Submitted on Wed 06 Jul 2022
In the recruitment world there is a particular type of pariah, a category of person that fills us with revulsion, a creature so nefarious that our blood runs cold at the mere mention of them. They are the particular type of candidate we call… The Ghoster.
To get a candidate to a job offer we may speak to 50 people, we’ll interview 10, we’ll present 4 to our client. Our client will review and discuss CV’s, they’ll interview 3, then they’ll discuss some more and bring the 2 best back for a 2nd interview. From here they will spend some more time discussing and deciding and will eventually choose the one they want. 40+ hours of work culminating in 1 favourite candidate. And then that candidate doesn’t answer their phone. Ever.
At first, we dismiss our concerns, “maybe they are still on the train” we tell ourselves. Then later on that day, “maybe they are in meetings’. By the next morning we start to have genuine concerns for their health. We’ve emailed, sent a text, called, sent a LI message. By the end of the next day, following 15 increasingly frantic and irate calls from our client, our concern increases. We begin to fantasise that maybe they’ve had an accident: nothing too serious, obviously, just something serious enough to give them a valid excuse for not making any communication. By day 3 we, and the client, are livid. No feedback, no response to any communication channels and a sense of being in limbo.
At some point we need to call it, “time of death…”
The call to the client is never nice, we walk a fine line between selling the candidate out so it’s clear it isn’t our fault and keeping a small flame flickering just in case that fantasised about injury is real. But no matter what we say, our relationship with the client is damaged. And the candidate’s relationship with us and the client is dead with no chance of rising from the grave.
If you are guilty of doing this or have had a candidate do this to you, then you have experienced the heinous crime of Ghosting.
Ghosting can happen at any time in the recruitment process. It’s a phenomenon that occurs across industries (although some more than others) and involves a previously engaged and excited candidate suddenly disappearing from the face of the earth before an interview, after an interview, after an offer has been given or on their first day of work. It used to be a relatively rare occurrence but with the current market conditions, where candidate are in the driving seat, it has become a much more common event.
We’ve had candidates call us on the morning of their interview and tell us how excited they are, tell us about the research they’ve done, then the client calls us 10 mins into the allotted interview time to report a ‘no-show’. When we call to check that the candidate is OK there is no response.
Over nearly a quarter of a century of recruitment experience I have often wondered why someone would do this. Personally, it would be such an afront to my values that I couldn’t do it, but I’ve tried to understand how others could. I’ve put it down to two personality traits:
- Fear of confrontation
- Lack of respect
Many people hate confrontation and would rather change mobile numbers and move to Florida and assume a new identity than tell a recruiter that they don’t want a job. We get it, we’re sales people, we can be pushy. But when a candidate is at the tip of a 40 hour iceberg we get invested in their success. If they’d been honest up front, then they wouldn’t be the person we’re totally invested in. And a text or email isn’t that hard to write. It takes a lot of effort to dupe both the recruiter and the client so suddenly evaporating like an apparition in the night seems like an odd thing to do.
Most alarming is the lack of respect shown to the recruiter and the end client. The hours put into assessing CV’s, interviewing, making decisions. All to be ghosted without even a text, call or email.
But in the current market its ok right? There are so many jobs out there candidates don’t really need to care do they?
Short term, ghosting may not bite them, but it WILL come back to haunt the Ghoster later.
Unfortunately for The Ghoster, recruiters, hiring managers and the recruitment software they utilise, have long memories.
Every time a candidate ghosts, they effectively close the door with 2 companies; the agency and the end client. Not only is the fact of the ghosting stored next to the candidate’s file in the applicant tracking systems of the agency and the end client, but recruiters and managers tend to remember candidates that ghost them, it is a particular type of anger that tends to stick in the mind.
So not only is the candidate blacklisted by the recruitment agency and the end client, but they are also blacklisted from any agency the recruiter moves to (yes, we do talk about past experiences with candidates when a colleague is putting them forward for a job), and any team the manager ever leads in any future organisation.
Obviously, ghosting goes both ways. Most job applicants have been ghosted by a recruiter or prospective employer. In fact 78% of candidates say it’s the thing they hate most about the recruitment process. And feedback tells us that internal talent acquisition teams and agency recruiters alike are renowned for their tendency to not reply or give feedback (read about some candidate experiences here). Recruiters (both internal and agency) tend to also show the two traits that lead to ghosting: fear of confrontation and lack of respect. Its easy to reject unsuccessful candidates, regardless of the volume. Recruiters say they don’t have time, but in reality it comes down to fear of having confrontational conversations and lack of respect for the candidate. I have spoken to applicants who have sent our hundreds of applications without a SINGLE response. And this isn’t even an uncommon phenomenon. It seems that a tendency to ghost haunts both sides of the recruitment world. But, as they say, two wrongs don’t make a right.
But whilst the recruitment industry’s tendency to go silent on candidates is a constant, the huge rise in candidate ghostings seems to be a product of a particularly buoyant market. But what are the implications?
Given that the candidate is interviewing for a particular type of role, within a particular industry or vertical market, chances are the recruiter and manager will turn up again in their world.
Rejecting an offer or calling to cancel an interview is annoying but it’s forgivable, it happens all the time. But not showing up at all and never answering calls shows a level of disrespect that is hard to forgive.
So if you are reading this and you have been guilty of ghosting, if you are prone to slipping into the shadows and disappearing, if you get spooked by the thought of confrontational conversations with recruiters, then beware.
Maybe you’ll be OK, it’s a busy market, it probably wont hinder you too much if you’ve burnt a few companies. Maybe ghosting wont haunt you now. Maybe there are plenty of others to approach. But what about when the market turns?
What about when there are no jobs around?
Who you gonna call?
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