If you’ve tried to fill a position at your business lately, you know how challenging it can be. With a record low unemployment rates , it’s suddenly an employees’ market. Unfortunately, some job candidates are taking advantage of this fact by “ghosting” potential employers— or even companies that have offered them jobs.
“Ghosting,” for those not hip to the lingo, usually refers to a situation when after an exchange of texts or even a few dates, a potential love connection suddenly disappears. No more text, no more calls, no response to your attempts to make contact — just radio silence.
In the workplace, ghosting can take many forms, including:
- Not showing up for scheduled job interviews
- Not returning calls or emails from the potential employer
- Receiving a job offer and never responding
- Accepting the job, then never showing up for work
As a small business owner, you put a lot of time and effort into hiring new employees — so it can be devastating when someone you thought was the answer to your problems disappears into thin air. What makes job candidates ghost?
There are many theories. Some say young, entry-level job applicants are simply repeating the habits they’ve learned from texting-based relationships in the workplace. (More than four in 10 job seekers in a recent survey by Clutch  say it’s reasonable to ghost a company.) Others see it as job candidates thumbing their noses at the employers who, during the Great Recession, didn’t bother to acknowledge their resumes or return their calls. Still others just chalk it up to rudeness.
But the fault doesn’t lie all at the feet of the job candidates. Many employers are equally guilty of bad behavior when it comes to potential employees — and in today’s economy, employers need to be on their best behavior.
How to Prevent Candidate Ghosting
How can you reverse the trend of job candidate no-shows? Here’s some advice.
Honesty is the best policy. Candidates sometimes ghost when the job they hear about in the interview doesn’t live up to the job as advertised. (Almost 20% of candidates Clutch polled ghosted because the job “was not a match.”) Don’t try to sugarcoat the job requirements or duties; be upfront about what the job demands so that candidates have realistic expectations.
If multiple people are involved in the job interview process, make sure everyone is on the same page about job duties, responsibilities, and what you are looking for in a candidate. Encourage the job candidate to ask questions during the interview process, and answer them honestly. Finally, let them know you won’t be offended if at any point in the process, they decide this job isn’t right for them — you just want them to keep you informed.
Create a welcoming environment for job candidates. Coming in for an interview is stressful at best, and can be especially intimidating if the workplace seems unwelcoming and the future coworkers are unfriendly. Make sure your office is prepared when potential employees come in for an interview. Have someone greet them and make them comfortable; offer coffee, tea or water; give them a quick tour of the office. Today’s job candidates have a lot of choices, and you need to woo them a little bit.
Define communication roles. Maybe your admin arranges the interviews, you conduct them, and each of you assumes the other is following up with the candidates. At a busy small business, communication can easily fall through the cracks. Specify who is responsible for communicating with candidates and in what time frame. Create standardized emails and voicemails that politely thank the candidate for their time and inform them whether they’ve made it to the next stage of the interview process.
Set expectations. At the end of the interview, be specific about how candidates can expect to hear from you and how soon. For example, “We will be interviewing candidates for the next two weeks, and will email you the week of the 15th to let you know the status.”
What if the employee search drags on and on? Sometimes you interview dozens of employees without finding “the one.” If you know that Candidate A is definitely not the one, be nice and let them know so they can cross your company off their list. (Some 36% of job seekers in the Clutch survey say the last company that rejected them never responded at all.)
What’s the best way to communicate with job candidates? Just 21% of job seekers in the Clutch survey got rejected via phone call; 13% were rejected via email. When a job is at stake, calling and emailing is the considerate thing to do — and also helps ensure the candidate gets the message.
After the Acceptance
You’ve made a job offer and the candidate has accepted. Now you’re golden, right? Wrong: Nearly 1 in 10 job seekers (9%) say it’s OK for job candidates to ghost after accepting a job offer. To boost the odds that the person you hired will actually show up:
- Keep “selling” them on working for your company even after they’ve accepted the job. You need to get them excited about coming to work for you.
- Try to get the new employee to start work as soon as possible. If you assign a start date two weeks out, they might find another job in the meantime.
- Make your employee onboarding process as simple as possible. Have everything ready for the new employee to start work on their first day. Email them paperwork in advance so they can complete it ahead of time.
- Welcome the new employee on the first day. Take them out for a departmental or company lunch (depending on how big your business is). Assign them a “buddy” to show them the ropes.
Don’t burn your bridges with your runners-up, either. A new hire at one company I used to work for went to lunch on his first day . . . and never come back. You never know when you may need to turn to your second or third choice. Let top candidates know they were high on the list and that you’ll contact them if the job opens up again.
What if you get ghosted despite all this? Be sure to document ghosting in the job applicant’s file so you can avoid wasting your time interviewing the same person again in the future.
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