A survey conducted in 2016 by the dating site Plenty of Fish found that 78% of single millennials have been ghosted at least once. In case you’re not familiar with this popular term, Urban Dictionary defines ghosting like this:
“When a person cuts off all communication with their friends or the person they’re dating, with zero warning or notice beforehand. You’ll mostly see them avoiding friend’s phone calls, social media, and avoiding them in public. For example – I haven’t seen Tom in 3 months. I think he may be ghosting me.”
As we’re nearing Valentine’s day, we may hear more about this term in the media and everyday life. Ghosting is the easiest way for people ages 18-33 to avoid commitment. Instead of facing the person they were dating and telling them they don’t see this relationship going anywhere, they simply prefer to ignore their existence, hoping the other side will take the hint. This is made easy by the fact that most of the millennial communication is done by texting and social media. The other party can be simply blocked from their phone, and confrontation is avoided.
You may be wondering why we’re talking about dating in a blog dedicated to HR. The reason is that ghosting has now become a wider phenomenon, which is starting to take place in other forms of life as well. Millennials basically saw that it’s working well in their dating life, and decided to adopt this habit in their job searches, too. A survey conducted by Clutch in August of 2018 found that 41% of jobseekers find it acceptable to ghost a recruiter or an employer during the hiring process. Not only that, while most only support ghosting in the early stages of the process, nearly 1 in 10 believe it’s reasonable for a candidate to ghost after accepting a job offer.
Why are jobseekers ghosting recruiters?
If you’ve ever encountered a candidate that won’t return your emails and calls, even after you’ve talked to them several times, and even scheduled an interview where they failed to show up, chances are you’ve been ghosted in the hiring process. But the important thing to understand is that most candidates are not doing this just to be mean. There’s usually a good reason behind their lack of communication.
1. The Candidate Accepted a Role Elsewhere
According to Clutch, this is the top reason for applicants to be ghosting recruiters left and right. It makes perfect sense, as in 2018 the US job market reached a tipping point where there were more job openings than unemployed workers to fill them. In March of last year, there was a record of professionals quitting their jobs as well, with almost two thirds who quit voluntarily. All of this is to say that jobseekers now have more options than ever before. If they are interviewing with several places at once, it’s easier to say yes once, and ignore all of the noes.
2. The Candidate was Ghosted by The Company
We may be talking about this phenomenon in the hiring process more because it’s being done by applicants, but if we’re being completely honest, companies have a long history of ghosting candidates as well. So much so, that the same survey (that polled joobseekers), found that 35% of them think it’s okay to ghost job candidates. Meaning this is a two-way street, where both parties expect to be treated the same.
So if a candidate doesn’t hear from a recruiter in two or three weeks, they may email to enquire, or if they are really interested in the role, even follow up with a call. But if there’s no response, they’ll assume it’s a no and simply move on. If this recruiter returns after a month, they will simply ignore their calls, as they’ve already found something better (or simply don’t want to deal with that recruiter). It doesn’t matter if the recruiter had a good reason for not responding – maybe the position was frozen, maybe there were budgetary issues, internal restructuring — all the candidate knows is that not responding means no, as it is in most cases.
3. The Candidate Had Doubts About the Employer
As candidates often apply and interview for more than one position at a time, they have the luxury of picking the one that most suits their dream job. This means that if at any point during the hiring process they find out something about the role or the company, that feels “off”, they can choose not to pursue this any further, and simply disappear.
This is where the job posting plays a crucial role. Many times a candidate will apply to a position based on a very general job description, only to find out later it is not what they had in mind, at which point they decide to ghost. They can also ghost when an employer refuses to answer questions about the salary or promotion options, or provide other information over the phone.
Avoiding Being Ghosted in The Hiring Process
The most important thing for recruiters and hiring managers to practice in order to avoid being ghosted is better communication. Try and learn the candidate’s long-term goals and aspirations, while being attentive to their questions and concerns to keep them engaged. This is a part of a bigger trend in recruiting, which looks at the candidate more like a client, and tries to understand how to improve their hiring experience.
Another way to avoid the ghosting candidates is to make the hiring process as short and efficient as possible. This can start, as mentioned, just by writing an accurate job post. Other ways include using Applicant Tracking Systems to streamline the process, video interview tools to cut down on time between interviews, HR Analytics and more. Always keep in mind that your candidate has other options, so do everything you can to make them choose your company.