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Why workers and employers are ghosting each other

Rather than sending a withdrawal or rejection email, workers and employers are simply cutting off contact during the hiring process. Are we stuck in a ‘ghosting’ spiral?

By | Alex Christian |

When Laura was invited for a final-stage interview at a multinational music corporation based in London, she thought she was on the cusp of landing her dream role. After passing a first-round phone interview and meeting team members in person, all Laura had to do was meet a senior-level executive. “It was presented to me as a formality,” she says. “The interview went well, and I was later told I’d got the job.”

And then – nothing. Despite receiving initial guarantees she would be joining the team, the email formally confirming Laura’s role never arrived. She’d send occasional follow-ups to the firm’s HR department only to receive non-committal replies. “It was always me instigating the conversation,” says Laura. “The last message I received said they promised to contact me as soon as they had more information on my new role. I never heard from them again.”

Laura had been ghosted. Rather than sending her a formal rejection or an explanation of what had happened, her potential employer ignored her. It’s a practice that’s common in the recruitment process; one recent study of 1,500 global workers found that 75% of jobseekers have been ghosted by a company after a job interview. Employers openly acknowledge that they do it; only 27% of US employers surveyed by job listings site Indeed said they hadn’t ghosted a candidate in the past year.

But it’s not just companies. Right now, employees are ghosting back – and potentially in higher numbers than ever before. In the same 2021 Indeed survey, 28% of workers said that they’d ghosted an employer – compared to 19% two years before. The phenomenon seems to be happening at all stages of the recruitment process. While some employers reported that candidates cut off communications following an initial phone screening, a quarter said new hires had “no-showed” on their first day at work.

Ghosting is considered bad practice for both companies and workers; no one likes being on the receiving end of it. Yet its rise seems inexorable: digital hiring processes deluge companies with candidates, making replying to everyone hard, even as labour shortages give job-hunters more options as employers scramble for talent. Is the inevitable consequence of this an increasingly discourteous recruitment process – or can steps be taken by both sides to avert a downward spiral?

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