“…I was ghosted this morning…”
Admittedly, not the words I expected when I met with a friend for a beer and asked how he was doing. He works for a recruitment agency and at that moment he was licking his wounds and in need of liquid therapy. I may not have been expecting what he said, but likewise, it didn’t surprise.
When you have worked in recruitment for over a decade having someone not arrive for an interview or fail to start their new role is not a new phenomenon. In fact, the only thing new is someone / somewhere created a term to describe it – “ghosting”. The origin seems to come from those on the dating scene – where suddenly and without warning someone who you have been seeing just disappears and does not respond to any form of communication.
For a recruiter or HR professional, having a candidate fail to arrive for interview is awkward or possibly embarrassing, but at least your investment up until that point has been minimal and you can quickly recover the situation. However, the scenario where a candidate has been interviewed, accepts the job, allegedly works a three-month notice period and then never arrives for their first day…that really hurts. Suddenly you are going to have to repeat the whole recruitment drive right from the start.
When this latter situation unfolds recruiters turn into private investigators who really believe in alien abductions and supporting roles (typically including senior management) suddenly find their hindsight vision is 20/20 and an adopt an interrogation style the Gestapo would be proud of as they try and find someone to blame for this.
It is a moment in recruitment where professionalism can be lost and emotion takes over. In my arrogant opinion though – forget it. The moment has happened and you cannot change it. What you can do though is take stock and try and answer two questions; why has ghosting happen to you and what can you do to prevent it?
I couldn’t find any numbers relating to how frequently ghosting happens, but I did find a recent survey that shows 63% of senior HR practitioners across the UK have had new employees quit a job before they actually started it. The only difference between this and ghosting is communication. Therefore, I’m pretty sure ghosting is just as common and if you have experienced it you are in good company. Explaining ‘why’ it happens seems to be a bit more complicated…or is it?
The literature keeps repeating that it is a “complex question” and there are “varying factors” at play. I disagree, it is incredibly simple – the employee is not happy with what you are offering. That could be on a financial, spiritual or intellectual level – but regardless they are not signing-up to what the job role and/or organisation are offering.
Right now, the UK employment market is tight. Employers are struggling to source talent and employees are spoiled for choice. I believe if you back yourself to be an outstanding candidate then you would not be scared to explore multiple opportunities with multiple employers. That means a better offer from an alternative employer can materialise and be taken, or possibly a counter offer from the current employer made and accepted…everyone wants to source talent.
Social commentators also see a generational factor at play when it comes to ghosting with suggestions that it is means Generation Z are acting this way so as to avoid confrontation.
With no apparent change in the status quo of the labour market, recruiters need to be wise to handling passive candidates who can have multiple opportunities. The first thing to do is drop the attitude that a candidate should feel grateful to have a job offer and the second thing is to recognise that employee engagement and the onboarding process starts at the recruitment phase. You see – HR may boast they have an onboarding process that inspires employee loyalty and performance that makes Jim Jones and The People’s Temple look amateurish – but it shouldn’t start on day one of a job, it starts during the recruitment process when a candidate forms first impressions of an organisation.
A meta-analysis by Professor Bauer examining 70 studies has determined that feeling socially accepted and having a sense of belonging within an organisation was a key factor in newcomer success. Investing in the relationship as early as possible sends a message to the employee that the employer cares about them – you are creating an emotional bond that can build in strength over time.
The crux is this – creating a positive experience during the recruitment and onboarding process helps to securing the best and brightest candidates. I mean it is not rocket science.
How do you achieve this positive experience? Well, you do not have to spend huge amounts of money on things just start with the simple and basic foundations and build from there. You want to educate the job applicant about what it is like working for your organisation.
Make sure your job adverts are listing the benefits of working at your organisation. Respond quickly to applicants even if it is just an acknowledgement you have received their application; these little details really help. If you can afford it and the need is such, look at investing in onboarding software that will help you save time and effort and bring a consistency to how you deal with applicants.
During the interview process why not try a walk and talk with candidates, literally walk around parts of the organisation introducing them to key personnel who are visible and showing the candidate where their team are based or where break out areas are. To often I have met HR professionals for interview who are doing back-to-back interviews and don’t have time for niceties like that. Ultimately they are not selling the organisation to me as well as they could.
You just need to think about multiple contact points that will continuously educate and enthuse a candidate. Could you create literature that details a day in the life of other employees that could be shared with interviewees?
If things have progressed to a job offer how about a personalised letter from the relevant line manager or even Managing Director saying how much they look forward to welcoming the candidate onboard.
The more positive a candidate’s first impressions of your organisation, the more you invest and communicate with them then the more socially accepted they feel and the less likely you are to be ghosted. It does not necessarily mean a candidate will not change their mind and suddenly turn down your job offer. But I promise if you have created that emotional connection between the candidate and your organisation then they will tell you about why they are not starting with you, they will tell you what has turned their head and they will give you some clues as to what if anything needs to be adjusted in the rewards package. You’d be surprised, it isn’t often the salary that is the problem.
One final word on the subject of ghosting….if you have received a job offer and should be starting a new job on Monday and have changed your mind and are about to ghost a potential employer – DO NOT DO IT. You are damaging your reputation, burning bridges and creating some potentially awkward situations in the future that will come back and haunt you….your career is too short and too precious to leave that debris cluttering future opportunities.
About the Author
Simon Royston is the founder and Managing Director of The Recruitment Lab (A recruitment agency with offices in Aldershot and Brighton that offers employment services across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and beyond). Simon lives in Guildford and has worked in Recruitment for over a decade. He has a degree and a masters in psychology as well as a diploma in Human Resource Management. If you would like to know more about anything written in this blog or would simply like to express your own thoughts and opinions do not hesitate to contact Simon through The Recruitment Lab website.