Don’t be a ghost employer: reasons you should avoid employee ghosting

By Robert Half on 28th October 2019

When it comes to recruitment horror stories, few things spook candidates more than the prospect of employers ghosting applicants. 

With UK unemployment rates at record lows, the war for talent has intensified and employers are attempting to hire from within a candidate-led market. Our research shows 33% of employees believe they will receive multiple offers when applying for a new role. MRH HR expert, Emma Bullen, says:

“…the market for talent is very competitive at the moment meaning candidates are applying for multiple jobs at the same time with the best applicants sometimes receiving multiple offers. Rather than dealing with a potentially awkward situation and letting people down, to many it’s just easier to stay quiet and hope they eventually get the message.” 

With a significant majority of employers failing to find qualified talent due to the skills shortage, and the knowledge that each applicant is likely receiving multiple offers, it’s no surprise that a mutual culture of ‘professional ghosting’ has started within the hiring market. 

So, what is ‘employee ghosting’ and how can it damage your reputation as an employer?

What is employee ‘ghosting’?

The term ‘ghosting’ comes from the world of online dating and refers to the act of deliberately avoiding a potential partner after a date or string of messages. The term has now been extended to include the relationship between employers and candidates. Although ‘professional ghosting’ in the workplace initially started out as an act by employers, candidates have also started to adopt the behaviour.

In a LinkedIn article by Chip Cutter, Peter Cappelli (Professor of Management) revealed: 

"I think [candidates] have learned [ghosting] from the employers. Employers were notorious for never getting back to people, and only letting them know what was going on if it turned out they wanted them to go to the next step."

A new study by The Knowledge Academy revealed that 30% of employers in advertising and marketing sectors are guilty of employee ghosting. This is closely followed by government (8%) and education (6%), with finance and legal close behind, with 21% of employers ghosting, compared to 24% of employees.

The dangers of employers ghosting applicants

• Limiting your hiring choices
One of the most prevalent dangers of employers ghosting applicants is that it limits hiring choices. You have decided on a first-choice candidate, but if they are unable to take the role or plans fall through, you’re then faced with the awkward possibility of having to contact the candidates you ghosted. Our recruitment experts source out the best candidates to ensure you’re given the broadest range of talent and continuous communication with candidates throughout the hiring process.

• Poor employer branding
When competition for skilled talent is hot, good employer branding can help you get the edge. Being considered an ‘employer of choice’ makes talent acquisition efforts easier. Employers ghosting applicants can create a negative reputation, which is hard to shake and can be perpetuated via word of mouth and employer review sites.

• Missing out on top talent
Our research shows that the average recruitment process is 28 days — a far cry from the 2 weeks expected by candidates. Many job seekers receive multiple job offers and 58% have taken a second-choice role because their first-choice employer was too slow to act. If you develop a reputation for employee ghosting, your first-choice candidate may assume you aren’t interested and will move on!

Time to Hire: read more

• Fewer internal recommendations
There are fewer internal recruitment resources as powerful as your own employees. As experts in their field, they are ideal for talent acquisition and can be your biggest cheerleaders.  If staff regularly see their employers ghosting applicants, they’re unlikely to make the recommendation to a friend. 

How to avoid employee ghosting when recruiting

• Hire for soft skills
Are you feeling the pinch of the skills shortage? Many employers have begun to focus more on soft skills when hiring — this means their staff are a good cultural fit and have skills which complement digitisation (resilience, adaptability, communication). Hiring for soft skills gives you the opportunity to train staff in areas which fit the role perfectly, thereby mitigating the impact of the skills shortage.

• Maintain a talent network
Just because a candidate isn’t a good fit for your current vacancy, doesn’t mean they won’t be in future. With the war for talent hindering recruitment plans for many businesses, it would be advantageous to keep in touch with the candidates you don’t hire, so you have a robust talent pipeline to fall back on.

• Work with a specialist recruitment agency
If you struggle to stay on top of communication when hiring staff and find yourself leaning toward ghosting in the workplace, you may find it beneficial to work with a recruitment expert. They can screen CVs, interview candidates and help you maintain a stellar employer reputation, free from employee ghosting mishaps.

Avoid professional ghosting with an efficient recruitment process

The war for talent may be ruthless, but employers are far better placed with a strong and attractive remuneration package and short recruitment process when recruiting, rather than resorting to employee ghosting to save time. If you’d like to find out more about remuneration and salary trends for the coming months, download the Robert Half Salary Guide today.

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