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Ghosting:  Don’t Let It Happen To You

Ghosting:  Don’t Let It Happen To You

We’ve talked at length in recent months about all the positives that come out of the roaring economy we are experiencing.  Simply stated, the fact that there are more jobs available than people to fill them is great for our businesses, our industry, and the economy at large.  But this “candidate-driven” job market is also producing a frustrating and negative trend that merits discussion and preparation for employers nationwide: “ghosting.” It’s a shame that we have to talk about it at all, but if you’re looking to hire anyone in today’s economy, you need to know what ghosting is and how to avoid it.

In summary, ghosting refers to a growing practice in which job candidates sever all communication in the middle of the recruiting and interview process with no warning and no explanation.  The individual effectively disappears forever, sometimes even after final job offers have been made.  It’s a type of behavior that is difficult for some of us to even comprehend, but it is becoming more widespread, and it’s happening across all industry sectors.

This emerging practice seems to be largely generational.  The term was first coined by millennials, who refer to “ghosting” as it relates to relationships with friends, romantic interests, and others.  Driven by social media and connections that are primarily digital rather than inter-personal, it is a behavior type that has been accepted in their community. Now, with the rise of “ghosting” in the hiring process, it would appear that those habits are spilling over into professional discussions as well, with more and more millennials showing a willingness to treat job negotiations as a social media connection, and therefore, a willingness to sever that “connection” with no warning whatsoever.

To be clear, ghosting would be less of a problem if the economy weren’t doing so well.  The millennial generation may lack a personal touch that we value, but they have a firm understanding of the current economy.  In this incredibly competitive market for talent, they know that it is the job-seeker, not the employer, who is in the driver’s seat.  So while we can blame social media for part of this problem, ghosting would not even be a viable option for some millennials (and other job-seekers following their lead) to entertain were it not for the incredibly strong economy – and its myriad of opportunities – that we are all enjoying.

The negative effects of this trend are obvious.  Employers waste precious time and money chasing an individual who turns out to be a no-show.  In the meantime, other candidates who could be good fits are gobbled up by competing interests, leaving employers with an empty seat and fewer candidates from which to choose.  It can also damage the integrity of the hiring process and strain relationships between employers, recruiters, and candidates themselves.  There is nothing positive that comes from this emerging type of conduct.

So how do employers prevent this from happening?  What steps can be taken to protect against ghosting’s disruptive and damaging effects?  The first step is to be aware that we’re operating in an incredibly fast-paced and competitive job market and to approach candidates with competitive offers, both from a compensation and a career growth standpoint. Beyond that, while it might seem counter-intuitive to many of us, employers should expect that a candidate will “ghost” on them.  It’s difficult for us to believe that a quality candidate who seems professional would ever disappear without warning.  But employers should assume that they will.  With that assumption, employers should bring up the topic to a candidate early in the process.  Discuss it in detail with the individual and warn them of the consequences of ghosting.  Those consequences should include the damage done to his/her reputation by ghosting, a refusal by an employer or a recruiter to consider them for a future position, and an immediate withdrawal of any offer that may be on the table.

Once the initial discussions have been had, employers should proceed with caution.  Have other candidates in mind should your preferred candidate disappear.  Once an offer is extended, set rigid and specific expectations for a response from the candidate – and hold them to it.  The employer should be prepared to rescind the offer and quickly move on to the next person if the response is not received in accordance with those expectations.

Ghosting might best be described as a “growing pain” as millennials continue to enter the workforce and interact with those of us who are working to bridge the generational gap.  But this pain can inflict real damage on a job search if not adequately accounted for, and in a competitive economy like ours, it is becoming a serious problem.  Here at Schaffer Associates, we follow the steps above to protect our clients and help them attract and retain the best talent out there.  We can do the same for you – and help you avoid the ghosts of this powerhouse economy.

 Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Schaffer Associates is a national management consulting firm specializing in executive search and organizational strategies for the hardware, home improvement, building materials, and consumer products industries. As the premier management consulting firm serving the industry, we help build organizations and leadership teams that foster corporate growth and success well into the future.