By Adam Godson
Chief Technology & Product Innovation Officer

So what’s with all these candidates “ghosting” us lately?

Perhaps you’ve heard of or read an article about a rather perplexing phenomenon, where job candidates at some point just ditch the hiring process without any warning to the recruiter or hiring manager. No longer is it mainly people failing to show up for the first interview, which always has been an issue. Now candidates are ghosting much later in the process, sometimes even after accepting an offer.

“Ghosting” was already a cool, catchy term for when this happens in personal relationships, so it’s easy to apply it to a professional situation as well. Real numbers as to how many candidates “ghost” are hard to come by, but it’s something that comes up repeatedly as a concern for many HR leaders I’ve met with. It’s important to ask why this keeps happening, and what we can do to prevent candidate ghosting.

Why people ghost

  • “Was it something I said?”: Let’s do the responsible thing and first look in the mirror. A negative candidate experience will turn someone away as much as any other factor. If candidates don’t feel they were treated well during recruitment, or if the process is made tedious and frustrating by infrequent, inconsistent and impersonal communication, then naturally they will be less inclined to follow through. This is especially true if they are interviewing for multiple opportunities.
  • Strong labor market: And, believe me, they do have other opportunities. In the U.S., there are actually more reported job openings than there are people looking for jobs. It’s a big role reversal from the old candidate position of sending out tons of resumes only to get little or no response (a form of “ghosting” all its own), and that’s going to cause some folks to perhaps not place a priority on professional etiquette. Members of Cielo’s Bridge pre-employment team, which actively engages with new hires to deliver a positive onboarding experience, reported instances where candidates would repeatedly ask what company the Bridge agent is with, as though they are trying to remember which company is which because they are weighing multiple offers.
  • New communication patterns: One of the effects of living in a high-tech world where we are constantly connected is that people do not put as much separation between their personal and professional selves. Behavior, like ghosting, that once would have occurred just among friends, or in dating, is now creeping into the workspace. Plus, the informal, and often infrequent, nature of texting/email, which makes ghosting easier. Other people might want to avoid the conflict involved in rejecting an offer they’ve already accepted and opt to just stop responding.
  • Lack of loyalty/trust: While the market looks great for job seekers now, we can all remember times when it was pretty much the opposite. Many people lost their jobs because of downsizing, offshoring or a merger/acquisition. This unpleasant and jarring experience might leave them thinking that a company is not going to be loyal to them, so why should they feel any loyalty to a particular company? Even if there are no hard feelings during the recruitment process, and everything seems to be going well, some candidates won’t feel they owe you a heads up if they want to drop out.

How to prevent ghosting

  • Keep candidates warm: Track coaches are fond of telling you to run through the finish line, not just to it. Take the same approach with candidates: Don’t stop selling your company, your employer brand, and your team, just because a candidate accepted an offer. Keep those lines of communication open, and make sure you’re doing everything you can to get this new employee excited to join you and ready to be productive on day one.
  • Stay in touch: Check in with an email, text or even a phone call often. Have members of the team, including their direct manager, tell the new person how excited they are to work with them, and maybe share some things they love about the company. Make plans for a welcome lunch, let them know good places to grab a bite to eat. Keep it fun, light and supportive. It will be a nice break from all the instructional, sometimes impersonal communication they’ll be receiving during the onboarding process. Speaking of which …
  • Make onboarding easy: I’ve seen a lot of onboarding processes – really good ones and really bad ones. They’re notorious for being disjointed and frustrating for the candidate: Go here for your drug test, fill this out for your background check, respond to this person for that, and that person to this. It’s a lot to digest while also leaving a job, possibly moving and otherwise rearranging your life. Keep your new hire from ghosting by streamlining your onboarding process so that it is as smooth and easy as possible. This is what we do with our Bridge team, which gives candidates one point of contact to guide them through every step of the way, improving the likelihood that a candidate won’t ghost.

While we haven’t always had such a cool name for it, candidate ghosting has been around for as long as people have interviewed for jobs. And regardless of the state of the labor market, it probably always will be. It’s never easy to take, but it’s better when you know you did everything in your power to keep it from happening. You can leave the experience confident that the candidate’s reasoning must be, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Adam Godson

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGodson or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Read more on how to treat candidates in Cielo's "The Definitive Guide to Candidate Experience."