It seems like “ghosting” has been a hot topic of late in recruiting circles. Most discussions of ghosting seem to focus on exclusively one side of the dance, i.e. the recruiter side or the candidate side. Let’s try to consider both here. First: a quick definition might be helpful to get us started.
What is ghosting?
The short answer is: basically disappearing without notice. It's a term that evolved out of dating slang, when one partner ghosts or disappears without a word, but it can be applied in almost any context. If a candidate ghosts, it means they were probably involved in the process to a point and then stopped responding — which is a much bigger deal if you’re closer to the offer stage than, say, being at the top of the funnel. (There has also been much Twitter reporting about first-day ghosting, meaning a candidate accepted the job and then, well, just didn’t show up on the first day.)
If an employer ghosts, it means they expressed interest and then stopped responding — and while we don’t have hard data on this, one can go out on a limb and guess a lot of employer/recruiter ghosting comes after someone asked the candidate for salary, and the number was higher than anticipated.
So why would a candidate ghost?
The most logical reasons include:
They were entertaining multiple offers and got a better one
Something happened in their personal or professional life
They’re just not very professional or good communicators
The idea is normative to their generation (see “The Golden Age of Bailing”)
Out of those reasons, (1) is the most logical, (3) is probably what most employers claim, further widening the gap between generations understanding each other, (4) is very possible but if you casually scan Twitter for conversations about ghosting, you’ll see that Boomers ghost too, and (2) is hopefully not the case.
Why would an employer ghost?
The most logical reasons on this side include:
The proposed salary number was too high
They found something troubling in a reference/background check context and would rather avoid the discussion than embrace it
The hiring manager went on a three-week vacation that no one knew about
They decided they didn’t need the position
Out of those reasons, (1) is the most logical, (4) is probably the second-most logical and (2) and (3) are equally possible but clearly frustrating from a candidate perspective.
What are the issues with ghosting?
How much time do you have? There are almost too many to list but a few ides would be:
It makes it easier for us to generalize about different generations and assign them into silos of “they don’t get it!” or “they can’t communicate!”
It’s another example of tech making it easier to bail out on important life commitments
It affects both the “candidate experience” and “employer brand” equally
It makes it much harder for recruiters to hit their numbers, which frustrates/burns out recruiters
It further exacerbates the chasm between hiring managers and recruiters/third-party orgs
How do we solve ghosting?
Long story short, we don’t. It’s an individual issue with companies and candidates. A magic wand won't fix every instance of ghosting but there are steps you can take to decrease the risk of it happening to you.
On the employer side: Automate parts of the process so that your people have more time to be communicating with candidates. Set up best practices around how and when to communicate with candidates, whether that involves templates for “those we’re not at all interested in” or whatever the case may be. This is where tech can help. Chatbots, automated emails, or even text notifications can be pre-set to keep everyone in the loop, even during long recruitment searches. Also, monitor communication from recruiters as a metric. Tie it to incentives. If your recruiters aren’t communicating, that negatively impacts your brand. Who wants that?
On the candidate side: Be professional and realize these people have jobs and bosses and targets to hit and numbers to make, and you self-opting out of the process at a later stage really can hurt them. Just write a quick email and explain what’s going on, send it, and be done with it. You might be blacklisted from that company for years, but it’s better than just ghosting them.
Both sides should talk about it with less force: There are no shortage of recruiters on social media just blasting the so-called “millennial mindset” — which is largely not true, as an aside — and screaming about the bad manners of ghosting. On the flip side, you have candidates justifiably enjoying the ghosting issue being placed on the other foot. After decades of this behavior being normalized by companies against job candidates, the tables have turned because of the increased war for talent. So instead of using this issue to divide generations and place barriers between candidates and employers, we should use it as an opportunity to discuss communication norms in the career space. At the end of the day, this issue boils down to one thing both sides can agree on: communicating during the hiring process matters and it's a two way street. Or at least, it should be.