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Candidates Turn the Tables to Ghost Employers

December 23, 2021 Talent Management
Mark Feffer
By Mark Feffer

Here in the midst of the Great Resignation, candidates are ghosting employers to an unprecedented degree, straining business finances and challenging business owners to come up with ways to position their companies as an employer of choice.

Some might call it payback, but today’s candidates are standing up prospective employers at all turns. In the past, recruiters’ tendency to disappear from a job seeker’s inbox or voicemail was the subject of regular complaints among candidates. Recruiters said they didn’t really mean anything by it — they were just busy. 

The assumption many job seekers make — that employers are just being rude when they disappear — isn’t so clear-cut, said Laura Mazzullo, founder and owner of New York City-based HR recruiting firm East Side Staffing, in a piece for the Society of Human Resource Management. Chances are the recruiter’s avoiding an awkward conversation with the candidate. “That fear paralyzes them from even sending an e-mail," she said.

Every Move Counts in This Job Market

With the unemployment rate moving steadily downward and the number of open positions outstripping the number of workers to take them, the dynamic has shifted. Today, more recruiters worry about how ghosting impacts their employer brand because in this market, they say, every move counts.

"Job candidates out there ... they have so many options and are in interview processes with multiple companies for multiple positions,” Josh Howarth, district president overseeing mid-Atlantic teams at staffing firm Robert Half, recently told CNN. “And once they choose a position, oftentimes they just ghost the other companies that they've been in conversations with.” Ghosting, he said, happens more often today than he’s seen over more than 20 years in the industry.

The ghosting doesn’t only occur during the search phase of talent acquisition, noted the CNN Business article. Some workers aren’t showing up for work even after accepting an offer. This, too, has put the heat on talent acquisition teams to move their process along as quickly as possible, if only to keep candidates from being picked up by competing companies.

That’s why Rick Silva, recruiting manager at Interim HealthCare of the Upstate in Greenville, S.C., has compressed his company’s hiring timeline to a matter of days: An employee who accepts an offer on Friday can begin work on Monday. “We have to do that because if we tell someone that they can't start for another week or two, a lot of bad things can happen," he said.

Related Article: Why Humans Should Remain Central to Digital Recruiting

Who’s Ghosting Whom?

More than three-quarters (77 percent) of candidates say they’ve been ghosted at some point by an employer, according to Indeed.com. During 2020, incidence of ghosting grew: Some 28 percent of candidates ghosted an employer, up from 18 percent in 2019. During the same period, 76 percent of employers reported being ghosted, and 57 percent said the practice is more common than before.  

Only 27 percent of employers say they haven’t ghosted a job seeker in the past year. “It’s another sign that ghosting has become standard practice in the hiring process, even though it creates a terrible candidate experience and can threaten a company’s employer brand,” Kristy Threlkeld observed in the Indeed article.

Candidates said they disappear from an employer’s radar because they’ve received another offer (20 percent), are unhappy with the salary being offered (15 percent) or have decided the position wasn’t right for them (15 percent). Only 4 percent cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for ghosting an employer, “a surprisingly low figure given its widespread impact on other areas of work,” wrote Threlkeld.

Something else Indeed uncovered: Ghosting has consequences, especially for candidates. Fifty-four percent of the job seekers who ghosted an employer in 2020 said they experienced repercussions, up dramatically from 6 percent in 2019.

And employers are keeping track of who’s disappearing. According to Indeed, 93 percent of employers keep track of who’s ghosted them. Some 26 percent keep notes on job seekers who stop responding to messages, while 35 percent track those who don’t show up for a scheduled interview, and 33 percent follow those who didn’t show up for their first scheduled day of work.

Related Article: Digital Hiring May Become the Rule Instead of the Exception

Avoid Ghosting By Going Back to Employee Experience Basics

CareerBuilder, in its survey of the talent acquisition landscape, found that employers could save themselves a fair amount of grief — and ghosting — by paying attention to the basics. For example, 51 percent of candidates say they’re frustrated by an employer’s lack of communication. Fully one quarter (25 percent) are frustrated when they submit an application and never receive an acknowledgement. 

In fact, poor communications is the reason behind most drop outs, the CareerBuilder survey found. Either a company took too long to communicate with job seekers between steps, or their communications were vague, automated or not personalized.

Job seekers told the Talent Board they were particularly irked by a lack of post-interview follow up, extended processes that ended with unexplained rejection and the sound of crickets: “I elected to withdraw after I sent multiple emails but never heard an update,” one candidate said.

How does this all get addressed? Employers are doubling down on their investments in workforce solutions. In fact, more than two-thirds of them said they will invest in human capital management and employee experience technology in 2022. There are several reasons behind this: For one, immediate talent needs. For another, longer-term digital transformation initiatives.

In its 2021 Pulse of Talent report, Ceridian predicted organizations will need to marry technology with a clearly defined experience strategy to deliver a better experience to all employees. While existing analytics and survey data may highlight current gaps, the report said, mapping employee journeys will be critical to gaining a better understanding of what’s being delivered vs. employee expectations. It’s fair to think the dynamics of employee experience will map over to candidate experience.

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