Why “Ghosting” is Becoming a Frightening Trend

There’s a long tradition of using dating terminology in the recruiting world, from “wooing” candidates to “matchmaking” for a perfect fit. It’s no surprise that “ghosting” is the latest crossover term to emerge. In the hiring context, it refers to candidates who suddenly and completely disappear and refuse to engage.


Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly likely that recruiters and hiring managers won’t even get the courtesy of hearing, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Today, businesses are reporting that 20-50 percent of job applicants and workers are no-shows, according to USA Today. It’s happening at every stage of the hiring process, from applicants not returning calls to no-shows at interviews or even worse, on the first day of an assignment.


Why Ghosting is Becoming More Prevalent

It’s a numbers game: the more jobs available to candidates, the more likely they are to think the grass is greener elsewhere, even at the expense of a qualified opening or job offer. A charitable interpretation is that candidates may simply be too busy or too disorganized to respond to every offer. But a candidate-driven market means skilled professionals have multiple options and thus, they have the upper hand.


Of course, when the pendulum shifts back to favoring employers, which eventually and inevitably it will, candidates who’ve adopted ghosting as a standard practice may find their job options curtailed.


Negative Career Repercussions

Ghosting hurts the people who do it—maybe not immediately, but burning bridges can and likely will come back to bite you. You never know who you’ll end up working with in the future or who you’ll be sitting across from in an interview a year or two down the road. Recruiters will often “backchannel” candidates to gather information not readily available, and you might just have disappointed the wrong person.


In a worst-case scenario, you could be permanently blacklisted at an agency or end client who might otherwise have the perfect job for you a few weeks or months from now. Or, your other option which seemed so amazing at the time you ignored an offer may fall through, leaving you with no irons in the fire.


The Client Perspective

The further along a candidate is in the interviewing process, the more time and money it costs when they disappear. That’s why it’s also incumbent on recruiters and hiring managers to take steps to prevent ghosting before it happens. The more you communicate with candidates, the more they’ll stay in touch. Don’t make a candidate chase you down for job updates and keep talking about their current and future priorities. Someone invested in a genuine discussion about their career path is less likely to bounce.


In their pursuit to fill an open job, companies may try to force a fit that’s not there. If you’re not convinced a candidate is both a good fit and extremely interested by the time an interview is over, you may be better off telling the truth and nurturing a relationship to build a future talent pipeline. Some other tips and tactics to avoid ghosting include:


  • Use scheduling technology to set up automated touchpoints with candidates
  • Don’t get to Friday afternoon without calling each candidate under active consideration
  • Try expressing concern about the individual if you haven’t heard back; play to their emotions
  • Share bad news—or no news even—as well as positive steps
  • Meet your placed candidate for breakfast on their first day and walk them into the client
  • Consider retention bonuses, add-on benefits, or guaranteed raises


Practice Mutual Respect

As LinkedIn Editor Chip Cutter writes, “Presented with multiple opportunities, professionals face a task some have rarely practiced: saying no to jobs.” Even if you’re not sure how to go about declining an offer or are uncomfortable with the idea of letting someone down, not communicating doesn’t mean the issue will just go away. When recruiters and job applicants treat each other with mutual respect and honest feedback, everyone wins and the temptation to ghost declines.