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Disappearing Act

Has a job candidate ever ghosted you? In other words, has a strong prospective employee pulled a no-show during the hiring process? Here are 3 ways to minimize the risk.

The Urban Dictionary describes ghosting as “the act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date.” While dating and interviewing job candidates are not synonymous, they are similar in the early stages of a relationship and can elicit similar behaviors. Candidate ghosting is when you actively are engaged with a prospective employee, and at some point before her first day of work, she ceases all communication. Ouch!

The market for talent is hot right now, stretching across all industries and career levels. That means candidates have more choices than ever and might be entertaining multiple offers. Even if you assume job candidates have the best intentions during the recruiting phase of the relationship, sometimes good manners and their own reputation fall to the side when there’s a lot of interest in their skills. When candidates stop communicating with you, it’s not only frustrating — it’s costly, too.

To avoid being ghosted, focus on the overall candidate experience. There is as much head (clear processes and accountability) as there is the heart (being respectful and kind) in this process. There are efforts you can make to minimize being ghosted. 

Let’s start with these four areas:

  • Go deep on expectations. Provide a level of detail that includes who is on the interview panel (share LinkedIn profiles) and how they contribute to the decision process. Share the timeline for reference checks and background screening and explain the role the candidate will need to play. Outline any tests that might be part of the hiring process, with a detailed description of the reason and approach for each.
  • White-glove travel experience. If the candidates are traveling for interviews, make the experience seamless. For example, don’t ask them to pay for their travel and make them wait to be reimbursed. Book direct flights, if possible (not the cheapest that involve a connection) and book them at reasonable times. A day trip with a morning flight, back-to-back interviews and a red-eye return flight is not an ideal way for candidates to learn about your company and it won’t put them in a good headspace to think about entertaining an offer from you. 
  • Stay connected. Check-ins and preselling during all points of the process are critical. After every step, ask candidates how they feel the interview went, what they are thinking in terms of the company and the role, and how interested they would be in getting an offer. Use scales to ask them to rank their feelings from 1 to 10, and then follow up to understand why they feel that way. This shows you are invested in their success, and that they are not lost in a tunnel of endless interviews.
  • Ask about shopping. Building trust with candidates and then boldly and directly inquiring about their interaction with other companies is critical. Ask what other positions they are considering and what about those roles is potentially more appealing than what you might offer. This will help you be more effective at making an offer that meets their needs. 

In planning for the steps above, speed is paramount. We live in a world of instant feedback and immediate reaction. The interview process can take time, and if you don’t stay in touch with candidates, or at least give them a timetable for filling the position, they might assume you’re not interested and stop pursuing the job. Much like waiting for someone to call after the first date, what used to be a four-day standard now is more like a same-day follow-up. Candidates need and deserve to know how long you will take to consider them for the next step in the recruiting process and that you will get back to them either way. 

Careful next steps

Now, let’s assume a candidate has made it past the interview stage and you are ready to make an offer. A certain way to get ghosted is to make an offer that is less than competitive. In hourly jobs, $1 can make a big difference. For top candidates in middle management, certain perks are standard, and multiple offers are common at all career levels. Sending an offer that is too low or not competitive increases the chance you will be ghosted and lose the opportunity to improve the offer or negotiate. This is where market data and nonsalary perks become important, as well. Not every company will be able to get into a salary war for their desired candidate, so knowing what other benefits you can offer to sweeten the deal will help your chances of keeping the candidate engaged and interested through the recruitment process.

Suppose you’ve made it through the first two milestones and your candidate is ready for her first day. Would it shock you to learn that candidates today are increasing their first-day ghosting tactics? What a horrible experience to expect a candidate on-site for her first day of work and she never shows up. All the work that has gone into welcoming and planning for her is for naught. Many employers try calling, emailing and even contacting the new hire through social media because they are perplexed why someone would not show up.

At this stage, the reason for ghosting often is because of a terrible onboarding program. After spending weeks in cumbersome processes or silence after signing their offer, they no longer want to be part of your company. It’s possible they received another offer in that time while your team was not fully invested in them. Although it’s not good for their reputation to ghost, it seems to be the nonconfrontational option of accepting a role where they feel more valued. 

Unfortunately, ghosting seems to be a growing practice. You rarely see it coming and there is no profile to predict who will ghost and who will not. Therefore, your candidate experience is critical to your success. If you haven’t already, take a look at your practices at all key touchpoints. Pressure test your process and think about how easy and exciting it is (or isn’t) for a candidate to move through. Think about how you drastically can reduce your chances of being haunted by the ghost of offers past.

Be sure to read the April issue of Sleep Savvy when we continue to examine the critical issue of hiring with our cover story, “On the Hunt: The Best Places to Find New Employees.”

Jeremy Eskenazi is an internationally recognized speaker, author of “RecruitConsult! Leadership,” and founder of Riviera Advisors, a boutique recruitment/talent acquisition management and optimization consulting firm. Eskenazi is a specialized training and consulting professional, helping global HR leaders transform how they attract top talent at some of the world’s most recognized companies. For more information, visit RivieraAdvisors.com.

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