“Ghosting” By New Hires is Up: Here’s Why and What to Do About It

Surveys show that the explosion in ghosting among job applicants (as well as employees and employers) is real. Here’s how to prevent it.

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“Ghosting” By New Hires is Up: Here’s Why and What to Do About It

Here's what you need to know:

  • Surveys show that job seekers are ghosting at nearly every stage in the process
  • Other frequent ghosters include first-time job seekers, employees, and employers
  • Top reasons for job seekers ghosting include employers’ poor communication, disorganized scheduling of interviews, and more
  • There are several ways employers can help prevent job candidates from ghosting, including making business etiquette a priority, maintaining clear and frequent communication, letting candidates know what to expect, and more

What’s up with job seekers not showing up for the 1st day of work? The problem isn’t new. Reports on no-shows in the workplace started surfacing in 2018. But the phenomenon — called “ghosting” — is on the rise, approaching an all-time high, and signaling trouble for the workplace.

“Ghosting” began as an online dating term. It occurs when 1 person in the relationship stops communicating with the other. The disinterested party “vanishes” without a word, not even a goodbye.

Ghosting operates the same way in the workplace. The difference is that this trend is rooted in the recruiting and hiring process.

How does ghosting happen among job seekers?

The job-board giant Indeed surveyed more than 4,000 job seekers and about 900 employers in 2021 to gauge ghosting’s prevalence in recruiting. The poll showed that 28% of job seekers “vanished” from the recruiting process of 76% of employers.

For the survey respondents, the hiring process started out normally, with recruiters reaching out to select applicants. Beyond that, job seekers were ghosting at nearly every stage in the process.

Here’s how the data broke down for job seekers:

  • 50% failed to show up for a scheduled interview.
  • 46% stopped responding to recruiters’ and hiring managers’ inquiries.
  • 22% accepted the job offer but failed to show up the 1st day of work.
  • 19% accepted a verbal job offer but never signed the work agreement.

When did skipping appointments and ignoring messages become an acceptable way of landing a job? Common courtesy used to be the hallmark of good manners.

So, is ghosting the end of business etiquette? More data on ghosting by job seekers show an emerging pattern.

More statistics on ghosting among job seekers

The explosion in ghosting is real. Indeed found that:

  • Ghosting by job seekers in 2021 (28%) was up from 18% in 2019.
  • Just 4% of job seekers in the survey cited COVID-19 as their reason for ghosting, but nearly half of employers (48%) say ghosting has expanded since the pandemic emerged in 2021.
  • Job seekers are vanishing early in the hiring process, usually after the phone screening and initial interview.
  • One-quarter of employers surveyed said that new hires aren’t showing up on their 1st day of work.

Based on these findings, ghosting is becoming normalized in recruiting and hiring. The question is, why?

Which job applicants and employees are ghosting and why?

The demographics

A Spiceworks survey found that:

  • Women were less likely than men to ghost (68% v. 90%).
  • Senior-level workers, like managers and directors, were more likely to ghost (91%).
  • Vice presidents (93%) and C-suite executives (96%) were more likely than others to ghost when considering job opportunities.

However, Spiceworks noted that demographics can vary by company.

Other frequent ghosters include first-time job seekers, employees, and employers.

Employers’ part

Employment experts see signs that ghosting is becoming a habit of both applicants and employers. Ghosting is up among job seekers, but 77% of them in Indeed’s study said that employers have ghosted them.

More than half of job seekers (51%) think ghosting among employers is higher than ever.

A third of job seekers in a 2018 Clutch survey said that the employer who last rejected them didn’t communicate the bad news at all. And of those who did receive a rejection notice, 21% said the employer contacted them by phone and 13% by email.

In summarizing the survey results, Clutch said that employers who ghost job seekers are signaling that they approve of the behavior.

What are the top reasons for job seekers ghosting?

Low pay, conflicting job descriptions, and undesirable office locations are fueling some of the current ghosting activity, according to a Terra Staffing Group report.

In recent data from Landed, a resource platform for job seekers, the top reasons for ghosting are:

  • Mismatched job roles
  • Employers’ poor communication practices
  • Interviewers’ mistreatment of candidates
  • Overly personal inquiries
  • Disorganized scheduling of interviews

Company ratings

Other factors that drive ghosting are a company’s poor reputation, including 1-star online employee reviews on platforms like Google, Glassdoor, and Yelp; public relations disasters; and low Better Business Bureau ratings.

Job market influence

Job seekers also snub employers over better job offers and opportunities, both signs of a robust job market.

A 2022 New York Federal Reserve survey found that 3.7% of job seekers claimed to have received 4 job offers in the past 90 days — triple the rate of offers made when the pandemic started.

In a recent Spiceworks survey, more than half of the job hunters polled blamed their ghosting on the flood of job openings on the market.

What’s your biggest 2022 HR challenge that you’d like to resolve

Answer to see the results

Why do ghosting candidates hurt business?

Employers that ghost candidates create a recruiting experience that reflects poorly on their company’s culture. Discourtesy, real or imagined, harms a company’s brand.

In fact, 77% of applicants in a 2021 poll saw a correlation between how they’re treated in the recruitment process with how a company will likely treat them on the job.

Also, the recruitment process often is an applicant’s 1st glimpse of a company’s work environment. So, a good recruiting experience can make a candidate champion a company’s brand.

In fact, 77% of applicants in a 2021 poll saw a correlation between how they’re treated in the recruitment process with how a company will likely treat them on the job.

Monster says that companies run the risk of damaging employee morale and trust by ghosting a candidate referral. The referring party, often an employee, may feel embarrassed and betrayed by the candidate’s treatment and quit making referrals, one of employers’ most effective recruiting methods.

“Ghosting” By New Hires is Up: Here’s Why and What to Do About It

How can companies prevent job candidates from ghosting?

Employment experts agree that ghosting is becoming normalized in the recruiting and hiring process. But they also agree that employers can prevent job seekers from ghosting, starting with correcting their own behavior.

Here are anti-ghosting steps they recommend:

  • Make business etiquette a priority.
  • Create and maintain a culture founded on clear communication.
  • Ask candidates for preferred ways of reaching them (e.g., email, texts, messaging).
  • Keep communicating with applicants at every step in the recruiting process to prevent them from feeling ignored.
  • Don’t assume that an unresponsive applicant is ghosting. Technical glitches and malfunctions on either the company’s or the candidate’s end could be the problem.
  • Set up an automated process to manage communication with first-round candidates. Use candidate relationship management (CRM) software to request information, send out rejection notices, and handle other tasks in the early stages of the recruiting process.
  • Let candidates know what to expect in the next hiring phase and when they should expect it. This includes information about interviews, skills testing, and other requirements. Candidates should know what their prospects are at every stage in the recruiting process.
  • After interviews, let candidates know when they can expect to be contacted again, whether they’re still being considered for the job, and if they’re free to move onto the next phase of the hiring process.
  • Contact rejected candidates by phone or in person — rather than digitally — and explain the hiring decision. Give them constructive feedback and encourage them to apply for future openings. Remember that second-tier candidates may need to replace a first-choice candidate that didn’t work out.
  • To rescind a job offer, if necessary, contact the candidate personally, explain the situation in detail, and apologize for the inconvenience.

Ghosting in the workplace: The takeaway

Job seekers who ghost employers aren’t always getting away with it. Employers are keeping track of applicants who vanish during the recruiting process.

And there’s even some remorse among job seekers for ghosting. Two-thirds of employees (67%) in Spiceworks’ survey admitted being concerned about ghosting and its negative impact on their careers.

With employers tracking job seekers who ghost and job seekers having remorse about ghosting, business etiquette could make a comeback in the recruiting and hiring process.

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