You’ve Been Ghosted! Now What?

What is ghosting in the workplace, and what can you do about it?

It finally happened: You met your dream candidate for that open position. From the first call, you felt a connection. After the interview, everyone agreed they were a perfect fit. You couldn’t wait to make it official and offer them the job. But then, out of nowhere, they stopped responding to your calls and emails. Did you misread the signals?

Nope — you’ve been ghosted.

The term “ghosting” comes from the dating world, in which one person ends a relationship by disappearing with no explanation. Recruiters and HR experts say this trend is becoming more common in the workplace, from candidates who don’t show up for interviews to new hires bailing on their first day — even to employees who stop coming to work.

So why is ghosting on the rise, and what can you do if it happens to you?

Faced with more options, more candidates jump ship

So what’s making them bail?

With record-low unemployment, one explanation is too many options: 2018 marked the first time the number of U.S. jobs available surpassed the number of unemployed people. Just as dating apps present users with an endless list of possible love connections, this market gives candidates the impression that if they “swipe left” on one job, another that’s even better is right around the corner.

This power balance favors job seekers, who are happy to play the field — moving from one opportunity to another without keeping recruiters in the loop.

Similarly, many workers now skip the customary two-weeks notice before moving to a new role. This can leave former employers confused, scrambling to pick up the slack and rehire for the position. What’s more, employers and employees alike miss valuable opportunities for insight normally gained during offboarding.  

Ghosting as a communication breakdown

Shifts in communication styles also contribute to the rise of ghosting, experts say. Many employees — especially younger ones — now rely on informal, quick ways of connecting with managers and coworkers, such as instant messages, texts or short emails. The result? Less time in face-to-face meetings or phone conversations, less practice having difficult conversations in person and weaker bonds between employees and employers.

Just like ghosting in the dating world, for some people, this makes it easier to disappear altogether than to deal with a tough situation. For example, a new employee whose project has gone wrong might ghost their job because they don’t feel comfortable talking to their boss.

Ghosting involves a breakdown in communication, which is a two-way street. If you get ghosted, look closer at how your team and company communicate. Frequent, open communication throughout the recruiting process can help prevent cancellations and no-shows.

What to do if you get ghosted (and how to reduce the risk)

Remember: Ghosting isn’t personal! However, there are some best practices you can follow to help reduce the risk:

Act fast. If you want someone, don’t delay! Over 70% of job seekers will turn to their second-choice offer if their top company takes too long to respond.

Be transparent. If candidates have to wonder where they are in the hiring process, they’ll likely move on. Open, consistent communication builds trust and engagement between candidates and your company during recruitment, onboarding and beyond. And don’t be afraid to ask candidates point-blank about their other top-choice jobs and what might sway their decision.

Establish a feedback loop. Managers should keep new hires up to date on their progress and give them time to ask questions. This puts a human face on the relationship and makes ghosting more challenging. Being compassionate, communicative and available can help employees feel better about speaking up.

Prepare for the worst. You probably can’t prevent it altogether, but you can build in anti-ghosting measures during the recruitment stage. One strategy is to hold more interviews than you think you need, assuming that some will be no-shows. This helps create a pipeline of talent so you’ll always have options. Of course, this may not be possible for all roles, so look at those with a history of ghosting, or where you think it’s possible to build in choice and target your efforts accordingly.

When making an offer, it’s also a good idea to have strong second- or third-choice candidates in mind; some companies even make multiple offers.

Some final thoughts on ghosting

Ghosting isn’t disappearing anytime soon. While that may seem troubling, there’s no reason to despair. Whether with dating or at work, ghosting comes down to a lack of communication and connection. It’s an easy out when the human element is missing — so build bonds with candidates and employees early and often.

If you do get ghosted, look on the bright side: someone who pulls a disappearing act wouldn’t have worked out anyway. The right match does exist, so get back out there!

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