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Levi, Ray & Shoup, Inc.

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Anyone see a ghost?

May 22, 2019

It was nearly a year ago that Wall Street Journal Reporter Chip Cutter published an article on LinekdIn that said, in part:

“In fields ranging from food service to finance, recruiters and hiring managers say a tightening job market and a sustained labor shortage have contributed to a surge in professionals abruptly cutting off contact and turning silent — the type of behavior more often associated with online dating than office life.”

It's ghosting at work, Cutter wrote.

Since Cutter’s article appeared, many more have been written about the ghosting phenomenon, which everyone agrees is on the rise. Although there’s no official data on the number of ghosts, one survey found that 40% of employees believe it’s reasonable to ghost companies during the interview process.

For a staffing firm like LRS Consulting Services, interviews are just part of the process that begins when a client has a need for IT talent. The process also involves finding qualified candidates, presenting them to the client, arranging the interviews, and communicating the job offer from the client.

Vikki Whitefoot, an LRS Senior Manager, recently said that most of the ghosting she sees occurs early in the process or at the end, when an offer is being made or has been made.

 “Early on when someone is like, ‘oh I’m so excited, I want that job,’ and then you don’t hear from them again,” Vikki said. “Or else it’s later in the process, when the client is making an offer.”

LRS Technical Recruiter Paul Draper mentioned a candidate who was trying to time their departure from a current job with a firm offer from an LRS client and ghosted. That candidate had other offers to consider, Paul said.

With overall unemployment below 4% and IT unemployment near zero, multiple job offers are a fact of life for many IT workers, as Shelby Mills, another LRS Technical Recruiter, noted. “A lot of these candidates are bombarded by calls; they get 20 messages a day, or more, from recruiters.”

Cutter’s article suggested that candidates who ghost do so to avoid a potentially awkward conversation. Vikki agreed, saying, “Candidates think that by breaking off contact that they’re not delivering bad news. It’s like not opening the phone bill so you don’t get the bad news of how much you owe.”

There are also candidates who think it’s okay to ghost recruiters because recruiters have ghosted them in the past. “They treat it like it’s karma coming back on recruiters,” Vikki noted.

As the Wharton School of Business points out, ghosting prospective employees is ‘old hat’ for employers. Companies have been engaging in the practice for so long that it has become perfectly acceptable for them. They also ghost staffing firms like LRS Consulting Services.

“They’ll just stop communicating or they’ll want to interview that candidate we sent them two months ago,” Vikki said. But she also understands how that happens. The hiring managers at client companies are always busy, so busy they “can’t get out of their own way” to find the IT candidates they need.

But companies need to be aware that routinely ghosting candidates can damage the organization’s reputation. That’s especially true at a time when candidates can post negative reviews of companies on sites like Glassdoor.com.

That same cautionary advice is also true for candidates. One staffing executive said that employers never forget the candidates who failed to show up for interviews or backed out after accepting a job offer. Vikki said recruiters remember ghosts as well.

“Recruiters might not trust that person so much the next time they’re available,” she said. “I might trust somebody who’s ghosted me but I’m also going to keep looking for other talent. You know, I’ll constantly want to find a backup person. And what if the backup I find is actually a better candidate than the ghost?”

Some of the articles on ghosting suggest that market conditions will inevitably change and companies will no longer be competing for a limited pool of candidates. When that happens, the articles say, ghosting will fade away.

Possibly. Paul Draper suggested another possible cause for the rise of ghosts.

“It may be caused by the culture,” he said. “The more connected we are digitally, the less real connections we have. People may think it’s no longer considered disrespectful or rude any more to just stop talking to someone.”

If Paul’s right, we all need to return to a certain level of respect. Candidates and companies both need to respect each other and communicate.

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