Banish Candidate Ghosts from Your Hiring Process

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The term “ghosting” refers to an abrupt end to correspondence for no rhyme or reason — that you know of, at least. And while ghosting first arose as a dating phenomenon, it has snuck into the hiring process.

Candidate ghosting occurs when a candidate suddenly ends communication midway through the hiring process. One second you’re talking to them, and the next, they’re gone. It’s not uncommon: A 2019 survey by Indeed found that 83 percent of recruiters have been ghosted by candidates.

When recruiters do get ghosted, they’re often left feeling frustrated and confused, wondering what went wrong. The truth is that a lot of factors can lead to candidate ghosting, most of which recruiters can’t control. There are, however, steps recruiters can take to mitigate candidate ghosting.

1. Maintain Open Communication 

Recruiters often hold applicants to high standards, expecting them to be prepared, have relevant experience, and practice effective communication. Unfortunately, recruiters forget that applicants expect the same from us.

Lack of communication from recruiters and employers during the hiring process is one of the main reasons for candidate ghosting. The longer it takes for recruiters to respond to candidates or provide updates, the easier it is for those candidates to set their focus elsewhere, leaving your company in the dust.

One of the most powerful things you can do to prevent candidates ghosting is simply maintain open lines of communication throughout the process. When candidates feel informed and valued, their experience is much more positive, and that makes them less likely to disappear on you. Candidates often ghost hiring managers when they don’t know where they stand in the process. Sending out weekly email updates — even when there isn’t much to say — can keep applicants interested in the position and reduce the risk of ghosting.

2. Respect the Candidate’s Time

If you interview an applicant in November and fail to say anything else to them until you send an offer letter in January, don’t be surprised if that candidate totally ghosts you.

You can diminish the threat of ghosting by remaining transparent about the decision-making process. Consider providing a timeline up front to set expectations for how long each stage will take. The timeline is only effective if you stick to it, so be sure to be realistic. Better yet, make speed of hire a top priority so that you don’t run the risk of blowing past deadlines.

The average hiring time is 3-4 weeks across all industries, and given that many candidates accept the first offer they receive, it’s better to err on the shorter end of the spectrum. A quick hiring process decreases your likelihood of being ghosted by top candidates while increasing the quality of your hires overall.

If your company has decided on a candidate but the official offer is delayed, best practice is to extend the candidate a verbal offer and inform them a formal offer is in the works. This gives hiring managers flexibility to prepare necessary documents and create a plan without having to worry that the candidate will accept an offer from a different company before they can finish.

3. Personalize the Candidate Experience

Candidates are more inclined to ghost if they don’t find the recruiting process engaging. They want to be treated like uniquely talented individuals, rather than just another resume in the pipeline. When the hiring process isn’t personalized, candidates won’t make a connection with the company — and that makes it very easy for candidates to ghost your organization.

There are many ways to personalize the candidate experience. One good rule of thumb is to avoid taking shortcuts that may save you time at the expense of the candidate’s experience. Mass emails and generic interviews can both contribute to a negative candidate experience.

Many recruiters believe the candidate experience begins after the application process has been set in motion. In reality, it begins the first time the candidate reads your job ad. Make sure yours is more than a vague list of requirements. Instead, craft a job ad that speaks personally to the job seeker, and include information that your ideal candidate would want to know.

It’s also important to give candidates opportunities to have face-to-face — or screen-to-screen — interactions with the hiring manager and their prospective teammates. This helps candidates better understand what the company is like, which in turn helps candidates build a more personal connection to the company.

Lastly, remember candidates have professional goals they want to achieve. Many job interviews only focus on determining how a candidate meets the company’s needs, but job seekers are most engaged when interviewers take time to ask about their career paths and aspirations. Not only does this help you personalize the process even further, but it can also yield additional insight into how the candidate can create value for the organization both now and in the future.

A candidate’s decision to ghost will often remain an unsolved mystery to the company. Instead of dwelling on this, recruiters and HR teams should take a proactive approach to prevent ghosting before it even occurs. By maintaining open communication, ensuring a timely hiring process, and personalizing the candidate experience from beginning to end, your company can banish candidate ghosts and create a successful hiring process for both candidates and recruiters.

Matt Thomas is the president and founder of WorkSmart Systems, Inc. 

By Matt Thomas