Ghosting has moved beyond friendships and dating. It’s now happening to employers, too.
The oldest members of Generation Z (the generation born between 1995 and 2012) have begun to enter the workforce, and employers hungry for bright, young talent are looking for ways to attract them. This new generation of workers have encouraged sweeping changes in company culture, salary, and benefits packages, often for the better.
But they’ve also displayed some workplace behaviors that employers find troubling, and indeed baffling. Perhaps the best example of this is a phenomenon called “ghosting.”
The term “ghosting” entered the lexicon in the early 2000s. It’s a way of describing a person cutting off communication with a friend or dating partner until that person “took the hint” and realized the relationship was over. But it wasn’t until recently that young people started doing it to their bosses and potential employers.
To be clear, Gen Zers — and some Millennials too — are ghosting employers in two ways according to the 2020 U.S. compensation insights survey conducted by Ranstad (see data below). They are quitting jobs without any notice, and accepting job offers only to back out at the last minute. And employers are baffled.
What’s more, research conducted by Indeed found that a whopping 83% of employers have been ghosted. In addition, 65% of employers who participated in the survey said they’ve had candidates accept offers and then not show up on their first day of work. (Notably, the Indeed survey found that only 18% of job seekers reported having ghosted an employer, a stark difference from the Ranstad survey.)
So what’s going on here? Let’s take a closer look.
Why are employees and job seekers ghosting?
Part of the blame — if you can call it that — goes to the job market. Before COVID-19, unemployment was around 4.4%, which is considered low. That means that job seekers have more options than they would in a tight labor market. So if they get a better job offer, they might not think twice about dumping their first offer, or even their job, without notice.
If you’ve been employing people for long enough, you may recognize this feeling. Many, many job seekers have been ghosted by potential employers when unemployment was high and the tables were turned. Almost every job seeker has been in a situation where they submitted their resume, maybe even communicated with a recruiter or sat for an interview, and then never heard back. We didn’t call it ghosting back then, but it happened nonetheless.
According to a Robert Half survey, 44% of ghosters said they did it because they received a better offer from another company. Another 27% said they received a convincing counteroffer from their current employer, and 19% said they heard bad things about the company after accepting the job.
The Indeed survey cited above found similar results, with 40% of ghosters saying they received a better offer. Further, 22% said that the salary wasn’t high enough, and 15% cited inadequate benefits.
26% of ghosters weren’t comfortable telling the prospective employer that they’d changed their minds after accepting an offer. Another 13% cited “communication problems” with the recruiter as their reason for ghosting, and 11% said they just didn’t know what to do, so they disappeared.
How to prevent ghosting
If you’re already offering salaries that are as high as you’re able to go, this might seem a bit discouraging. But take heart. There are a few things you can do to limit your chances of being ghosted.
Problem: Poor communication. The Indeed survey linked above found that 26% of ghosters weren’t comfortable telling the prospective employer that they’d changed their minds after accepting an offer. Another 13% cited “communication problems” with the recruiter as their reason for ghosting, and 11% said they just didn’t know what to do, so they disappeared.
Through every step of the hiring process — placing your ad, scheduling interviews, talking to candidates, making an offer, and onboarding new hires — you need to both give and receive clear messages.
Solution: Open and effective communication. What does this show us? These recruiting employers have a big communication problem. Everything comes back to effective and open communication, and preventing ghosting is no different.
Employers need to up their communication game at every stage. This means that through every step of the hiring process — placing your ad, scheduling interviews, talking to candidates, making an offer, and onboarding new hires — you need to both give and receive clear messages.
The giving part is a bit easier, though not always practiced. Tell candidates exactly what you’re looking for and what you expect from them. Let them know, in no uncertain terms, what they can expect from you.
Receiving open and clear communication from your candidates might be a little trickier. After all, you can’t force someone to be honest with you. But you can encourage forthright communication.
Check in with recruits often. Ask if they have any questions or concerns about the company or the hiring process. Probe to be sure there isn’t anything they don’t understand. Ask if the salary and benefits package you’ve offered meets their expectations.
Finally, let recruits know that you are aware that they might receive a better offer somewhere else, and you’d like the opportunity to match it if that happens. You can also tell them that you’d appreciate a heads up if they decide the job isn’t for them, for whatever reason. Often, simply letting people know what you want will inspire them to do it.
Transparency and Trust
Problem: Your reputation has been trashed online. If your company has a bad reputation for employee experiences, or if your candidates get a bad impression during the hiring process, you’re more likely than others to get ghosted. On the Indeed survey, some ghosters said that recruiters lied to them, and others commented on the employer’s rudeness or poor attitude. There are very few job seekers who will put up with bad behavior, especially in today’s labor market.
Solution: Transparency and trust. It’s time to brush up on your people skills. Job seekers aren’t going to think that your company is the right place for them if you’re abrupt and rude. So here are some tips:
- Say please and thank you
- Make eye contact and small talk
- Complement each interviewee on at least one thing
And for heaven’s sake, be honest! Don’t pretend that the job is easier than it really is. Don’t try to give the impression that you’re something that you’re not. If this doesn’t lead to ghosting at the hiring stage, it might convince new hires to ghost you after they start the job and realize it’s different than they thought it would be.
Additionally, if you have any skeletons in your proverbial closet, show them now, before you extend a job offer. For example, if you have negative reviews on Glassdoor from a disgruntled former employee, it’s better that your candidates hear it from you than find them on their own. This is especially true if you’ve since taken steps to improve the conditions mentioned in those negative reviews.
This might be an awkward conversation, but it’s necessary too. Just own up to it. Say that in the past, some former employees have complained about specific issues, and that candidates might see those reviews online. Then list all of the steps you’ve taken to remedy those problems. Make it clear that employee experience is important to you, and you’ve learned from your mistakes.
You also might want to give candidates the opportunity to talk to current employees to get their take. If you truly have improved employee experience in your organization, then your current employees should vouch for you. This will go a long way toward easing candidate worries about your company.
Better people management
Problem: Employees don’t get along with their supervisors. Even your best employees might leave without notice if they have respect or trust issues with their supervisors. In fact, frustration with direct supervisors is one of the most common reasons for employees quitting, whether they give notice or not.
The biggest gift you can give your employees is to treat them like the valuable talent they are.
Solution: Give your employees trust and respect. The biggest gift you can give your employees is to treat them like the valuable talent they are. Show them respect by speaking to them in a polite and forthright manner. Recognize that their time is valuable by not wasting it on frivolous meetings or activities. Give them meaningful work to do, and recognize their achievements.
And above all, communicate. Frequently check in to find out how your employees experience working for you. Ask if they have any complaints. And when they do bring up concerns with you, treat them seriously. Show them what you are doing to address those issues.
Finally, be sure everyone knows what to do if they are thinking about quitting. Tell people that they can resign their jobs with no hard feelings, and you would appreciate a little notice so that you can recruit a replacement.