Recruiting Remains a Haunted Field

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May 3, 2022

It’s scary how pervasive ghosting is these days.

According to some very recent reports, 75% of job candidates have been ghosted by a company following an interview, while 76% of employers have been ghosted by candidates.

This frightening trend is clearly out of control, and both groups need to think a little more carefully about the damage they’re doing to their own futures:

Employers who ghost understand this. Candidates you abandon will frequently choose to never apply again to your jobs, to never refer others, to never be a brand champion, and to never purchase your products or services (if yours is a consumer-based company). And they’ll spread the word that you ghosted them across employer review sites, social media, and other public forums. This isn’t supposition. Candidates have told Talent Board these are the outcomes of the poor experiences they’ve endured with potential employers.

Candidates who ghost understand this. Employers are making notes about you in their tracking systems, and they’ll very likely not even consider you for future jobs. Yes, even in this current talent market, where you have considerable leverage due to talent shortages, ghosting will label you as unreliable and unworthy of further consideration. Plus, at some point down the road, the market will shift in employers’ favor again. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that workers have been empowered by market conditions to organize and demand what they deserve. But all of this ghosting is doing nothing to build trust between employers and workers — something that both groups would benefit from. Candidates have said that employers are simply getting a taste of their own medicine. Regardless of whether that’s true, playing the blame game (in either direction) doesn’t help matters.

It’s time we got past all of this ghosting. And I’m not just saying this because I was recently ghosted myself. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true…

How Ghosting Haunted Me

Being the victim of ghosting stinks. To be clear, this wasn’t about a job. Even so, the experience hurt and it haunted me for days afterward because of the parallels between what I endured and what so many candidates and employers are now enduring.

My own ghosting story began when an event organizer reached out to me to discuss the possibility of my speaking at an upcoming event and perhaps moderating some of their sessions. I was familiar with both the organizer and the event, so I was delighted by the inquiry. The organizer was very complimentary, mentioning their respect for my work, my organization (Talent Board), and our candidate experience benchmark research. Naturally, I welcomed further discussion, and we scheduled additional time to speak about a week later. 

Prior to that call, I decided to reach out to ask a few quick questions. I never heard back. Frustrating, but fair enough. After all, we did have an upcoming call already on the books. I’d simply wait to get my questions answered. But then, right before the call — literally 15 minutes before — the organizer shot me a message saying that something personal had come up and we’d have to reschedule.

Hey, life happens. So we rescheduled. Great! I couldn’t wait. I was really looking forward to this opportunity.

But then our rescheduled call time rolled around and the organizer was a no show. While I waited my customary 10 minutes (the maximum time I’ll wait for someone for a scheduled meeting), I looked through my email. I quickly spied one from this individual announcing speakers and moderators for the very event we were scheduled to discuss. To make matters worse, this person never showed up for our call. Again. In fact, I never heard from them after that. 

As a result, I’ll never engage or support them again. Period.

The parallels between my experience and that of so many job candidates and employers has haunted me. Yes, I understand that people change their minds and that things don’t always go according to plan, even where job interviews and speaking gigs are concerned. But that doesn’t make ghosting right or acceptable — or any less disrespectful.

The Business Impacts of Ghosting

As I noted earlier, there are prices to be paid for ghosting. Resentment is one of them.

Talent Board’s 2021 CandE benchmark research shows that in North America 27% of nearly 150,000 candidates were still waiting to hear about next steps and hadn’t received any additional information after their interviews. Their resentment levels — measured in terms of their unwillingness to apply again, offer references, purchase the company’s products and services, and influence others to do the same — increased 30%. 

And then there’s this: Less than 3% of the North American candidate responses in our research last year were from candidates who had received unsolicited calls and/or emails from recruiters. Meaning, they were contacted directly; most candidates do their own search and outreach. Of those candidates contacted directly, 15% were still waiting on next steps and hadn’t received any additional information after being screened and/or interviewed. And their resentment level? It went up over 63%

Ghosting haunts both ways, eroding the precious trust between employers and candidates. That trust is already in short supply due to the changes and challenges we’ve all been through over the past two years. My plea to candidates and employers alike is simple: Don’t ghost. Instead, let’s recommit to communicating transparently, setting meaningful expectations with each other, following through on our promises, and providing each other some respect and closure. If we don’t, resentment is the inevitable outcome.

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