“Ghosting” is a word that was once synonymous with the dating world, but in recent years, it has also become a phenomenon well-known in the work world, with job candidates not responding to a company’s efforts to woo them into their workplace—i.e., ghosting them.
As Jacquelyn Gernaey, CEO of Effective Hiring and Seven Star HR, says, “Ghosting is when a candidate who has engaged with you abruptly disengages [from you].” That could mean he or she “does not show up for an interview,” she says, “or just never calls you back or stops emailing. Sometimes candidates even ghost after accepting a job offer and never show up.”
It may seem like odd behavior from a candidate—someone actively seeking a job—but in a competitive hiring market—like the one we are in—job seekers often feel it’s acceptable to ghost a potential employer. What’s more, “keeping up with all the emails and contact from many companies is overwhelming,” says Gernaey, and a complicated interview process, one with multiple hoops to jump through, can be additional turn-offs. Or they may have simply accepted another offer—and been too embarrassed or shy to admit it another company.
Of course, no matter the reason, ghosting comes at a big loss to your company. When you are ghosted, you lose the time it takes to find—and chase—the candidate. “And sometimes you might stop looking for someone because in your mind you have the perfect candidate,” points out Gernaey. And, at the very least, she says, being ghosted “delays the time to hire.”
Luckily, there are things you can do to keep your company from being ghosted during the hiring process. Here are five steps you should take the next time you plan to post a job.
1. Make the process quick and painless.
Whether you’re short staffed—you are hiring, after all!—or simply disorganized, Gernaey says she often sees the hiring process get drawn out, and that is a big mistake. If things take too long, a candidate may lose hope and decide to move on without notifying you. “The way to stop making this mistake is to communicate the timeline, and the process,” Gernaey says.
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2. Use an applicant tracking system to zero in on top candidates.
There are many applicant tracking systems, but one that would be particularly helpful in preventing ghosting is one that gives points to candidates’ answers. Why? Such a system “allows you to quickly focus on the applicants who are most qualified and then do the most communication with them,” says Gernaey. “Part of the communication is to say, ‘Sometimes we have applicants who don’t respond; if you feel we’re not a fit, will you let us know?’”
3. Develop a personal relationship with candidates.
According to Gernaey, “too many emails—and not enough real communication that sells the position and sells why they are going to fit in the new company and what the timeline and process is” can kill a job applicant’s desire to continue to interview process. And that’s why Gernaey suggests you appoint a dedicated person to walk the candidate through the hiring process. (You can also use more personal tools, like video calls, to help too, she says.)
Jordan Wan, founder and CEO of CloserIQ, agrees with Gernaey: Assigning a point-person to guide applicants through the process can limit the chance of getting ghosted, he says. He suggests appointing a guide who is not the hiring manager, and he explains that “the guide is responsible for keeping tabs on the candidate’s experience with regular check-ins.”
[Related: How to Recruit Informed Candidates at Scale]
4. Consider putting a disclaimer in your job posting.
Of course, no matter how quick and personal you make the hiring process, there will still be candidates who ultimately don’t want the job—and they may be tempted to ghost. But, you can still try to protect your time and resources, and ensure you get notice from a job seeker.
Wan suggests using “disclaimer-rich language” in your online job posting and throughout the application process that “makes the candidate know it’s okay to drop out of the process but that you just want some closure—as they would if they are in the same position,” he says. “No one likes ghosting and most candidates have been ghosted by employers as well.”
5. Use automatic and short surveys.
It’s not always easy to tell someone—especially a potential employer—that you’ve changed your mind or found a job somewhere else. With that in mind—and so that you don’t get left in the lurch, wondering what happened to a job applicant—consider creating a survey that candidates can access throughout the process. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell a hiring manager that you took a job elsewhere, but you may be willing to click a multiple choice option from a survey tool,” Wan points out. When you know an applicant has moved on, you can, too.