How Ghosting Affects Employee Recruitment

Ghosting Job Candidates Can Destroy Your Reputation as an Employer

A picture of business people waiting for a job interview
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Have you ever gone on a job interview and then heard nothing from the recruiter or hiring manager even after you’ve sent emails or left voicemails? This is called ghosting and while the term originated in personal relationships (you go on a date and then never hear from him or her again), it occurs in hiring all of the time.

For many years, ghosting was something recruiters and hiring managers have done to job candidates. When the unemployment rate was high, they didn’t see a downside to ghosting: new, qualified candidates were easy to find, recruit, and hire. So, employers used excuses such as being too busy and overwhelmed instead of communicating professionally with candidates.

The Effect of Ghosting Prospective Employees

In the current environment where many people are working remotely from home and thousands have been laid off or furloughed, it is difficult to predict the state of ghosting. In 2019, pre-coronavirus, employers were beginning to experience a scary trend.

From ditching their job interviews to not showing up on the first day of work, candidates were disappearing—and ghosting during the hiring process had become one of the biggest problems in recruiting. "When it comes to ghosting, 18% of job seekers say they have ghosted during the hiring process and 83% of employers say they have been ghosted, according to Indeed data." 

The concept of ghosting originated in the online dating world, where new technology has made it so easy to ask someone out on a date that it has led to an epidemic of no-shows. The effect is similar for hiring: technology and a formerly super-tight labor market appear to have led job seekers to ghost employers. It’s easier than ever to apply for a job and then—for whatever reason—vanish without a trace.  

Turnabout is fair play, after all, job seekers say. Why should candidates treat recruiters and hiring managers with respect when they haven’t been treated with respect for years? Well, employers and candidates should always treat each other respectfully.

Many recruiters were learning the hard way that their years of assuming that candidates would always be available were over and that people who were job searching had the upper hand. Post-coronavirus, this remains to be seen.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 638,000 in October 2020 and the unemployment rate declined to 6.9%, down from earlier summer numbers.

As more people once again became available, early data of an informal nature from Linkedin.com suggests that employers are up to their former bad ways. "Have you been "ghosted" by a potential employer after an interview or after they contacted you for more information? was the question asked by Andrew Seaman, Senior Editor for Job Search and Careers. Of the respondents, 93% said that they have been.

But other than this revenge, that employees may believe employers deserve, how does ghosting affect employee recruitment?

Recruiters As Public Relations Specialists

This may seem ridiculous—recruiters don't talk to the press after all, and they don’t try to get magazine articles written about the company, so why do they need to worry about public relations?

Think about it. With whom do recruiters spend a good portion of their time talking? Non-employees, right? And most of those people will never become employees. That’s just the nature of recruiting.

If you ghost candidates and treat them poorly, they will speak to their friends, and you will lose out on future candidates and future clients. You fret about customer service roles, but ignore the impact a ghosting recruiter can have on the company’s growth. A bad reputation is a bad reputation—once gained, a bad reputation with prospective employees is difficult to overcome.

Shrinking Pipeline for Job Applicants

Everyone who applies for a job believes that they are, in some way, qualified for that job. Sometimes, this stretches the imagination, as people send in their resumes to job postings with one matching keyword. But often, candidates are good matches. And everyone who comes in for an interview is a good enough match, right?

You certainly don’t hire everyone you interview, but that doesn’t mean all of those people are bad fits for your company forever. Many of them would be great fits for a different position or even the same position in a couple of years. A good recruiter doesn’t just post ads, he or she learns the people in the industry and keeps a pipeline running so that when a job opens, they can fill it quickly.

If you treat prospective employees poorly, you’ve essentially kicked them out of the candidate pipeline. Sure, you can contact them 18 months from now, but they will remember that they came in for three different rounds of interviews and then never heard back—as a recruiter, you ghosted them. Who wants to put themselves through that again?

Internal Referrals Decrease

One of the best sources for job candidates is your current employees. They are experts in their fields and they tend to know other people who do what they do. But, if they refer their friends and colleagues, who then take the time to come in to interview, and then never hear from you again, they tell your current employees about what you’ve done.

Your employees don’t plan to work for your company forever. They need to maintain their reputation in their field. They won’t ruin it by bringing in people who then receive poor treatment. Instead, they’ll quietly stop recommending people for positions within the company.

Why Ghosting Happens

No one has the time. Every employee is busy. But, treating candidates politely and getting back to those who have interviewed is the right thing to do, and it will save you time in the long run. You’ll increase your positive reputation, build your prospective employee pipeline, and receive referrals from current employees.

Not having those things will cost you far more time than having your ATS send out emails to all candidates saying, “Thank you so much for interviewing, however, we’ve decided to go in a different direction. Please do keep us in mind for roles for which you qualify in the future.”

The Bottom Line

Treat people with respect and professionalism because it’s the moral and ethical behavior to exhibit. And it doesn’t hurt that your business will also benefit from prospective employees flocking to your door. At the same time, you will retain and nurture your current employees who feel as if you treated them and their contacts respectfully.

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Suzanne Lucas is a freelance writer who spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.