Recruitment process suffers as ghosting moves from dating to corporate world

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With that January feeling of wanting to hibernate giving way to snowdrops, daffodils and the promise of spring, some folks are already dusting off their CVs and thinking about a change of job to go with the change of season. What’s putting others off, however, is a reluctance to get burned by a process that has seen ghosting become an unwelcome feature of recruitment in recent years.


For those who haven’t experienced it, ghosting is a term borrowed from the dating world. In romantic parlance it’s like being loved bombed by an enthusiastic suitor (in this case the recruitment consultant or hiring manager) then dumped and finding your number has been blocked.


What’s even more galling, according to those who have experienced ghosting, is that having been made jump through the hoops and then stonewalled, with follow-up emails and calls going unanswered, an email arrives a few months later from the same recruiter inviting them to apply for a position as if the previous encounter had never happened.


To be fair to recruiters, ghosting is not a one-way street. They too can be on the receiving end of the silent treatment if a candidate is playing hard to get or pitting one company against another to bag a better deal.


But whatever angle it’s coming from, ghosting disrupts the hiring process and it reached a peak during the pandemic.


On one level that’s not surprising, given both employers and employees were struggling with huge uncertainty. Research done at the time (2021) by jobs platform Indeed found that two-thirds of employers had ghosted job seekers, showing scant regard for the impact on candidates or the company’s reputation.


What’s worrying is that ghosting is still continuing and has almost become normalised despite it being a no-win in love and a no-win at work. Candidates who have been ghosted are reluctant to consider that employer again, while ghosting as a candidate is not smart as employers have grown wise to the practice and are keeping tabs on ghosts and effectively operating a blacklist.


Pete, a systems security engineer, experienced ghosting by a hiring manager in 2021. He was perfectly happy with the job he had at the time but admits to being flattered by the ardent courtship ritual.


The company put Pete through a rigorous selection process. Then all contact ceased abruptly with no explanation. About a year later an email dropped into Pete’s in box from the same headhunter dangling a juicy job offer in front of him. Pete agonised briefly because it was a dream ticket and then hit delete. He knows it was a pyrrhic victory but says he could never have worked for a company where ghosting was an acceptable practice.


In Pete’s view, ghosting is a failure of the recruitment process and points more to inadequacies in the recruiter than the candidate.


“People have always accepted that they may go for a job and not get it for all sorts of reasons. That’s fair enough if someone has the decency to tell you. What’s not fair is stringing people along and then blanking them,” he says.


In January this year, the Boston Consulting Group and the Network (a global alliance of more than 60 recruitment websites) released the results of What Job Seekers Wish Employers Knew, a survey based on feedback from 90,000 participants in 160 countries between August and October last year. The survey is part of the group’s research into long-term global workforce trends and one of its key findings was that organisations should focus less on ticking boxes during hiring and more on the person.


One of the recruitment myths also knocked on the head by the survey results is that the offer is the single most important thing and the recruiting process itself doesn’t matter. Wrong. More than 50 per cent said they would refuse an otherwise attractive offer if the hiring experience was negative, while 66 per cent said a timely and smooth recruitment process is the best way an employer can stand out from the crowd.


What seems to be shifting for a lot of employees, possibly as a result of the pandemic, is a change in emphasis with a good work-life balance assuming more importance.


“Most respondents (69 per cent) in our survey said that they desire, above all, a stable job with a good work-life balance. This preference is dominant across job roles, regions and age groups. Career progress at a good company comes second, and working on exciting products, topics and technologies is third,” the report’s authors say.


That said, money does still matter and financial rewards remain a top priority.


Regardless of how old candidates are, compensation and work-life balance are the two top priorities but “deal breakers” change with age. For example, learning and development opportunities are considered really important by younger workers but this diminishes once employees go over 40. Those aged 30-50 prioritise job security and flexible work, while those over 60 want interesting job content, impactful work and appreciation for what they do.


Other interesting nuggets to emerge from the survey include a preference for the traditional five-day working week and a drop in the preference for hybrid working from 65 per cent in 2020 to 50 per cent last year. Roughly 35 per cent of respondents also said they were comfortable working all of their hours in the office and this figure rises depending on where they are in the world.


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