Employee Ghosting is a Real Thing, But Here’s How to Fix it

Type the term “employee ghosting” into Google, and you’ll end up with 166,000 results, most of which take the angle that a phenomenon once reserved for the dating game has, somehow, snuck up on business and permeated our unsuspecting, open-plan offices like the stench of a rotting corpse.
In truth, employee ghosting has been going on for decades. It’s just been us that’s been doing it, and we never planned for the shoe to be on the other foot. However, it’s going to be okay. Cue Adele’s ‘Turning Tables’ and have a good cry because the first step to fixing the problem is acknowledging where the problem started. As HR professionals, we are reaping the harvest which our own seeds have sown, and it all comes down to one major element: Candidate Experience.

What went wrong

For years, employers have become spectres by ignoring the candidate experience and post-interview follow-up because the influx of qualified candidates outweighed the time and resources available to respond to every candidate. We held the balance of power in the job market, with high unemployment rates and generic processes which acted as the enabling force to leave potential employees hearing crickets but too afraid to jeopardize their chances by reaching out and touching base.
In 2018, we find ourselves in a job-seekers market. Unemployment rates are the lowest they’ve been in nearly two decades. The tides have shifted, and employee ghosting is a new reality that requires adaptation if we’re going to be able to deal with it successfully.

What to do now

The best thing employers can do to detect and prevent it is by establishing a connection early and fostering engagement and trust throughout the hiring process. In other words, provide an experience that makes a candidate think they aren’t just a number, but a human soul, full of worth and skill who has the potential to tie into your culture and drive it to a level you only dreamed it would reach.
It may seem like I’m waxing poetic here, but that’s exactly what employees want to feel about their potential in your company—the very place where they will spend most of their physical and mental energy every week. That is HR Humanity in action, and if we’re not designing programs and processes that support it, we are sorely missing the mark.
Candidate experience is important because it ties closely into an employer’s brand—and by extension—their culture. Good connections may not prevent the reputation-risking move of ghosting outright, but we know that if candidates feel there is an existing relationship they are more obligated to reach out and at least make a respectful exit, which allows us to move to Plan B.
We’re drastically missing depth in nearly every touchpoint a candidate has with us. Even the most basic candidate relationship systems can be personalized in a way which allows for successful transfer of an employer brand and offers an opportunity for truly uninterested candidates to deselect themselves from the process early. We use a nearly automated system that allows candidates to move through the process quickly, and by the time they reach an interview they’ve gone through a series of written, audial and visual touchpoints with us which has allowed them to provide their unique view for what they bring to the table, and reconcile it with our culture and working reality.
We’re interested in listening to what candidates have to say, as well as how and why they say it, and I can tell you the payback in loyalty and trust far outweighs the effort it took to develop a reliable system in the first place. Deepening the candidate experience strengthens the public face of your brand as an employer, is easy to modify as needs in the market change.

Measuring it

So, how do you know if an experience is working? There are so many metrics and ways of gathering data that not having the information is no longer an excuse. Whether you are using employee net promoter scores, or open surveys, social media chatter or just not having success filling a role, there is always a backstory that exists, not to be a burden, but to help you read between the lines and fix what’s broken. The candidate experience is a living thing; an ongoing involvement that morphs into a main indicator of engagement once a joins your team—and we are all responsible for how we turn this “new normal” into the opportunity to create a more inclusive, respectful and human hiring experience.
As we move into another Halloween let’s not shrink back as the ghosts of our old mistakes haunts us, but infuse it with the humanity it—and all future candidates deserve.

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