A term that is becoming ever more common today in recruitment processes is “Ghosting.” Ghosting can be defined as a sudden withdrawal from all communications without an explanation. This phenomenon can apply to how an employer or recruiter relates to an applicant and just as easily to how an applicant relates to an employer. A recent Indeed.com study cited by Kathleen Driscoll of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, found that about 76% of employers reported having been ghosted over the past year and that 57% of the employers reported that ghosting is more common than ever before. This article is written to make you aware of the symptoms of ghosting and the major causes, and to equip you with tools to defend against it.

Why does someone ghost another? Ghosting can be manifested by an applicant not taking phone calls, not answering texts or emails, not showing up for an interview or even a new hire not showing up for the first day on the job. Applicants often are exploring different options and if they are interviewing with multiple employers, they may well drop communications with all but the most promising employer. They may feel their best interests are not being served by spending time on less-favorable options. If the recruiting process is long and tedious, the applicant may lose interest, find something better, or become impatient. This perfectly understandable behavior on the part of the applicant can create irritation with employers and recruiters who have invested considerable time and energy in the placement and interview process. According to the Indeed.com study, nearly 48% of applicants stopped all communications with the prospective employer and 46% did not show up for a scheduled interview. In the most serious cases, 7% did not even show up for the first day on the job! A failure to communicate on the personal level and to keep the applicant informed and feeling valued during the interview process may lead the applicant to ditch the new job altogether.

Employers and recruiters practice ghosting when they do not follow up with interview feedback to applicants or when they are slow to inform the applicant of the next step in an interview process. Many potential candidates are screened during the hiring process, and many are culled out early on. Failure to provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants can create false expectations and confusion about their prospects. Employers and recruiters who don’t want to face potentially unpleasant conversations with an applicant who has been considered unsuitable may not take calls and not respond to other messages. The message this sends to the applicant is destructive and can create ill will, irritation, confusion, and a feeling that the applicant is not valued or appreciated. As Andrew Deichler with SHRM observes in “Why Employers Ghost Job Seekers, and How to Respond,” that some employers choose to ghost unsuccessful applicants for fear of legal ramifications. He further notes, however, that recruiters should be able to send a rejection letter or make a phone call with language that avoids the risk of a discrimination lawsuit. This simple closing of the loop will be appreciated by the applicant.

So how to deal with ghosting? Be aware of the potential pitfalls of not keeping applicants informed every step along the recruitment/interview process. Keep your relationships personal so that you can deliver not-so-good news in a compassionate, but straightforward way. If your client knows you have their interests at heart, they will continue to communicate with you. The rapport you develop with applicants and clients can help minimize the risks of being ghosted. As Mr. Deichler points out, “In the staffing business, people are your bread and butter.”

When you do get ghosted you need to shift your thinking. Do your applicants or your clients not feel special? You can improve your relationship with them so that they have no qualms about contacting you, even if they are the bearers of ill tidings. Be careful not to react in an emotional way. Be aware of the drivers of their behavior and that their self-interest will cause them to act in a manner that most efficiently uses their time and energy. It takes a lot of effort to restrain your emotions when you feel that you have invested a lot of time and effort only to have your expectations dashed. Don’t post any adverse comments on social media, don’t give up, and don’t get mad. Be patient. The ghosting is not personal and if you leave the door open by maintaining your relationships, your efforts may yet bear fruit.

The importance of your personal relationships and your network cannot be underestimated in the battle to avoid ghosting. Emphasize to your staff the importance of being able to “read” your applicants and your clients and anticipate their concerns. Knowing how they may react to the recruiting/interviewing process will better prepare you to prevent potential ghosting incidents. In the vetting and screening process, you may find applicants that, while not the best candidate for a direct hire position, are a good fit for a contract position. Having more options may help placate applicants and make them feel that you are making every effort to place them. Similarly, offering contract positions to your client can help cement your good relationship with them. You can partner with a back-office provider to enable you to place these contract employees. They will keep up with the requirements of the regulatory jurisdictions, so you do not have to. If you are set up in advance, you can provide services at once. You can prepare your recruiting firm to deal with ghosting if you understand how you can BE A GHOST BUSTER.

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