Did Your Employee Ghost You? Here's Why.
New data shows the bad dating behavior has spilled over to our professional lives. Here's why our hiring conventions are partly to blame.
It hurts to admit, but I've been ghosted. It happened years ago, but being stood up for a date felt so horrible that I still remember the person's name.
Chances are, you've felt the pain of being ghosted too. Research shows 60-70% of adults have done it. The term refers to a method for ending a relationship by cutting off all communication. Emails, phone calls, DMs and texts all get the same response — silence. There's no explanation — it's as though the person just vanished.
In an era of dating apps that take the work out of networking, it's not surprising we're less personally invested in brief relationships, to the point we feel comfortable ending them without an explanation as to why.
But this story isn't about dating. Now, our collective bad behavior has spilled over from our dating lives to our professional lives — in a big way. New data from people analytics firm Visier shows a whopping 84% of job-seekers have ghosted their employer or potential employer in the past 18 months.
I can't help but think our impersonalized hiring conventions — which have all the anonymity and disconnect as our dating apps — are partly to blame. Here's why.
What goes around comes around
Hiring has been imbalanced for a long time. People updated their resumes, wrote thoughtful cover letters and braved interviews … only to never hear back. I'm not condoning it, but perhaps it's no surprise the tables are turning.
It's happening for several reasons. Right now, the U.S. job market is increasingly competitive — Amazon said it's more than doubling its base cash compensation for corporate workers — and employees have higher expectations for employers. A Gallup survey found things like work-life balance, compensation, diversity and inclusion and purpose became even more important to employees in the past two years. Although communicating company values has always been a priority for bosses, the pandemic put pressure on the C-suite to actually live up to those claims.
And if they don't? Workers are willing to walk — or vanish. In fact, Visier's data shows ghosting is more likely in the late stages of hiring and onboarding. Although 29% of people surveyed said they'd ghost after two or more interviews, 30% said they would disappear even after accepting a job offer. Surprisingly, 31% said they'd ghost after their first day on the job.
You're probably crafting an image of these workers in your head — and I'm betting you're wrong. This isn't just young employees with poor hiring etiquette being irresponsible. In actuality, the study reveals an employee's willingness to ghost increases steadily with their seniority. The more senior the worker, the more at ease they were pulling a Houdini on their employer.
We shouldn't take these findings lightly. Although companies are reaping what they sowed to some extent, it's bad form for either party in the hiring process not to close the loop. For candidates, every minute a recruiter spends on you is time not spent with someone else. If you know you're not interested, communicating that will save you guilt down the road and give someone else a shot.
For employers and employees, ghosting to avoid an awkward conversation might seem like a good idea, but make no mistake, it's likely to come back to haunt you. It can tarnish your brand, and in the digital era, even vanishing into thin air leaves a footprint.
Giving up the ghost
If you've ever been ghosted, you know the agony it can cause. It's hard not to take it personally. Often the person who gets ghosted is left wondering what they did and sometimes questioning their own worth. Now is the time for employers to take a beat and self-reflect.
The first thing they should strive to do is clarify the recruitment process for jobseekers. To that end, our company is developing a candidates' bill of rights outlining exactly what they can expect from us, and what we can expect from them. Not only is it an indicator of our company value of transparency, but it also gives potential hires a framework so they won't have to question whether it's a long response time, or if they've been abandoned.
Secondly, employers should aim to build a personal connection early in the process. I'm embarrassed to admit, but early in my career I ghosted a job. I walked into an athletic wear store, passed my resumé to the manager, and — to my surprise — he handed me a uniform. There was no interview — they didn't know me, I didn't know them, and the regret set in immediately. There's a similar problem today. Tech has made it easier to apply for a job. With fewer barriers to entry, we can click and apply without really knowing the company we're considering. Instead, think of the hiring process as a chance to build a relationship, so both sides can feel out whether or not it will be a good fit.
Third, employers need to communicate their purpose as early as possible. More than 30% of American workers said the pandemic caused them to ponder their purpose in life. That seven-letter word has been an undercurrent to the resignation wave that's sent so many people into the job market. If an applicant can envision what impacts they'll be able to make at a company, they'll be less tempted to string a hiring manager along while continuing a FOMO-fueled job hunt on the side.
To some degree, our digital environment makes it easier to ghost. Much like filing in your profile on a dating app, uploading a resume to a platform doesn't carry the same importance as a personal referral. But it's a mistake to blame this ghosting phenomena on a lack of human interaction. After all, you can still show up as an empathetic person even when you're not in person. Indeed, part of that is having the respect for ourselves and others to at least send the most basic breakup message possible: "It's not you, it's me."
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