Ghosting Meets the Job Market

Long ago, dating was something people did with those they were already acquainted with. People tended to meet their significant others in their hometowns, in their high schools, or on the job, which created a certain sense of social obligation with respect to providing closure. For example, if one party to the relationship wanted to part ways, there was an obligation to let the other person down easy.

Source: FangXiaNuo / E+ / Getty

A World of Increasing Anonymity

Because advances in technology and transportation have allowed people to greatly expand their social circles, dating has become relatively more anonymous. An ex-significant other isn’t necessarily someone who lives a few houses down or works in the next cube over; it could be someone you may never see again.

This social distance likely contributed to the phenomenon of “ghosting,” or simply breaking off all contact with no explanation, no goodbye, and no closure.

So, what does all this have to do with employee management? Until recently, virtually nothing. Increasingly, however, employees, new hires, and applicants have seemingly adapted the ghosting context to the employment context.

Ghosting in the Talent Acquisition Process

Ghosting has becoming increasingly common in the recruitment process. In fact, as an article in BBC Worklife points out, “one recent study of 1,500 global workers found that 75% of jobseekers have been ghosted by a company after a job interview.” That’s according to Alex Christian, who also writes, “Employers openly acknowledge that they do it; only 27% of US employers surveyed by job listings site Indeed said they hadn’t ghosted a candidate in the past year.”

It’s not just employers, however. “Right now, employees are ghosting back—and potentially in higher numbers than ever before,” Christian says, adding that the same survey by Indeed indicates that 28% of potential employees say they had ghosted compared with just 19% 2 years ago.

Ghosting Occurring at Multiple Points in the Process

Ghosting is taking place at multiple points in the hiring process—sometimes after an initial phone call but also after being hired! A quarter of respondents to the Indeed survey said new hires failed to show up on their first day of work.

While employers can do little to stop applicant ghosting—other than making their job offers more lucrative and keeping the lines of communication open and transparent—they can and should avoid the practice themselves. Applicants frequently share their experiences in the job application process with others in their social and professional networks. Therefore, a bad-mannered company won’t easily attract interested workers in what is already a challenging labor market.

Bottom line: If you don’t want to be ghosted, don’t be a ghost yourself.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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