Afraid of a “Ghost”? How to Keep Recruits From Disappearing

Ghosting, something often associated with dating, has become increasingly common among job applicants—or even new hires. How can you prevent a crisis when a new employee doesn’t show up?

If you’ve been on the dating scene in the past few years, you might be familiar with “ghosting,” which happens when someone simply disappears without letting you know they’re no longer interested.

You know who else might be familiar with the concept? Your HR department—which may have dealt with job candidates, or even new hires, doing the exact same thing to them.

It’s a problem even at higher levels of an organization—one recent story on the Society for Human Resource Management website highlights an anecdote involving a senior leader who did not show up for the job on his first day, despite the fact that, according to the person telling the anecdote, “a ‘cast of thousands’ had participated in the selection process, from interviewing to making the offer.”

It’s one thing for a person to skip out on the interview process. It’s another for that new employee not to show up to work at all. But with a tight job market, both scenarios threaten to make your hiring situation a real mess.

So what can be done? Some considerations to keep in mind:

Looking to hire? Act fast. A slow hiring process that is stretched out over a long period of time creates more opportunities for a promising candidate to choose another option. Instead of letting those other options surface, get candidates on the phone and in the door as quickly as possible, HR and management consultant Barbara Mitchell says on ASAE’s Association CareerHQ.

Seeing some no-shows? Consider changing your process. If  you’re seeing a lot of interview recruits dropping out at the last minute, consider reworking your strategy in a way that mitigates the stress those no-shows can create. A recent USA Today piece cites the example from JFuerst Real Estate Photography, in which CEO Johnny Fuerst decided to shift from holding individual interviews to initial group interviews that help weed out potential no-shows—but also had the effect of creating a more competitive environment for the applicants that did. “I was trying to mitigate my wasted time,” Fuerst said, adding, “I don’t care if half show up.”

Have a bad feeling? Keep an eye on the signs. In her Association CareerHQ piece, Mitchell adds that it’s important to see that an applicant has taken time to learn about the organization during the interview—as a lack of knowledge signifies a warning sign that you may have a potential ghost on your hands. Mitchell said: “When you interview candidates in person, do they ask thoughtful questions that demonstrate they’ve spent some time learning about your association? Do they do a good job of presenting their qualifications and explaining why they believe they’re right for the opening?”

Got burned? Spend some time reflecting. Recruiting Daily contributor Katie Achille said that if you find yourself in a situation like this, it might be a good idea to take a step back and figure out what happened—and whether the situation reflects on the employee or your organization itself. “Trace their individual experience to identify any possible pain points in the candidate experience,” she wrote. “How did automation and communication factor in? Did the candidate get strung along for months on end? Were their start date and onboarding process spelled out and confirmed ahead of time? Also, examine their offer and how this might compare with similar positions that may have lured them away.”

One other potential strategy to ensure that the employee shows up? Keep the “gap time” between accepting the job and the start date as short as possible, according to Mitchell.

(ISpiyaphong/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!