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Job ghosting: When applicants suddenly disappear

4 min Published on 29 November 2022
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The jobseeker's profile looks perfect. During the first personal interview with a candidate, the chemistry seems to be right. But you haven't heard anything since the interview, even though you contacted them by email and by phone. You have been ghosted! Welcome to the frustrating world of recruitment. But what is job ghosting and why is it becoming more common?

Short and sweet - Ghosting Meaning

The dating world has coined the term "ghosting" to describe a person who suddenly cuts off all connections and seemingly disappears off the face of the earth without explanation. This scenario is becoming increasingly common in the corporate world.

 Applicant hides himself

Job ghosting - what's behind it?

Ghosting is a term that first brings dating to mind. There it describes the fact that a previously interested partner disappears without warning. But ghosting also occurs in the job search. When an applicant suddenly breaks off contact, this is called job ghosting. A job seeker who does not (or no longer) respond to invitations for interviews, emails and phone calls is ghosting the company that is interested in him or her. This is a very common phenomenon in recent years and a major problem for employers. After all, the application process comes at a high cost.

A few years ago, the world looked different. Back then, companies were more likely to ghosted applicants because of the large number of applications, rather than the other way around. After applying, you often never heard from the employer of your choice or received an automated rejection from the system only after several weeks. (Editor's note: I am still waiting for feedback on my internship application at a large car manufacturer - from 2011) Since the job market has changed into an applicant market, job ghosting has also turned around.

Applicant does not show up for interview - what to do?

It is also interesting to know what happens when an applicant does not turn up for an interview or an employee does not turn up on their first day at work. In short, not much. Employers can't do anything if someone doesn't turn up for an interview - at best they can claim compensation, but this is likely to be difficult to prove. Not even if an employment contract has been concluded. Of course, you have to comply with the notice periods under labour law. However, since workers cannot be forced to work, this problem can only be solved by compensation. Most of the time, however, the effort for this is higher than the compensation is worth. Workers unfortunately do not need to worry too much about ghosting during the job search.

To avoid being ghosted during the hiring process, it is important to understand this trend from the beginning.

 Frustrated recruiter after job ghosting

Reasons for ghosting on the job - why candidates simply disappear

Many job seekers today would rather avoid confrontation and embarrassment than tell the employer bad news. Evil tongues might also call it karma because recruiters used to ghost job candidates. However, this is not how it should be viewed. Either way, it is rude and unprofessional.

However, the main explanation for job ghosting is that today's workers simply have more options.
In the current market, recruiters are struggling to fill open positions, and qualified professionals often have multiple openings to choose from.
With so many options, candidates simply don't care if they burn a few bridges along the way. This is especially true for entry-level positions with lower wages.

In addition, employees are interested in the company's culture when looking for a job. If candidates feel that your company's values do not match their preferences, they may simply stop communicating with you and focus on other potential employers instead.

What is the cause of job ghosting?

Applicants are not obliged to tell the potential new employer that they have changed their mind or what the reasons are. Legally, applicants do not have to fear any consequences if they simply disappear due to ghosting.

1. Applicants are spoilt for choice

Some young job seekers, especially those looking for their first job, behave like they are in a dating situation when applying for a job. If they find a better job opportunity, or realise that the job is not what they want after all, they ghosted without warning.

2. Applicants do not want to have uncomfortable conversations

The applicant has already applied and may have had an initial interview with the company. Afterwards, however, it became clear that the job was not the right one. Especially if an interview has already taken place and it actually went well, some applicants do not want to tell the counterpart directly that they do not want to work there. They opt for the simple method of not answering calls and not replying to emails.

3. Applicants consider the behaviour appropriate

Some applicants do not see their behaviour as problematic at all. Either they have had experience with job ghosting from the company side, or they behave similarly in their private life. Then they may not be aware of how rude ghosting really is.

How to avoid applicant ghosting during the recruitment process

You may now be wondering if ghosting is the new reality and you have to accept it. You don't have to! Here are some steps you can take to stop being at risk of being ghosted during the application process.

Shorten and digitize your recruitment process

Your candidates are also in high demand with your competitors, so you need to act fast. Contact your best candidates immediately instead of waiting until you have a stack of applications to start the hiring process. You should also set up a virtual onboarding process and hold job interviews via video telephony.

Avoid ghosting on your part

Since ghosting can also come from the employer's side, you should be aware of when you are talking to which candidate and what stage each candiate is at. Otherwise, applicants may assume that you are ghosting and spread this negative ressonance.
Therefore, make it your goal to communicate in a timely manner with all candidates, not just the candidates you are hiring.

Use benefits already in the application process

Due to the severe shortage of skilled workers, it is important to offer fair salaries and additional benefits from your Employee retention strategy early on. By offering a competitive salary from the start, you can avoid scaring off top candidates early on or driving them to the competition.

Personalise your communication

Pre-written emails are quickly seen through. Applicants may become suspicious here as to whether there is really any interest in you. If you call applicants directly after they have applied, this will make a better impression. However, please be aware: applicants who are in employment usually cannot answer the phone in the middle of the day.

Also, end messages with a specific step, e.g. "I'd like to schedule a follow-up call later this week to discuss job openings and possible start dates." A call-to-action often leads to the desired behaviour.

 Interview without ghosting

Contract signed, danger averted?

Once the application process has been successfully completed, however, this does not mean that you can relax. A lot can happen in the phase between signing the contract and starting work. That is why it is worthwhile to have a well thought-out pre-onboarding.

Here are some suggestions on what you can do during pre-onboarding:

  • Provide a professional contact person from the department ("mentor") who will personally contact applicants and answer questions.

  • Invite new employees to company events (summer parties, company outings, anniversaries, celebrations of other special events).

  • Send new employees an induction plan as soon as possible and let them know that a supervisor or mentor will explain it in more detail during a personal interview.

  • Put together a small welcome package, e.g. with a wine bottle or a T-shirt with the company logo and a personal or future name badge - be creative and add to this list.

  • Add new employees to the internal newsletter distribution list.

  • Offer support in finding accommodation; removal companies can help as external service providers.

 

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