Employee Ghosting

‘Ghosting’ is a term that you may or may not be familiar with. It is one that, until recently, was used to refer exclusively to romantic relationships. It describes the actions of a person who decides they want nothing more to do with you and very suddenly ends all communication.

The key characteristic of ghosting is its deathly finality. One day you are in a relationship, the next day your partner no longer returns your calls, ignores your text messages, refuses to respond to you on Facebook (even though you can see that they are online and posting statuses), and they will not open the door when arrive at their doorstep.

Unfortunately, this heartless phenomenon is no longer restricted to the world of dating: it has now crossed into the workplace. Employee ghosting describes exactly the same occurrence, but this time the recipient is the job candidate. Its mild form is when a candidate takes the time to fill out an application form, and are told that they will receive a response but never do. Its more severe form is when a candidate actually goes to an interview and simply never hears back from the hiring manager. They wait and they wait for a response, but the interviewer does not take the time to send so much as a rejection email.

Employee ghosting seems to be particularly prevalent in the UK, with CV-Library research suggesting that over half of the workforce in the country feels that they have been ghosted – not just at the initial application stage, but more specifically during the interview process. There are lots of reasons an employer might decide to ghost interviewees, and some argue that in certain cases it may well be related to discrimination. However, it could simply be down to him or her attempting to avoid a situation they find awkward; or (at the initial application stage) it could also be due to the sheer number of applications the hiring manager has to sift through.

Employers should be aware that their actions are having a direct impact on the attitudes and actions of UK workers. Now, 9% of the British workforce admit to ghosting an employer: rather than handing in their formal notice, they just never return. The research found that the main reason for this was because they themselves had been ghosted at the hands of employers, and so were more inclined to repeat this kind of behaviour. Lee Biggins from CV-Library elaborates: “Now that the ‘ghosting’ trend has made its way into the workplace, it’s critical that businesses correct this behaviour. If a candidate is constantly ignored by employers, a signal is being sent to workers that the behaviour is acceptable.”

“It’s clear that two-way communication is more important now than ever before, as many of the reasons behind a worker ghosting their job are issues that could be resolved through support from management.”

This concept probably won’t be unfamiliar to executives, many of whom are busy professionals working in industries where time is money. As such, it isn’t a huge surprise that not all employers get back to each and every candidate. Even so, the research has shown that there are advantages that come with treating candidates with more consideration, including the prospect of those who had a positive experience applying for subsequent vacancies with the same company further down the line.

Written by

Cambridge University graduate and professional career sector writer.

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