More Employers Report Being Haunted by ‘Ghosting’ Employees

It’s as if the trials of doing business during a pandemic weren’t enough. Some employer challenges, such as the skills gap and labor shortage, were a curse before the COVID era, but they’ve worsened during the health crisis. One particularly baffling trend the pandemic has put into sharper focus is “ghosting,” the practice of applicants vanishing in the middle of the hiring process or just not showing up after being hired.

What’s Going On?

Job search platform Indeed recently reported on a survey it conducted of 500 jobseekers and 500 employers across the United States in a variety of industries. The researchers found ghosting was still a new phenomenon in 2019 but was getting more common by the time the research was announced in February 2021, when 28% of candidates reported they had ghosted an employer. That was up from 18% during 2019.

Employers aren’t the only ones noticing the disappearing act. The Indeed survey found 77% of jobseekers reported employers had ghosted them since the pandemic took hold during March 2020. The survey also showed 10% of the jobseekers reported an employer ghosted them after a verbal job offer.

Just 27% of employers reported they had not ghosted a jobseeker in the past year. The announcement of the research notes that ghosting by employers “creates a terrible candidate experience and can threaten a company’s employer brand.”

Effect of COVID

Indeed found that only 4% of jobseekers said COVID-19 was a reason for ghosting over the previous 12 months, but 48% acknowledged employers are probably being ghosted more often during the pandemic.

It’s not clear whether ghosting is happening more during the pandemic or if it’s the result of increased awareness of the trend, Indeed notes, adding, “Regardless, the data shows that ghosting on both sides seems to have become normalized behavior within the hiring process.”

Staffing firm Randstad also has reported on ghosting. The Randstad COVID-19 2020 U.S. Compensation Insights survey found 41% of those surveyed said they had gotten “cold feet” about a job opportunity in the past and backed out at the last minute.

The Randstad survey also showed 33% of respondents had accepted a job offer and then disappeared without informing the employer ahead of the start date so they could take another higher-paying job.

Tips to Prevent Being Ghosted

Regardless of the reasons ghosting occurs, employers can minimize its impact. Indeed suggests “focusing on attentiveness and improved communications throughout every stage of the process” so candidates feel informed.

Indeed says research has shown that many candidates ghost when they don’t feel their needs are being met and don’t know what else to do. Also, “simply being transparent, empathetic and authentic can go a long way in building more comfort and trust into your relationship with the candidate.”

Payroll provider ADP also offers tips for employers to help avoid ghosting. Among them: Be straightforward with candidates, and clearly communicate why you’re an employer of choice.

“Circle back with each and every candidate to let them know whether they’re moving along in your hiring process,” the company posted in an “HR tip of the week” in March 2020.

ADP also points to the adage that says employees don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. Therefore, employers need to train supervisors on how to set goals, manage performance, communicate, and apply workplace rules and policies.

Making the hiring process efficient also helps. “If you’re waiting too long to contact candidates to schedule an interview or to offer them a job, it could allow time for another job offer to lure the candidate away,” the ADP tip says. “At the very least, a lengthy process may make the applicant apprehensive about accepting a job with you.”

ADP also stresses the importance of acclimating new hires. “An employee’s first few days on the job set the foundation for the rest of the employment relationship,” the tip says. “During this time, clearly communicate what the employee can expect from you and what you expect from them.”

ADP also says to draft no-call/no-show policies with care. Employers shouldn’t always assume they’ve been ghosted when a new hire is absent without notice. An accident, illness, or other emergency may be the cause of the absence. In some cases, those absences are protected by law.

“Taking adverse action against an employee for a protected absence or for failing to provide advance notice could violate these laws,” ADP says. “For these reasons, establish procedures for attempting to contact the employee and make sure you’re complying with all applicable leave laws before enforcing your no-call/no-show policy.”

Tammy Binford writes and edits news alerts and newsletter articles on labor and employment law topics for BLR web and print publications.