How Employers Can Avoid Being Ghosted
Tables have turned on hiring managers as new hires simply “disappear” before reporting for work
You’re a hiring manager and you have just landed the best candidate you can imagine. A “purple squirrel” in the words of a recruiter. In other words, a one in a thousand find.
But all of a sudden, one week before their start date, the candidate goes underground. No communication. No contact. You reach out but nobody’s home. When their start date rolls around, they are a no-show for onboarding.
What happened? Well, you’ve been ghosted.
In the highly competitive tech world, recruiters and hiring managers have found a fertile job market (the unemployment rate is lower than it has been in almost two decades) and a sustained labor shortage have contributed to an unpleasant trend of candidates abruptly cutting off contact and turning silent —behavior more often found with online dating than job hunting.
Where once it was companies ignoring job applicants or ghosting candidates after interviews, the world has flipped. Candidates agree to job interviews and fail to show up, never saying more. Some accept jobs, only to not appear for the first day of work, no reason given. Instead of formally quitting and enduring a potentially awkward conversation with a manager, some employees just leave and never return.
Why Is This Happening?
Some of the behavior may stem not from spite, but inexperience. Tech pros who entered the workforce a decade ago, during the height of the Great Recession, have never encountered a job market this strong. Presented with multiple opportunities, they face a decision some have rarely made — actually saying no to an attractive job offer.
Technology adds another factor to the equation. Social media and messaging apps help establish relationships quicker, but a lack of face-to-face conversation and personal contact often make for relationships that lack depth. It’s well-documented that many individuals will end relationships simply by texting their decisions, rather than go through painful, personal conversations. If it’s that easy to end a relationship, why not a job?
What Can I Do About It?
While employers can’t do much to change ghosting behavior, they can take some steps to rethink how they operate.
Interview Continuously. Sounds like a hassle, but since it’s unclear when someone may abruptly drop out of the process you need to protect yourself for that eventuality. Kind of like an airline overbooking seats, knowing that some passengers will cancel or not show up for their flight.
Move Quickly. Candidates who have multiple job offers may jump at the first one they get. If your hiring process is slow and cumbersome, they might become frustrated with your company. Don’t give them that opportunity.
Don’t Burn Bridges. If you do end up communicating after ghosting, be courteous. Careers take many turns; hiring managers and candidates may end up at different companies in the future, so closing the door respectfully is essential.
Be Transparent. Work hard to maintain consistent and honest communication. You might consider asking candidates if they have other job offers pending, giving you advance notice that you might have to act quickly to secure them. Tell them your timeline for making a decision, and stick to it.
Ghosting is real. But if you are prepared, you won’t get spooked.