By: Gisele Cloutier on February 21st, 2019

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Is Candidate Ghosting Becoming a Problem in Your Business?

Talent Acquisition

What is Candidate Ghosting?

"Ghosting" is a term borrowed from the social scene, whereby after one or two dates, the prospective love interest disappears and doesn’t respond to texts, calls or emails – just gone, no explanation.

Employers across the country are increasingly reporting ghosting situations on the hiring scene now too.

It's when a candidate becomes a "no-show" for a job interview (which this Recruiting Consultant has witnessed first-hand) or, worse, accepts a position only to vanish after one or two days, or even before they start.

Have you ever been ghosted by a candidate or new hire?

If you've been ghosted, you can feel the weight of this problem. Between the tight labor market and the cost of having to start the search all over, recruiting qualified talent is tougher than ever before.

The Reality of Today's Talent Marketplace

A recent article from Recruiting Trends reports, “Not so long ago, recruiters would bemoan being flooded with more resumes than they could handle. These days, they’re dealing with a different problem: candidates who don’t show up for interviews, or who do show up–and appear to be eager and enthusiastic–only to disappear without a trace afterward.”

The Washington Post reports recruiters at global staffing firm, Robert Half, have also noticed a “ten to twenty percent increase” in ghosting over the past year, according to their D.C. district president Josh Howarth. “We generally make two offers for every job because somebody doesn’t show up,” said Rebecca Henderson, chief executive of Randstad Sourceright, a talent acquisition firm… “Applicants blow off interviews. New hires turn into no-shows. Workers leave one evening and never return.”

Why is Candidate and New Hire Ghosting Happening?

Is ghosting simply bad manners, or symptomatic of deeper concerns? Several potential issues may be contributing to the situation:

  • Tight labor market: According to The Wall Street Journal's Chip Cutter, today's labor market is the tightest it's been since the late 1960s. On February 12, 2019, NBC Washington reported The Labor Department’s announcement that job openings jumped 2.4 percent in December to 7.3 million. That is the most since records began in December 2000. It is also far greater than the number of unemployed, which stood at 6.3 million that month (emphasis added).
  • Changing attitudes: With more job openings than available candidates, many would-be candidates or new employees have the mindset of, “Why stick through this? I’ll just go get another job.” While this attitude may be more prevalent among the younger/entry-level labor segment, it also can occur in any talent segment experiencing extreme demand, such as cyber and related technical fields.
  • The tables have turned: Sadly, for years candidates have been approached by recruiters, even gone on job interviews, to then never hear back again. Sometimes the sheer number of candidates involved in a search can be so massive, the average busy recruiter can have difficulty closing the loop with them all. Yet, ignoring candidates without even sending an auto-generated, "thanks, but no thanks" email from their Applicant Tracking System (ATS) has left many feeling that courtesy is no longer necessary. We must remember, respect goes both ways: if you are not going to pursue a candidate you have interviewed in person or by phone, do the right thing and let them know.

So, what are we going to do about it?

In today's market, you may need that next great hire more than they need you. We can't assume there will always be tons of more candidates waiting to hop in line.

Here are a couple of tips for clients and fellow recruiting colleagues below.

What Should Employers and Recruiters Do About Ghosting?

  1. Recognize you are competing for talent and hone your employer value proposition. Sure, our first reaction tends to blame the prospective candidate/employee's ghosting behavior on bad manners. More importantly, you have to remember other employers are actively wooing the same talent you are. In today's war for talent, it's not as easy as it once was to go out and get more candidates. There simply may not be a dozen more qualified candidates to choose from right away, especially with hard-to-fill positions. Think about why candidates should choose to come to work for you?
  2. Take a fresh look at the talent you already have sourced. Can your second or third runner-up do the job? Does she or he want the job? Revisit the reasons why you weren't as excited about them. Did they lack experience compared to your top pick, but met the job requirements? Or maybe they passed with flying colors with your recruiter but got rejected for something quirky that could be reconsidered.
  3. Revisit your recruiting system(s). Is your application so laborious it forces candidates to spend hours finding the month/day/year of the start and end dates for every past job, back to “when Adam met Eve?” Check to see if your ATS forces applicants to reenter the information it was supposed to have parsed from the resume. And is that data even worth the risk of scaring off other potential candidates? WTOP recently reported today’s job seeker expects to be treated like a consumer. Among survey findings, 20% of candidates devote less than 10 minutes to a job application before they give up and move on. How many scarce, qualified potential candidates has your old-school ATS chased off without you even realizing it?
  4. Reassess your recruiting processes. How can you speed up your recruiting process? Are overly-structured interviews slowing down the process and making good candidates lose interest? While you are requiring a candidate to participate in round after round of interviews, your competitor is moving quickly with an aggressive offer.
  5. Make a compelling offer. When a candidate has multiple offers on the table, you have to go beyond the job opportunity alone. Unemployment is at the lowest since 1969, and wage pressures have begun to build. For instance, in the third quarter of 2018, the United States experienced the highest compensation jump in a decade NBC reported, "compensation costs increased 4.8 percent for information technology and 3.5 percent for sales and office and service occupations." Look at supply and demand in your labor market, not just your traditional compensation structure. Salaries, total rewards, and your employer value proposition need to be highly attractive to secure top talent.

It's a Brave New World

Attracting and hiring the right talent is a top challenge for CEOs and leaders around the nation. You are not alone in wanting to find and recruit the best talent to help your company thrive and grow.

Recognizing the changed dynamic between talent and employer is the first step in staying ahead of your competition. For additional resources, I recommend reading:

Additional Resources

Lastly, I leave you with this post that recently went viral on LinkedIn. Let us know if you need additional expertise with benchmarking your salaries, reviewing your total rewards package offering, or assessing your current recruiting function for improvements.