The Hiring Process: Ghosting in the Workplace

Monday Author:  Susanne Skinner

Off Air, Test Pattern, Out of TouchIt’s been seven years since I actively looked for a job. My last two opportunities were network referrals, C-level recommendations confirming my credibility and accomplishments. Both resulted in employment offers.  Prior to that, I lived the sting of rejection and the black hole of no response. I wonder; would my employers have followed-up if I weren’t a good fit?

In my semi-retired life (I’m working up to it), I sit on a Board of Directors with industry veterans and peers. I also support a mentoring program for young people entering the event marketing discipline. The interview process is a topic of discussion at both, and it’s getting a bad rap among job seekers.

Ghosting, though not new, now has a name the workplace. In the dating world, it means ending a relationship with no warning or explanation, abruptly severing contact. In the working world, it means the same thing.

An employer takes weeks of a candidate’s time in the interview process and then…radio silence. Ghosting is the new left swipe.

A Lengthy Process

Hiring managers require a lengthy interview process, assessing skills, industry knowledge, and personality. Personality is important; it’s a subjective evaluation of the candidate’s ability to assimilate into an established corporate culture. No amount of credibility fixes a bad cultural fit.

Not every candidate is a good fit. The intent is to refine qualified candidates into a short list for a team review and hiring recommendation. So why target employers’ hiring practices?  The answer is the increasing failure to follow-up. Every candidate deserves an answer.

Professional behavior speaks volumes. Hiring and retaining employees requires good manners all around. Companies attracting qualified candidates put their best feet forward. Candidates must do the same.

A strong job description and candidate profile increases the likelihood of finding and hiring the right person; it should be a smooth decision path. Instead, the process stalls; they hire someone else, politics steps in, budgets are frozen or the job is on hold.  Nobody informs the candidate, who is waiting and wondering what happened.

The hiring company ghosted the candidate by failing to follow up. Sometimes the reverse happens. A candidate accepts a position and never shows up for work, or an employee goes out for lunch, doesn’t return, and considers that giving notice. It’s ghosting at its finest.

Two Perspectives on Ghosting

Employee A

Resumes, sorting resumes, hiring process, interviews, ghostingI met this young woman at the start of her professional career. She is smart, motivated and eager to establish herself in the working world. Her first job as an administrator quickly expanded, incorporating executive and customer facing tasks. At the end of the year, she received a good performance review but no salary increase.

When an employee in another department left, she inherited a significant portion of that person’s responsibilities. She requested a raise. The answer was a firm no with the suggestion that a job is more than just money. She updated her resume and immediately got herself a new, higher-salaried job.

I laughed when she told me. “I’m 24”, she said. “It’s about the money.” The point here is that good people know they can move on. Don’t give them a reason to do it and don’t act surprised or offended when they leave. Ghosting works both ways.

Employee B

She is an industry peer I have known for thirty-five years. Her career accomplishments and professional credentials stand strong. She holds a position with visibility and responsibility.  Through a networking connection, another company extended an opportunity and she agreed to explore the potential.

Interviews at this level are grueling. They involve a big investment of time from both sides, with meetings, presentations, and internal discussions. My colleague followed up with each interviewer and HR said she would hear within a week.

After ten days, she contacted the HR manager who apologized and promised things would wrap up soon. She never heard from them again.

There is no excuse for failing to follow through with candidates—those you hire and those you don’t. Candidates experiencing this type of ghosting are telling it like it is on Glass Door. Don’t be that company.  

Culture Tells the Truth

The way a company treats a candidate reflects their corporate culture. It is the lynch pin for accepting or declining an offer. The interview process shows an employer’s true colors and smart candidates pay attention.

company culture, hiring process, ghosting, interviewsDuring interviews, a critical question is cultural fit. Candidates and employers pay a high price when they get it wrong. Corporate culture determines how employees and management behave towards others and that includes the interview process.   

Look for discrepancies between the culture a company claims to have and the one it really has. Both will be visible; candidates just need to know where to look. Never ask a direct question about culture; the answer will be what they think you want to hear. Use your superpowers and ask good questions. 

These negative indicators point to weak corporate values and a toxic work culture: 

  • Poorly executed recruiting process
  • The interview is short and lacks focus
  • Inconsistent interview methods
  • Inability to articulate successes and challenges
  • Poor job definition
  • High employee turnover
  • No remote workers or flex time
  • Radio Silence: Failure to close the interview loop

If you go through a process with any of these warning signs, do you really want to work there?

The Candidate Experience

Hiring is a two-way street. Candidates evaluate companies the same way companies assess them. Even when they aren’t the right fit, let them know. Failing to follow up with a prospective employee removes them from the candidate pipeline for future opportunities and earns the company a bad name.

A bad reputation is just that. Once gained it is almost impossible to overcome. People talk.  Nurture your current employees and treat potential ones respectfully. How easy is that?

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