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Grow Your Business Your Team

Is Your Business Being Ghosted by Candidates?

Question mark on a chalkboard
Credit: igorstevanovic/Shutterstock

The term "ghosting" doesn't just apply to the dating world. If you've ever been "stood up" by an employee who stopped coming into work as if they vanished into thin air, you're not alone. Employers everywhere have experienced both potential and current employees suddenly cut off communication for a variety of reasons.

This phenomenon happens in all industries for any number of positions. A promising candidate for your vacant position aced their interview, and they seemed genuinely excited to get started, but come their start date, they're nowhere to be found. You call, email and leave multiple messages, but they all go unreturned. This is especially frustrating if this is after you closed the job listing, forcing you start the hiring process all over again.

For employees, this is a highly unprofessional practice and it's hard to imagine they don't realize the consequences of doing this, yet it still happens all too often. There are a few explanations as to why this happens.

"More job seekers are falling off the radar during the hiring process potentially because of tight labor conditions," according to Michael Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps. "Candidates sometimes have multiple options in today's market and the unemployment rate is extremely low, currently at 3.9 percent nationally, and even lower than that, at 2.2 percent for college-degreed workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Demand for specialized workers is essentially exceeding supply, so some candidates may feel they have the upper hand."

Despite it currently being a buyer's market for employees, it should come as no surprise that ghosting is burning bridges. You never know when you'll run into those same people over the course of your career, especially if you're in the same industry.

For employees, it can boil down to a desire to avoid the awkward conversation of having to turn down the job offer after already accepting it.

"If you 'ghost' on a job offer, it's not going to be forgotten," according to a blog by the Vet Recruiter. "The recruiter working with you is not going to want to work with you in the future, and the company that extended the offer is not going to consider you for employment ever again."

A simple phone call to apologize and give the honest reason why you're turning down the position, whether it's because you don't feel the position is a great match for you or you just received another job offer. That far into the hiring process, it can still be frustrating for the employer and show you in a negative light, but it's far better than ghosting. It's a professional courtesy that shows you respect the time and energy spent to hire you.

As for employees who have been with the business for some time, who just stop showing up to the job, they may deny the professional courtesy of formally resigning either due to some resentment or lack of experience in resigning a position.

For employers who want to avoid being ghosted and avoid the aftermath of an employee ghosting, there are several tips to follow during the hiring process.

Steinitz suggests laying out your hiring plan from start to finish and keeping everything on a timetable including interviews, phone follow-ups and orientations, all while keeping the candidate updated know about this process.

For candidates who don't get the job, extend them professional courtesy as well and don't ghost them. If your chosen candidate ends up ghosting you, then you at least have the option of filling the position with another top candidate.

Andreas Rivera

Andreas Rivera graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in Mass Communication and is now a  writer for Business.com and Business News Daily. His background in journalism brings a critical eye to his reviews and features, helping business leaders make the best decisions for their companies.