Ghosting: a scarily prevalent practice

Harry Simpson

Subtle Ghost Istock (2)

​Now, depending on your own personal situation you may have come across this term before outside of a professional environment. I’m told that many people are left, phone in hands, wondering what it was they did or said to their potential new beau to have them disappear entirely, without so much as a text back…

But ghosting doesn’t just pertain to the dating scene. Sadly, it’s a practice which has been slowly but surely becoming more and more prevalent within the wonderful world of recruitment, too.

Ghosting by definition is to cut all ties and communication with someone, without explanation or notice – vanishing, essentially, as a ghost would. Spooky stuff.

But beyond spooky it can ultimately be really, really detrimental, for any number of reasons.

Before I go on, let me promise you that I know this: ghosting happens on both sides of the fence. It’s well-known that one of the biggest gripes many job seekers have is a lack of response or feedback having been for an interview, and companies are even trying to mitigate this by adding addendums onto their job adverts which go beyond the usual “If you don’t hear from us within 2 weeks, please assume you were unfortunately unsuccessful”, going as far as to disclaim in advance their responsibility to supply candidates with feedback…

We’re all busy. But that’s no excuse.

A recent LinkedIn study announced that a jaw-dropping 95% of recruiters in the USA had experienced ghosting by candidates who were actively involved in an ongoing hiring process. I daren’t wonder what the percentage would be here in the UK, where our recruitment marketplace is that much more saturated (more than 115,000 people are employed in our recruiting industry, with over 40,000 agencies in England alone. That’s a lot of people, and a lot of candidates/clients in the mix).

Simply put, ghosting anyone – whether that’s someone who’s interviewed with your business, a candidate you were working with or the recruiter who’s put you in for that job – is not a good move. It’s something we won’t tolerate as a business, and something which needs to be wiped out of the professional world altogether.

So, if you’re after some no-holds-barred, no nonsense advice on how to be a better practitioner of non-ghoulish behaviours, here it goes:

Recruiters: eat that frog – good or bad, make the call

Just because your candidate didn’t get the job, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them the courtesy of being let know exactly that. It can be uncomfortable to give negative feedback but – and this is a part of our job as ‘consultants’, remember – that negative feedback is going to help said candidate grow. A negative becomes positive when it’s taken into account; in fact, it might even help them get the next job they interview for. Picture yourself on their side of the fence and, without sounding as exasperated as I sometimes am – just do the decent thing, guys.

I was taught from the very beginning of my career that you never know where someone will end up and who they could be. That candidate you ghosted might just turn out to be a decision maker, business owner, hiring manager for a key target of yours one day… Hindsight is 20/20.

Candidates: honesty goes a long way – don’t be a time-waster

Yes, we work with many candidates at any one time. No, you may not be the only person we have interviewing for this position. But, that is absolutely no reason to miss an interview without so much as a text to let us know.

We’re managing expectations here, too – those of our clients. When you don’t show up to your interview, it’s not just our time you’ve wasted but the HR Manager who was going to meet you, his/her assistant, whoever else wasn’t able to use that meeting room because we’d booked it out for the hour, etc etc…

If this isn’t the job for you: tell us.

If you sent out a thousand resumes, said yes to everything that came your way and now have twenty interviews arranged, many of which you’re only vaguely interested in: tell us.

If you accepted the interview purely because you felt uncomfortable telling us no: tell us.

It cuts both ways – that interviewer you didn’t show up might move on to a new organisation; they could end up being your boss one day, a potential customer even (or not, if they’ve anything to say about it). You might simply share a mutual friend or connections and it just doesn’t look good. You never know who’s going to show up later on in your career and clear out those skeletons in your closet.

Let’s banish this shadowy practice from the recruitment world altogether – after all, job searching and hiring alike are tough enough as is. As a job seeking, respect your recruiter or interviewer’s time and value it as you would your own. And, as a recruiter, take pride in the service you provide; it’s something drummed in to each of our consultants one day one.