During the hiring process the term “ghosting” refers to severing all communication with someone without any explanation or warning, according to SHRM. Both the hiring employer as well as the candidate can be guilty of this harmful, and often regrettable, practice. It seems employers have been ghosting job applicants and candidates for years. According to a recent study by Indeed 77% of workers who applied or interviewed for a position with a company never heard back. Additionally, 10% reported that an employer ghosted them even after the verbal offer had already been extended. It should come as no surprise then that the candidates are joining in on the disappearing acts now as well. When this breakdown in communication occurs, it creates a dysfunctional recruiting environment and the effects can be quite devastating when a candidate leaves. Time and money were wasted during the recruiting process and now the recruiter and hiring manager have to start over.
So, why has “ghosting” become so prevalent and what can hiring employers do about it?
Top Reasons Candidate ‘Ghosting’ Occurs
Candidate Has An Ulterior Motive
There are several reasons candidates disappear during the hiring process. One explanation that seems to be occurring more frequently is job candidates hunting for multiple-job offers to bolster negotiating power. They are strategically acquiring multiple job offers in order to negotiate higher pay.
Lack Of Organization
Another reason candidates ‘ghost’ potential employers is due to a lack of organization. When a hiring process is clunky or drawn out it can reflect poorly on the company, making them appear disorganized. This can leave a candidate feeling lost and anxious. Starting a new job is already a stressful event, so if a candidate senses the hiring process is unstructured, overly complicated or ill-managed they might decide to entertain another job offer.
An additional contributor to ‘ghosting’ is conflict avoidance. This is probably one of the most significant ones. In fact, conflict avoidance is at the root of the actual term ‘ghosting’ since it can be traced to the online dating scene in the early 2000s. Disappearing on people was easier than dealing with the uneasiness of disappointing someone. That avoidance mechanism has only been reinforced over time as our methods of communicating with each other have shifted from in-person and talking on the telephone to reading e-mails, posting on social media, using on-line apps and communicating through text messages. That being said, identifying conflict avoidance as a major driver in ‘ghosting’ makes sense, and both candidates and recruiters are susceptible to it.
The largest and probably most obvious contributing factor to ‘ghosting’ is poor communication. A new survey by Career Builder reported that it was the most common cause for worker frustration when looking for a job. Specifically they found that 51% of workers are frustrated with the lack of information, 38% say that employers are leaving them in the dark about where they stand as a candidate, and 30% are disappointed that employers aren’t acknowledging receipt of their application. When candidates are left dangling in the air with little or infrequent communication they are left to draw their own conclusions; most of which are understandably not positive, and fail to provide them with the rationale for sticking around.
Methods To Prevent Candidate ‘Ghosting’
Identify Genuine Candidates
Although it may be challenging to prevent candidates from using your job offer to improve their position at the negotiating table with another company, one thing every hiring business should do is research what their competition is offering. Market standards continually change so ensuring your pay and benefits package are competitive is crucial. It’s also worthwhile to spend some time researching what really drives your target candidate. What motivated workers in the past is often quite different from today. Being more in tune with your audience will allow you to design creative pay and benefits packages geared towards their needs. This will help you standout to job applicants. Another tool some companies are implementing to help weed out the candidates merely using them for an offer is requiring more work from them. This can be done through tests or other applicant assessments. They will be less likely to do extra work if they are only seeking an offer, versus someone who genuinely wants to work for you.
The next place to focus on is organization. Go over your hiring process. Is it streamlined and easy to use? What does your typical timeline look like? Are there areas that can be sped up? As you go through it, you will undoubtedly discover other tweaks you can make along the way as well. Once you’ve made all of the necessary improvements it’s important to make sure the candidates have clarity about your hiring process. Explain the different stages, provide them with timeframes and share with them what they can expect if they continue in the hiring process.
Address Conflict Avoidance Issues
Addressing the next issue, conflict avoidance, might seem difficult at first glance. However, once you have a couple of simple strategies in place, it’s quite manageable. Understanding the cause of conflict avoidance is the first step. It’s fear. Fear of feeling uncomfortable being the “bearer of bad news” and disappointing someone. Having difficult conversations is part of life, but unfortunately it’s a part that many have been able to simply avoid because a large part of our culture’s communication style has become non-verbal. And since recruiters are often just as susceptible to this as candidates, the first step is to have your hiring crew trained in conflict management. Another strategy is to provide applicants a link in the emails you’re sending that allows them to indicate if they are no longer interested in the position. Also, it’s a good idea to present a short survey regarding your hiring process if they opt to use the link. This allows the candidate to bow out gracefully, while providing you with some valuable feedback on their way out. It also leaves them with a more positive impression of your business. For those of you eager to go the extra mile to improve your hiring process, you may want to survey those candidates you’ve recently on-boarded about their experience.
One of the most important areas you can improve upon is communication. The best way to do this is by explaining your process to the candidate up front and setting expectations. Make sure the recruiter has clearly communicated the unique aspects of your company and the job offer. Additionally, the recruiter or hiring team should regularly solicit and address any questions and concerns of the applicant. Providing quick and simple check-ins along with updates on the timeframe are always a good idea. Keep the applicant in the loop. Encourage them to keep an eye on their emails and voice messages and engage with them regularly. If you need assistance with this there are recruiting tools you can utilize to help automate your workflow. It’s also good to consider having the potential new hire’s manager keep in touch with them to help them feel more comfortable.
While all of these are good tips for any company to consider, they are especially relevant if you believe you have been ghosted by a candidate more than once. Examine your hiring process, don’t be afraid to change up parts that aren’t working and communicate regularly with potential new hires.
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