Fess Up: Is Your Company Ghosting Job Candidates?

March 7, 2022

It’s more common than ever for applicants to “ghost” employers when starting a job. Now, more companies are ghosting candidates as well. Here’s why that presents a big risk to hiring.

In 2019, we posted an article about the emerging phenomenon of candidates “ghosting” their employers. Digital communications have made many relationships (for example in the dating space) more casual, and a few years ago, this phenomenon began expanding into the workplace. Employers reported that more job candidates would get far into a job interview process, or accept a job offer, or even show up and begin working for a few days or weeks, and then poof—they were never heard from again.

It’s a frustrating experience for HR departments and employers, not to mention costly. How can you refine your search process when a candidate might just disappear into thin air? Without feedback from a candidate, or any explanation, there’s nothing to but go back to square one in the hiring process and hope that the next one turns out.

Now, according to a recent article on Indeed’s Leadership Hub, more employers are ghosting candidates as well.

Indeed ran a survey of 500 job seekers and 500 employers to find out how prevalent ghosting is in today’s marketplace. According to the survey, 77% of job seekers said that they’d been ghosted by an employer since the beginning of the pandemic. Alarmingly, 10% reported that employers ghosted them after making a job offer. Only 27% of employers say they haven’t ghosted a job seeker in the past year.

What’s more, the survey found that 51% of job seekers think employers are ghosting candidates more than before the pandemic.

Companies ghosting candidates can take on a few different forms:

  • Sometimes a company recruiter reaches out to a wide swathe of candidates (say on LinkedIn) and, when they get a lot of responses, only replies to a few. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, this is the most common.
  • Sometimes—though less commonly—a candidate will get to the second or third round of an interview process only to never hear back. Often this happens when companies aren’t seeing the right kind of candidates, and decide to pivot their requirements—while leaving existing candidates in the lurch.
  • Sometimes, as mentioned above, the candidate will get to offer stage before not hearing back. This is rare but has been known to happen.

Just to clarify, we’re not referring to companies who don’t respond to initial job applications—which is bad enough. The survey specifically talked about candidates who had established communications with a company, who then expressed interest—and even interviewed—before radio silence. Failing to respond to applicants who apply for jobs is common, but isn’t surprising in an era where many companies use applicant tracking systems that encourage hundreds of mismatched candidates to apply.

But ghosting candidates who you have actually spoken with about a role is a whole other level of recruitment malpractice.

It goes without saying that closing the loop with candidates is just good practice. It’s the right thing to do. But it’s also sound business. Companies who ghost prospective employees risk major reputational impacts that are easy to ignore, but hard to undo. If a candidate applies to a role via a job board or online system and never hears back, they’ll likely think, “it’s a big company, with lots of applicants.” That lack of feedback is sadly the norm. But if a candidate applies to a role, and has one or more job interviews before being ghosted, they’ll wonder if there’s something majorly wrong with the company’s hiring process.

And they’d be right to wonder.

The Impact of Ghosting on Reputation:

Believe it or not, job candidates talk about their job search experience. And companies have real reputations in the marketplace. Landing pages about a company’s culture, or upbeat language in job descriptions, aren’t enough to paper over the conversations applicants are having about your company if you regularly ghost them. There’s a saying in the recruitment business: “every candidate knows five more great candidates.” To put it another way, the wrong candidate might know the right candidate.

And if word gets around, the right candidate might hear about the way a company treats interviewees. When it’s time for them to consider a role with your company, they probably won’t bother. Because the top candidates recognize that ghosting candidates is a symptom of much deeper organizational problems. They might wonder about the level of internal accountability, or how the company communicates with its customers. The better the candidate, the more discerning they are about the companies they work for. So if it comes down to two similar roles at two companies, and they remember a friend or colleague mentioning that they were ghosted by your organization, why would they risk the trouble?

Relevance to the Candidate Marketplace:

In a market where many high-skilled workers are competing for few jobs (such as during a recession), companies can be more cavalier about their candidate communications. They still shouldn’t ghost, but if there are piles of exceptional candidates beating down your door, it’s more to be expected.

But we’re not in that market right now. In November, the Globe and Mail reported that there were over a million job vacancies in Canada. The picture hasn’t changed much since then. That means that it’s a candidate’s market, where companies are competing for top talent and candidates are more discerning than ever about the roles that they accept. This is even more true in Argentus’ recruitment verticals of Supply Chain Management and Procurement.

The solution to the problem of ghosting seems simple: just don’t do it. Make sure that you close the loop on all candidate communications, even for candidates who aren’t right for the job. But for many companies, the answer is trickier than that. As with many of these issues, it’s not a problem of will—most companies want to be transparent and thorough in their communication with job candidates. But often, the issue is one of accountability. Leadership needs to make HR and other stakeholders accountable for every step of the hiring process. Companies should project manage their hiring the same way they would manage a new product introduction, marketing campaign, or supply chain transformation.

If you don’t, the reputational impact will only make it harder to hire in the future.


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