Why Ghosting Is A Two-Way Street, And How Companies Can Avoid This

By Dan Schawbel

The following is an excerpt from my FREE Workplace Intelligence Insider Newsletter.

If you haven’t heard of the term “ghosting,” I can tell you that it doesn’t have anything to do with Halloween, despite today’s date. Ghosting refers to the practice of abruptly cutting off communication with someone, without any warning and with no apparent reason. Although the term originated in the world of online dating, it’s now found its way into other aspects of people’s lives, including the workplace.

In fact, we’ve heard a lot over the past few years about job seekers ghosting employers. Some candidates may disappear early on in the process, after an initial job screen or interview. Others are taking it a step further — for example, accepting an offer and then never being heard from again, or even not showing up for their first day of work.

Although candidate ghosting is by no means a new phenomenon, it’s more common now than it was before the pandemic. Research from Indeed finds that 76% of businesses have been ghosted within the past year, with candidates most likely to do so because they’ve received a more attractive job offer or they’ve heard negative feedback about their prospective employer.

Of course, part of this can be chalked up to the tight labor market. Right now, there are 1.7 job openings for every unemployed worker, which means that employees have all the bargaining power. And if workers feel like they won’t be treated well, or they’ll just be cogs in a machine — a common sentiment among frontline staff and those in service industries — they may not hesitate to disappear without warning.

Many experts believe that the rise of ghosting is also linked to the increase in remote working brought on the pandemic. For a remote applicant, it can feel easy to justify ghosting an employer when they’re unlikely to ever cross paths again with someone from the company. It’s part of the much broader problems around disconnectedness and poor digital communication practices that are plaguing remote workplaces across the globe.

But although candidate ghosting can be enormously problematic for businesses, we have to remember that workplace ghosting is actually a two-way street. In fact, indeed found that 77% of job seekers have been ghosted by a prospective employer since the onset of the pandemic, with 10% reporting that an employer ghosted them even after a verbal job offer was made. Similar research from Greenhouse discovered that more than 75% of job seekers have been ghosted after an interview.

This may seem surprising, given everything we’ve been hearing about how much companies are struggling to fill roles. It could be that fears of a possible recession have shifted some of the power back to employers, at least for the time being. However, one journalist contends that the increase in ghosting among employers is simply the continuation of a trajectory that was in place prior to the pandemic.

No matter the reason behind this trend, it’s a huge mistake for employers to ghost job seekers. That’s because a poor candidate experience hurts your business in ways you may not even be aware of. When candidates don’t hear back from you, they’re more likely to never apply for a job again, complain about your company to their peers, and shop at a competitor. They’re also more likely to spread the word about their experience online — and if potential clients or job seekers can easily uncover this information, they may think twice about working with (or for) your company.

I know several people who’ve been ghosted by employers, and it’s discouraging no matter how far along you are in the hiring process. But I understand that candidate ghosting is immensely frustrating for employers too, especially amidst the ongoing talent shortage. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to decrease this practice, both among job seekers and also among your HR teams.

Source: Dan Schawbel, New York Times Bestselling Author & Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence

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