Ghosting in the workplace: has it hit your firm?

possible employee contemplates ghosting on recruiter
No longer a problem for personal relationships alone, more job seekers and employees are choosing to avoid a potentially uncomfortable conversation with a recruiter or manager by “ghosting” them instead. Learn about the latest not-so-nice trend to hit the job market.

Ghosting: the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone (such as a former romantic partner) by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc. Merriam-Webster Dictionary

No longer a problem for personal relationships alone, more and more job seekers and employees are choosing to avoid a potentially uncomfortable conversation with a recruiter or manager by “ghosting” them instead.

Have you been job ghosted? Or are you the ghoster? Learn about the latest not-so-nice trend to hit the job market.

What is ghosting?

Ghosting in the workplace (as opposed to ghosting in the dating world) is a growing trend in which employees abruptly disengage from their job or the hiring process in one of three ways:

  • Failing to appear for scheduled interviews
  • Not showing up on their first day of work (after accepting a job offer)
  • Quitting their job by walking out without giving notice, often leaving for the day never to be heard from again.

Although this workplace trend is not new, it has become much more prevalent. According to a USA Today report, from 20 to 50 percent of job applicants and employees are engaging in some form of ghosting in the workplace. The legal sector is no exception: The HR Daily Advisor reports that the legal industry (at 21 percent) is among the areas in which candidate ghosting happens most frequently, exceeded only by the advertising/marketing industry at 28 percent.

Why ghost?

A recent survey conducted by the research firm Clutch found that 71 percent of workers admit to ghosting at some stage during the job application process. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they vacate from one to five applications during a typical job search, and 41 percent believe it is reasonable to ghost a company (although 35 percent think it’s hugely unreasonable for a company to ghost an applicant). So why ghost?

Ghosting signifies a job applicant’s decision to take their job search in a different direction, without communicating their intentions to a company. The Clutch research found that job seekers’ most common reasons for ghosting include:

  • 30 percent said they accepted another offer
  • 23 percent never heard back from the company
  • 19 percent decided that the job was not a match to their skills

Some experts believe the rise in ghosting is due to this booming job market, changing attitudes among job candidates, and historically low unemployment rates. At the height of the Great Recession, the U.S. unemployment rate reached 10 percent, and many companies were flooded with applications, rendering them unable to respond to each applicant.

However, by May 2018, the unemployment rate had dropped to 3.8 percent, and there were more job openings than unemployed individuals for just the second month in 20 years, putting employees at a distinct advantage.

Ghosting is a communication failure for companies as well as candidates. Candidates often interview with multiple company representatives, complicating the process. More than half of job seekers interview with a manager or team leader, while one-third speak with a representative from human resources. Despite being personally interviewed, candidates rarely receive a personalized rejection, and nearly 40 percent receive no response at all when a company rejects them for a position, according to the Clutch study.

The Ghosting Effect

Not surprisingly, employers who have been ghosted consider the trend to be extremely frustrating, expensive, and unproductive. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the average cost-per-hire for companies is $4,129, and it takes approximately 42 days to file an open position.

To combat ghosting, many companies are modifying their hiring practices in the following ways:

  • Holding initial interviews with large groups of applicants and scheduling subsequent meetings with increasingly smaller groups
  • Waiting to give unsuccessful applicants the bad news until the new hire shows up for work
  • Shortening a new hire’s start date from two weeks out to just a couple of days
  • Building talent communities comprised of past candidates, former employees, and interns
  • Engaging candidates with recruitment marketing before they have an open role available

Professional ghosting is seldom a good idea, particularly in the close-knit legal market where professionals routinely share information. A ghosting victim will likely share the experience with others, and word will get around relatively quickly. Although a call or email to explain your situation may be uncomfortable, it is always preferable to vanishing into thin air – like a ghost.

Has ghosting hit your law firm? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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