re also more likely to be ghosted if your offer is below market, not competitive as far as benefits and other perks, or if you’re perceived as stingy or bargain-hunting during the negotiation – your competitors can take the opportunity to swoop in with a better offer.
So how can you make it less likely a candidate will ghost you? One way is to communicate early and often. You should check in with a candidate at least once a week during the interview process using their preferred method of contact (probably text.)
Get some intel on your candidate experience. Ask recent hires how they felt during the hiring process and what the company could do better. Ask how their onboarding and first few weeks on the job felt – did that experience match the expectations created during their recruitment?
Hirehive.com says, “To minimize your chances of being ghosted, make sure your hiring process is efficient, tighten up your recruitment communications, and ensure your organization exemplifies its core values. By giving candidates a clear indication of timelines and what to expect, at the beginning of the process, you can manage expectations more effectively and provide a good candidate experience.”