Employee ghosting

Find out what it is and how to prevent it in your workplace below

What is Workplace Ghosting?

An employer ghosting a candidate. That's nothing new. But the tables are turning — and it's hurting companies. Candidate ghosting is now a thing and it's growing exponentially. It may happen a little something like this.

A recruiter finds a candidate matching all the skills needed for an open role. They reach out, connect, and even have a great phone call. So the recruiter sets up an interview with the company's HR department. 

The company wants to hire the candidate and schedules them to start Monday. The candidate shows up, everything seems to go well. But then the following day, they’re a no-show. No one can reach them by email or phone. Weeks pass, and no one hears from or sees that candidate again. 

What happened? Employee ghosting. 

It's a problem that's seeping into every industry, sector, and role. What can you do as an employer to prevent it? Let's look at what candidate and new employee ghosting is and what to do about it. 

What is work ghosting?

Employee ghosting

Ghosting is a term recently coined for people that disappear without warning or explanation. But there's nothing mysterious about it. People ghost for various reasons, and it often has to do with disinterest (or loss of interest). When it comes to work ghosting, it's when a candidate or employee initially shows interest in a position, but doesn't follow through with pursuing the role (even after being hired). 

There are occasions where an employee will go through the entire hiring process, work several days and then never return. So employee ghosting can happen at any point before, during, and after the hiring process. Unfortunately, this is happening more and more. 

How common is ghosting at work?

An astonishing 71% of workers admit to ghosting recruiters during the interview process. Another report shows 20% to 50% of job applicants and employees commit no-shows in one form or another. 

And recruiters back this claim, with 83% stating candidates ghosted them. There also seems to be a bias — 41% of workers say candidate ghosting is alright. But 35% say business ghosting is unacceptable.    

The sentiment for ghosting employers seems to be growing among employees, making it harder for companies to lock in candidates. The question now is why is this happening?

Why is job ghosting on the rise?

Candidate ghosting is on the rise, but why? Some believe it has to do with the employment process becoming impersonal. A lot of recruiters are now vetting candidates using channels like social media and online job boards. 

The problem with this is it becomes impossible to build a personable relationship. Everyone's hiding behind screens, so it's easier to skip out on an interview or the first day of work without remorse. 

There's also the fact that employees are in control. In 2019, the unemployment rate sat at 3.5% (the lowest since 1969). This means fewer people competing for work. Think of it like real estate -- when it's a seller's market, buyers are less frantic and are willing to wait around for better opportunities. 

And it's the same in the job industry. Employees have leverage over the labor market. So they're less likely to jump on an opportunity if they feel something better may come along. Even during the pandemic, employers are dealing with candidate ghosting. But it's not for the same reasons. This time around, applicants do want to work, but are forced to forgo an opportunity to tend to family matters (i.e., health or childcare). 

But again, the reasons behind employee ghosting vary based on the individual and their circumstances. It helps to understand the why, so you can potentially prevent being ghosted. 

Here are some of the top causes for candidate and employee ghosting:

  • Accepting another job offer

  • Avoiding confrontation 

  • Looking for a better opportunity

  • Feeling disrespected or undervalued (the salary offer)

  • Forgetting the next step of the process 

  • Unimpressed with the hours, benefits, work setting, etc. 

  • Not seeing room for growth

  • High turnover rates in the workplace make them feel insecure

  • Leaving a toxic work environment

This isn't an all-inclusive list of employee ghosting reasons. However, you can use this to identify potential issues in your workplace or hiring process. Not all ghosting scenarios are preventable, but some can be remedied. 

What are examples of candidate and new employee ghosting?

There are several ways candidates and new hires ghost employers. Here's a look at the most common situations. 

Not appearing for an interview

Your HR team finds 20 candidates per week. Yet, only three to five show up. This may happen for initial and subsequent interviews in the hiring process. And it occurs for both phone and in-person meetings. 

Not showing up on day one

Maybe a candidate or two makes it through the entire hiring process and gets hired. They're placed on the schedule, but they don't show up. There's no notice or phone call after the event. And they're never to be heard from again. 

Quitting without warning

Two-week notices are like a courtesy, and that's exactly how some employees treat it. They don't feel they owe it to their employer to give advance notice before leaving. So they just stop showing up. This may either be for a new job or other purposes. 

Not responding to follow-ups after an interview

Just because you feel an interview went well doesn't mean the candidate feels the same way. This frequently happens, leaving the recruiter wondering why the candidate doesn't respond to their follow-up emails and calls. 

Delivering poor-quality work before walking

This may happen if you're dealing with an employee with a contract. They'll purposely dole out subpar work to get let go on purpose. Others may have plans to quit soon and will begin to slack beforehand. It's not uncommon for absenteeism to become a problem as well. If this happens to you, then it's time to learn how to deal with an absent employee

How do you stop employee ghosting?

Preventing candidate and employee ghosting is challenging, especially when it's not always clear when or why it'll happen. But there are measures you can take to reduce the odds of it occurring. Here are some tips to put to the test. 

Build a talent community

Connecting with talent is something you should do proactively, not reactively. Take the time now (when you're not hiring) to reach out to people with skills you'll need in the future. By building relationships in advance, you'll have a group of talent to recruit from. And since there's already trust there, these candidates are less likely to ghost you. 

Improve your onboarding process

Studies show 77% of candidates are willing to take 5% less than the expected salary if the employer makes a great impression during the hiring process. 

This speaks volumes about the importance of the hiring and onboarding experience. Keep in mind that many new hires choose to stay or leave a role within the first three weeks. And 90% of employees will make this choice within the first six months.

So if your onboarding process is short-winded, then it's time to lengthen it. Some experts even say onboarding should be a year-long process. And that by turning it into a strategic process, it can improve employee retention. Your onboarding should last longer and include:

  • Mix of time-based and self-paced training (so it doesn't overwhelm)

  • Dedicated buddy or mentor to ensure success and to answer questions

  • Simple communication and project management tools

  • Up-to-date training so workers can hit the ground running

  • Performance tracking and regular reviews to guide and show appreciation (monthly or quarterly)

Keeping employees engaged will lower the odds of them ghosting you. Especially, if you're offering guidance and recognizing their achievements. 

Avoid overcommitting

As a recruiter, you don't want to make promises you can't keep. For instance, saying you'll refer a candidate to specific openings. The best way to approach recruiting is to under-promise and over-deliver. This way, candidates will show gratitude by hopefully sticking around long-term. 

Prepare an escape plan

If you're worried about employee ghosting, then enter into the recruitment process with that in mind. Have a plan that addresses the possibility of it happening. For instance, you can have a reply-by-date for candidates. If they don't show, then you know to move on. This prevents your recruiters from wasting too much time chasing disinterested candidates. 

Look for warning signs from employees

Sometimes, if you pay close attention, you'll see red flags pointing to possible ghosting. There are clues employees leave indicating they're about to quit. For instance, their quality of work and effort may decrease. Or they avoid discussing long-term projects. They may even miss days of work more frequently. 

If you notice commitment and productivity issues, then talk to the worker to see what's going on. It may be something happening at home, or it could be dissatisfaction at work. If absenteeism is an issue, then check out our absence management guide

Offer incentives based on seniority

Give employees a reason to stay with your company by offering incentives. One option is to over regular pay raises or perks for employee anniversaries. Or for reaching milestones and accomplishments. It's also a good idea to incentivize employees to send a two-week notice before quitting. For example, you can allow them to cash in unused vacation or PTO days. Or you can offer other benefits. 

Decrease the odds of employee ghosting

There's no demographic that's more likely to ghost than others. It can happen with any race, gender, and age group. So don't believe the hype that young adults are the main culprits of worker ghosting. But with these tips and insights in mind, you're better prepared to take this head-on.