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The full horror of ghosting in the recruitment process

The full horror of ghosting in the recruitment process

Ghosting in recruitment processes is becoming an increasingly problematic occurrence. According to the #EndGhosting campaign led by major brands across the UK, two thirds (65%) of applicants have been ghosted by a prospective employer part way through the recruitment process and 94% of ghosted applicants retain negative thoughts or feelings towards the employer brand. 

We spoke with one of the leaders of the campaign Neil Armstrong, CCO at talent acquisition software provider Tribepad – and as Halloween is just round the corner there really was no holding us back!

The HR World (HRW): Can you please first of all explain the horror that is hosting in recruitment?

Neil Armstrong (NA): Someone sees an attractive job advert, they tailor their CV and craft a letter selling their qualities and boom, it’s a match. The candidate spends time chatting to the recruiter on the phone, buys a new outfit and maybe even meets over coffee. They face the boss, meet the team and get an invite to meet for the final time to discuss an offer that will change the path of their career for the foreseeable future. You can imagine how they feel when they hear nothing back. Hours wasted, transport fees lost and let’s not forget that outfit that will hang in the closet of a reminder yet another horror story. 

HRW: Why so much paranormal activity in recruitment?

NA: Recruitment has been put under huge pressure as the job market contracts and expands at an incredible pace, particularly with companies making drastic pivots in their service delivery during lockdown. One retail giant saw an unimaginable surge of applicants as the pandemic really took hold. At the height of the outbreak, the company received 300 job applications every minute. Many businesses simply aren’t set up to handle this enormous variance. Already understaffed recruitment teams simply don’t have the time and resources to nurture each individual that applies for a job and few have set up sophisticated automation to prevent it as much as possible. It’s rarely intentional, but there’s no doubt that ghosting has been steadily on the rise and the pandemic propelled that further.

HRW: How big is the spirit problem?

NA: Tribepad set out to find the answer to this question with a survey of 2000 UK adults. We found that 65% of job applicants have been ghosted part way during the recruitment process. That’s two thirds of the working population. It’s got to stop.

HRW: What happens to the ghosted candidates? Do they become zombies?

NA: Our research shows that ghosted candidates find themselves in limbo. They often put it down to prejudice or blame themselves for saying or doing something wrong. 86% of people in our survey said being ghosted left them feeling down or depressed, 1 in 5 of whom said it affected their mental health severely.

HRW: Do the haunted applicants seek revenge?

NA: Some do – Glassdoor is a powerful employer review tool where ghosted candidates sometimes leave negative reviews of the recruitment process. Candidates who had a bad experience actively discourage others from applying. Our research indicated that almost all ghosted candidates (94%) said it left them with negative thoughts or feelings towards the hiring company. You could also lose their business for a very long time. While at Virgin Media, one of our campaign supporters, Graeme Johnson, put a value on the loss of revenue to the company at £4.4m per year. 

HRW: Can the lost souls R.I.P?

NA: Actually it can take them a long time to let it go, and stop hoping and chasing. Their confidence will have been knocked too. Our survey found that 43% of ghosted applicants took several weeks, or months, to recover from being ignored. 

HRW: Are men or women more likely to be spooked?

NA: The evidence suggests ghosting affects more men than women, with almost three quarters of men (72%) being ghosted compared with 58% of women. The emotional impact, however, isn’t too different; 88.9% of women say it makes them feel down or depressed, compared with 82.6% of men. What we don’t know is why. Our earlier work discovered that men are more likely to lie about their experience. Perhaps this comes out later in the application process. Alternatively recruiters could be kinder to women, or women could be more tenacious in their follow up. 

HRW: Who are the ghouls exactly?

NA: People are being ghosted by companies big or small. The candidate stories coming forward often have very big brand names, particularly in tech. Companies that should have both the resources and technology to prevent it.

HRW: How can organisations avoid trick or treating candidates?

NA: Companies are joining the End Ghosting campaign to pledge to take steps to prevent ghosting. These include making sure they have all the automation features set up as needed on their applicant tracking system, having dedicated recruitment resources to ensure a personal recruitment experience where applicants are kept up to date and don’t get stuck in a decision process with departmental hiring managers, and ensuring that recruitment agencies close the loop.

HRW: Who are the Ghostbusters? Is tech the answer?

NA: Tech can definitely help. Companies can use software automation to send pre-written emails to candidates at each stage of the application process. A known wait is shorter than an unknown wait and this means they will always be kept informed of the stage of their application. It can also send updates promptly, so that as soon as a decision is made, positive or negative, the software can raise a flag to let the candidate know, or for high volume roles, do so automatically. For communicating with multiple candidates quickly and simply, a standardised message is better than no contact at all. Applicant tracking systems usually have reporting features to ensure that no candidate gets forgotten or “lost”, and talent teams know how many candidates have applied to each role, what stage they’re at and when you last contacted them, save all that inbox searching time. Tech is only useful if it is well configured and used to its full potential.

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