3 ways to respond to professional ghosting

August 23, 2018
7 mins

Finally. After months of searching for the perfect candidate, you’ve won the lottery. It seems like it anyway.

You walk into work with a spring in your step.

Just when you think life is looking up, you notice an insistent buzz. It’s the team lead on the phone wondering where the newbie is. You try reaching the candidate, but you can’t. All your frantic attempts have hit a brick wall.

Guess what? You’ve been ghosted.

Have you been professionally ghosted?

For years companies have ghosted candidates. The tables have turned now and the harsh truth is that it is a candidate’s market. The lack of professional courtesy is obviously frustrating, yet, not surprising anymore, because it’s all in a day’s work for a recruiter in today’s time.

Jamini Pulyadath, talent acquisition manager with over 10 years of experience in HR in New Zealand and India.

Could it be payback? Could it be plain bad manners? Could it be a nicer way to avoid the awkwardness that accompanies refusal?

Whatever the reason, ghosting has become a common phenomenon in the job market. Ghosting occurs when a person goes incommunicado abruptly with no explanation.

This is particularly harrowing for recruiters who have spent months trying to get the right person for a role. They are gutted when their purple unicorns go AWOL. From wondering if a spaceship has beamed up a candidate to hoping that no unforeseen accident has befallen the candidate, recruiters are in a frenzy trying to make contact.

It isn’t that no-shows and last-minute refusals are new for a hiring team.

Professional ghosting, professionally ghosted, how to respond to ghosting

Source: Cronofy

When a candidate doesn’t respond to the final job offer post interviews or show up on the first day of work or reply to urgent emails during the hiring process, you can kiss your incentives goodbye.

However, let’s see how getting ghosted after candidate interviews (or after multiple interviews) or accepts a job offer is truly a recruiter’s biggest nightmare.

How to recruit in a candidate market

Why are you getting ghosted?

I think ghosting is a failure of the process: not setting the tone and expectations and not understanding your candidate. If you ask beforehand where are you in the process with other companies and your candidate is in final rounds or in offer negotiations when your candidate ghosts you, you might think it was the role, but, in actuality, it was another offer.

Eileen Hennessey, Head of US HR Operations at LexInsight.

Job seekers don’t like to be ghosted either. Most have had been at the receiving end one time or another. They’ve spent several nail-biting moments waiting for that call or that email from a hirer. To be harsh, the companies brought this upon themselves.  Could they have been more respectful or transparent when turning down employees? (Read Jane Ashen Turkewitz’s post that went viral on LinkedIn, which talks about how a dejected employee feels about the apathy and lack of courtesy HR managers show when rejecting a candidate.)

Tips : Recruiters could take solace in the fact that such behavior doesn’t bode well for a healthy employer-employee relationship in the future had the candidate shown up. Remember that it pays to be courteous even if your candidate decides to call you after a few days.

Job applicants don’t particularly like to disappoint recruiters. Often, people avoid picking up calls when they are sure the conversation is likely to be uncomfortable. Refusing a job offer at the nth minute is unprofessional (without good reason), and they know it.

Tips : Recruiters could just file it away as a bad experience and get back on the hunt and hope for success.

Ghosters have poor etiquette. They have no further use for you — they got a better offer, or they heard scary things about your company, or they simply changed their mind because of they didn’t like your recruiting approach. They are neither courteous enough nor smart enough to offer excuses and not burn bridges.

Tips : Recruiters should consider it an example of good riddance to bad rubbish. Or, hirers could just give them the benefit of the doubt and move on. More importantly, it could be time to change your hiring process.

Professional ghosting, professionally ghosted, how to respond to ghosting

Source: Korn Ferry

How to respond to professional ghosting

Pay attention to candidate experience

What recruiters could do to avoid ghosting is decreasing the time taken for a candidate to go from an interview to an offer. This can help them “capture” the employees when they are eager and engaged. The reverse could also work. In case you lengthen the time, make sure you find ways to improve candidate engagement and build a better relationship with the hire.

Ensuring the application process is easy and straightforward and making sure your evaluation process is free from unconscious bias can go a long way. Also, it is good to set deadlines for every step of the hiring process. By leveraging automated talent assessment tools or a blind hiring approach, you can ensure a good candidate experience with role-related assessments (situational and industry-specific). However, when applicant tracking systems and recruitment sites are not correctly integrated, a lot can go awry. Automating some processes will help decrease candidate drop-offs.

Candidates are put off by a long-drawn-out application process with irrelevant or invasive questions, an ambiguous job description, or an unclear career path. For instance, a mobile-optimized, user-friendly application process with only questions that are absolutely necessary and clear instructions are key to a smarter approach. According to a CareerBuilder survey, “1 in 10 millennials said they would drop a company” if they are unable to apply through a smartphone.

An SHRM article reports that about 60% of candidates never finish submitting the application (abandon rate). Track the process and study the data. Identify where and why the candidate has abandoned you (candidates start the application process but don’t complete it; they don’t respond to calls or show up at interviews; they reject the offer at the last minute or become a no-show.) Investing in a candidate engagement platform can drastically reduce the application abandonment rate.

Even little things make a difference, such as giving detailed directions to the workplace and researching candidates before interviewing them. Candidate experience, which must be optimized at every stage of the recruiting funnel, is directly linked to recruitment performance.

Job applicants need specific feedback, and closing the loop is important. They have to know where they are in the application process and what is expected of them. Sending updates adds to a positive experience as you may want to consider them for other roles in the future. The process of giving constructive feedback to unsuccessful candidates is sensitive and must be handled properly. What’s more, it reflects badly on you from a business perspective, doesn’t it? Additionally, further on in full life-cycle recruiting, it would be great if you would introduce hires to your office culture or the team they are being hired for. This might prevent a no-show on the first day.

Do to others as you would have them do to you

There is no excuse for blatant disregard. Sometimes, recruiters get ghosted because they have at some point of time or the other failed to respond to candidates after an interview. These disappointed candidates (who are your customers as well and could affect sales even) would have spoken to other potential hires about their bad experiences.

For instance, according to a 2013 survey of customer service from mid-sized companies by Dimensional Research, “95% share bad experiences and 87% share good experiences with others.” Bad experiences are long lasting says the study, and they were widely shared. Looks like it pays to be nice, doesn’t it? Otherwise, your reputation and brand take a hit. It really is a small world; let candidates know when they don’t make the cut and why in time.

Treat people the way you would like to be treated. Be professional and communicative, and you may see fewer candidates ghosting you. Timely, personalized communication is linked to a positive impression after all. The best way to reject candidates is by calling them. Be kind with your comments.

Ask the right questions and watch for warning signals

Recruiters should remember to ask candidates about counteroffers, their aspirations, what motivates them, and what concerns they may have about showing up for the interview or signing on the dotted line. Note how the tone and frequency of the communication vary throughout the process.

Hennessey adds, “Know your candidate, set expectations. Here is our process: Give your candidate a real glimpse into your company and keep the line of communication open.” She believes that “candidates who are not that interested in learning about the role, the company, or about your role within the organization, and candidates who state they are in final stages with other companies already” are unlikely to be safe bets.

The way forward

Within a candidate-driven market, it has become increasingly important to have always your plan B ready to go as more candidates attempt to withdraw after they’ve formally accepted your job offer. You can never be 100% sure if a candidate will actually join, until their first day in the office. Offering the best candidate experience from A to Z throughout the entire hiring process is all you can do to attract talent for your company.

Jesse, a corporate recruiter in the European fashion industry.

In many parts of the world, you can see that hiring is often tricky because it is a candidate-driven market. There are more white-collar workers refusing to turn up for interviews or work than before. That being case, recruiters have to plot their strategy carefully, ensuring that the candidate has a great experience at every step, and you are in no danger of ending up with a non-starter.

Have you had similar experiences? Do tell us.

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About the Author

Dhanya Menon
Dhanya Menon is an editor and academic writer. This is her first stint in content marketing, having spent over 5 years in e-learning. Her interests are varied. She likes to lose track of time reading anything from chemistry to Allende, from statistics to Thurber cartoons, from Ruth Rendell to listening to her son's unique take on life.

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