job ghosting
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Here is a tale as old as time. You sent in a job application, passed a phone screening and made it to the final interview. The hiring manager promised to get back to you in a week — except they don’t. Like any diligent job seeker, you follow up with an email (or two), but still, nothing. 

In modern-day lingo, you have been ghosted. 

Ghosting, otherwise known as that phenomenon of abruptly cutting off contact, is no longer the shenanigans of the dating world. 

In a study of 1,500 global workers, 75 per cent reported being ghosted after an interview and never hearing from a company again. In a separate survey by Indeed, 28 per cent of job seekers admitted to ghosting an employer by not showing up for an interview or even their first day at work. 

So why is this abhorrent behaviour becoming so commonplace, spiralling into all levels of the recruitment process in which nobody is immune? 

Understanding why people ghost

job interview
Without face-to-face meetings to develop rapport during the recruitment process, ghosting becomes easier as there is less guilt involved when cutting contact / Image Credit: MyCareersFuture

Ghosting happens for a variety of reasons on both sides of the resume. At the core is our eagerness to avoid the awkwardness and discomfort of saying “no”. As such, the path of least resistance is, therefore, to do nothing. 

But even when the ghosting is not done out of malice, it does not make it right.

Next, the rise of a digitised recruitment process has probably perpetuated the habit.

Gone are the days when job seekers trawl through classified ads to look for opportunities. Instead, a job search algorithm updates candidates on the open positions. And all it takes is a few clicks to send out multiple applications.

By the time the interview takes place, there is often very little emotional investment for both parties. In a world where a handshake is replaced with one click of a calendar link, it is easy to forget that there is a human at the other end of the connection.

When everything becomes increasingly impersonal, ghosting an employer (or vice versa) also becomes more prevalent.

indeed ghosting survey
Common reasons why job seekers ghost employers include having received another offer, deciding that the job wasn’t a right fit, or dissatisfaction with the offered salary / Image Credit: Indeed

While ghosting by job seekers might be on the rise, the main culprits of such a despicable act are still the employers. 

According to Peter Cappelli, a management professor and director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources,

The employers have been far worse about this (ghosting) than any of the job seekers. They were notorious for never getting back to people and only letting them know what was going on if they wanted them to go to the next step.

– Peter Cappelli

The survey conducted by Indeed backs up this observation – only 27 per cent have not ghosted a job seeker in the past year.  

So far, the excuse in defence of ghosting has been that employers are inundated with too many applications, making it impossible to reply to every candidate. 

However, that is not a sound argument. By the interview stages, companies are talking about a dozen people on average. How difficult can it be to send a generic rejection email to provide closure? 

Trying to understand why employers make the active decision to ghost job seekers is to acknowledge that they simply do not care. 

In their minds, rejected candidates are no talent. They are nothing more than a number in a sea of applicants and subservient in every sense. By that logic, why would the hiring manager waste time on someone of no consequence? 

Still not convinced? A survey has revealed that the business, financial and legal sectors are most likely to ghost job applicants. Coincidentally, a disproportionate number of psychopaths tend to work in those fields

Empathy and compassion for the job seeker? I am afraid they are in short supply. Otherwise, they would not be ghosted to begin with. 

An unethical practice that needs to stop

phone call work
No one should be at the receiving end of ghosting, which is bad for business, career and mental health / Image Credit: joklinghero via Shutterstock

Ultimately, ghosting represents an epic failure in communication. It is a deliberate act that culminates in bruised egos and wasted resources.

For employers, no-show candidates prolong the hiring process and could even throw business plans into disarray. Worse still, the solutions to counter the problem are making it worse. 

Since employers expect candidates to disappear, double-booking interviews or remaining in a continuous recruitment mode have become ways to lower their risk of being ghosted. But this, in turn, generates a larger pool of candidates they would have to reject, often through ghosting.

In this toxic cycle, job seekers also expect to be ghosted. As a result, many end up applying for as many jobs as possible to boost their chances, even ones they have little interest in.

When job seekers juggle multiple applications, the likelihood of them ghosting employers rises as one person can only do so much.

At the end of the day, ghosting burns bridges, and employers and job seekers should always be courteous to each other.

Firstly, employers must remember one thing. The hiring process is an opportunity to build their brand organically, and candidates with a positive experience are likely to speak highly of the company to others.

There is no point in having a mission statement that talks about “putting people first”, only to turn around and treat candidates as if they are disposable.

On the job seekers’ part, ghosting employers could mean career suicide. Recruiter A is unlikely to tell Recruiter B about purple squirrels and unicorns over lunch. They are, however, going to spread the word about the candidates who ghosted them and turn their jobs into a living nightmare.

Dodging a bullet

Getting ghosted can negatively affect our mental health because our brains are designed to involuntarily linger on unresolved issues

And what can be more unsettling than someone cutting off all contact, leaving us in a state of bewilderment over what has gone wrong? 

Unfortunately, ghosting has become an inevitable part of work life. Unless there is legislation that strictly prohibits it or a radical overhaul of the recruitment process, the best we can do is be stoical about it. 

Instead of feeling anger and disappointment when we are ghosted, be thankful that we have dodged a bullet. As an employer, breathe a sigh of relief that you were able to see someone for who they are, an irresponsible cretin, before hiring them. 

For job seekers, why bother reading Glassdoor reviews when you have first-hand experience with how the organisation you are hoping to work for is treating people. Is this really the kind of place you want to grow your career? 

However, there is an ideal scenario should we participate in the ghosting ritual. It is one where the employer and job seeker are equally uninterested in each other and have no desire to communicate. 

I suppose when that happens, it would be the best form of ghosting.

Featured Image Credit: CNBC

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)