Have You Been ‘Ghosted’ by a New Employee?

It’s hard to find good workers, so it’s doubly frustrating when they just don’t show up for their first day of work

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The Urban Dictionary describes ghosting as “the act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date.” While dating and interviewing candidates is not the same thing, they are very similar in the early stages and can elicit very similar behaviors. Candidate ghosting is when you are actively engaged with a prospective employee, but at some point before their first day of work, they cease all communication. Ouch!

Despite challenges in some sectors of late, the market for talent has been hot in other fields. It means your best candidates could be entertaining multiple offers. Even if you assume that job candidates have the best intentions as you are recruiting them, sometimes good manners fall to the side when there is a lot of interest in their skills. When candidates stop communicating with you, it’s not only frustrating, it’s costly too. 

To avoid being ghosted, you must focus on the overall candidate experience. While there is as much head (clear processes and accountability) as there is heart (being respectful and kind) in this process, there are efforts you can make to minimize job candidates ghosting you. 

First, be sure to stay connected with your candidate. Check-ins and pre-selling during all points of the process is critical. After every step, you should be asking the candidate how they feel the interview went, what they are thinking in terms of the company and the role, and how interested they would be in getting an offer at this point. You can use scales to ask them to rank from 1-10, and then follow up to understand why their interest is where it is. This shows you are invested in their success and they are not lost in a tunnel of endless interviews. 

Don’t be afraid to find out about other employers they are looking into. Building trust with the candidates and then boldly and directly asking about their interaction with other companies is critical. Ask what other roles they are considering and what about those roles is potentially more appealing than what you might offer. This will help you be more effective at making an offer that targets their needs and is more attractive. 

Speedy action is paramount. We live in a world of instant feedback and immediate reaction. While the interview process can take time, if you focus on the candidate experience, they can assume you’re not interested and stop replying. Much like waiting for someone to call after the first date, what used to be a four-day standard is now more like a same day follow up. Candidates need and deserve to know how long you will take to consider them for the next step in the recruiting process, and that you will get back to them either way. 

Now, let’s assume you have made it past the interview stage and extended an offer. A good way to get ghosted is to make an offer that is less than competitive. In hourly jobs, $1 makes a big difference. For top candidates in middle management, certain perks are now standard and multiple offers are common at all career levels. Sending an offer that is too low increases the chance you will remove the opportunity to even improve the offer or negotiate. 

This is where market data and non-salary perks become important as well. Not every company will be able to get into a salary war for their desired candidate, so knowing what other non-compounding benefits you can offer to sweeten the deal will help your chances of keeping the candidate engaged and interested through the recruitment process. 

Suppose you got through the first two milestones and your candidate is ready for their first day. Would it shock you to learn that candidates today are increasing their first-day ghosting tactics? What a horrible experience to expect a candidate on site for their first day of work only for them to never show up! All the work that has gone into welcoming and planning for their onboarding is for naught. 

Many employers try calling, emailing and even contacting the new hire through social media — they are often perplexed as to why someone would just not show. 

At this stage, the reason for ghosting often is because of a terrible onboarding program. After cumbersome processes and silence once signing their offer, they no longer want to be part of your team. It’s possible they received another offer in that time. While it’s certainly not good for their reputation to ghost, it seems to be the nonconfrontational option of accepting a role where they feel more valued. It was too hard before they even started. 

Unfortunately, ghosting seems to be a growing practice. You rarely see it coming, and there is no profile to predict who will ghost and who will not. Therefore, your candidate experience is so critical to your success. If you aren’t already, have a look at your practices at all the key touchpoints. Pressure-test your process and think about how easy and exciting it is (or isn’t) for a candidate to move through. Think about how you can drastically reduce your chances of being haunted by the ghost of offers past! 

About the Author: Jeremy Eskenazi is a human resources trainer, author of RecruitCONSULT! Leadership and founder of the consulting firm Riviera Advisors. Contact him at www.rivieraadvisors.com.


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