Violet (name changed for privacy) had applied to more jobs than she could count before she decided to start keeping track.
During her journey to finding full-time work, the creative professional started a spreadsheet of all the jobs she applied to. In it, she added a column for companies that offered an interview and another for the jobs that contacted her again for a followup. Looking at the spreadsheet, Violet says, things looked dark.
“The stats are a little grim,” she says with a laugh.
Thankfully for Violet, she did eventually land a great role and put the spreadsheet to bed. However, it sits there, forever lurking, as a reminder that professional ghosting is real.
You’ve likely heard the term “ghosting” as it relates to the dating world. According to Urban Dictionary, ghosting is when “a person cuts off all communication with their friends or the person they’re dating, with zero warning or notice beforehand.”
Though the act of never again speaking to a date or friend is brutal, it’s downright unprofessional in business. But, it’s not just hiring managers ghosting potential employees, but employees ghosting on potential jobs, too.
“While professional ghosting has always occurred, it has become more prevalent in recent years for both employers and job seekers,” Alexandra Clarke, Director of Recruiting at ForceBrands, explains. As for who to blame for this uptick, Clarke says advanced communication technology has contributed to the problem.
“Millennials and Gen Z are more prone to ghost employers; with technology playing such a vital role in the communication process for interviewing, it makes it easier than ever to avoid confrontation and simply not follow up with hiring managers,” she says.
The ghosting phenomenon has become so prevalent that Clarissa Silva, a behavioral scientist and relationship coach, decided to study it as part of her Happiness Hypothesis Study.
“I conducted in-depth interviews with men and women, ranging from ages 28-46, exploring why ghosting was happening in the workplace,” she explains.
According to the study’s results, 85 percent of people had ghosted employers. The reason? They wanted to avoid confrontation, just as Clarke said they would. Additionally, Silva’s study found that 60 percent of people who ghosted their employers felt like they were overworked and underpaid, while 30 percent did it because they received a better job offer.
Things have gotten so bad that, according to Silva’s findings, 55 percent of employers assume one in four of their potential employees will ghost them during the interview process. And this may make HR professionals feel better about ghosting potential hires. However, both Silva and Clarke urge against this as it sets a precedent that this behavior is OK in the working world. So, what should you do instead of ghosting a potential job or a potential candidate? Here’s what the two experts had to say for both parties involved.
If you’re an HR professional, give as much feedback as you can
“While it has been standard practice for employers to ghost candidates that aren’t a good fit, if they have interviewed, then they should receive a rejection letter,” Silva says. “This practice is ideal because it helps people plan for their job search and career prospects.”
Clarke echoes Silva’s sentiment, adding, “Each applicant is investing time and energy in the interview process to be considered for the role. If the candidate is actively looking for a job and this position is their top choice, they may hold off interviewing elsewhere in hopes of being offered a position at your company. Out of respect for the candidate’s time and for the sake of your company’s reputation — as this tends to be the first impression — it’s always wise to close the loop with candidates that are interviewing for a role within your company.”
If nothing else, have a templated letter at the ready to copy and paste into an email letting someone know you’re going in a new direction for the position
If you’re a job seeker, always reply — no matter what
If an employer or client ghost you, Clarke says it’s best to send a friendly and professional follow up email to check in on the status of your candidacy.
“Acknowledge and recognize that you understand they may be busy but that you would greatly appreciate any feedback and whether you are still under consideration for the position,” she says. “Thank them again for their time, express your interest in the opportunity, and close the email saying if you do not hear anything, you will assume they have gone in a different direction for the position and hope to stay connected in the future.”
And, if you’re already in a job do the right thing and give proper notice
If you’ve started a new position and quickly realize this was not the right career move — even after day one — set up a time to meet with the hiring manager face-to-face or via video if you work remotely. This way, you can have an open and honest conversation about your future.
“While it may feel uncomfortable to have the conversation initially, providing valuable feedback on why a position is not the right fit for you can help the hiring manager find the right person for the job,” Clarke says. “The hiring manager will be appreciative of the insight, and it will allow you to leave on the absolute best professional terms with the company.” As Clarke importantly adds, “You never know when your paths may cross again.”