Tired of Getting Ghosted by Job Candidates?

Tired of Getting Ghosted by Job Candidates?

5 Ghost Busting Tricks to Eliminate No-Shows

You’re under pressure. After sorting through a small stack of fair-to-excellent resumes and sitting through hours of (mostly lackluster) interviews, you’re beginning to wonder if, in this ever tightening job market, the right candidate will ever come along. 

And then… you find her:  the perfect candidate. This person is so qualified, so aligned with the organization’s values and environment, and so enthusiastic about the job that everyone agrees: get the offer pulled together.  We’ve found ourselves a unicorn. 

But then… your calls to the candidate start rolling into voicemail oblivion. Texts just sit there, delivered, read, but unanswered.

Where-oh-where has the unicorn gone?  Is she ill?  Has disaster befallen her? 

No.  She just accepted an offer from someone else.  And she didn’t feel any particular sense of urgency or obligation to let you know.

In the parlance of online dating, you’ve just been ghosted.

It’s a battle out there. These days, candidates are in the driver’s seat and they know it. They’re busy.  They’re in demand.  And they’ve got plenty of options.  So if another employer is a good fit, treats them well, and is ready to offer, your perfect candidate might just keep you dangling until that other offer comes through – or even until after they’ve started working there – just to keep their options open.

Rude?  Frustrating?  Costly?  Yes, yes, yes.  But it’s increasingly common in this sustained labor shortage.  And before I get into the specifics of how to cut down on candidate no-shows and disappearing acts, I’d like to ask you to consider this question first: 

Have you always treated candidates with that urgency and courtesy when they’re the ones waiting by the phone – and you’re making the offer to someone else?

Let’s be honest.  When the shoe is on the other foot, we’re not always so concerned about our timely communications with the also-rans.  In fact, a recent CareerBuilder study showed that only 26% of employers proactively communicate with candidates to keep them updated on the hiring process and where the candidate stands.  Even 73% of candidates who made it through the interviewing process were never even told why they didn’t get the job. 

And that leads me to my first (and maybe most important) tip. 

  1. The Golden Rule Always Applies:  Treat Every Candidate The Way You Want to Be Treated.
    Can you sit down for an hour long heart-to-heart with every person whose resume isn’t even close?  No, of course you can’t.  But can you take the time to prepare a set of email templates that keep people in the know?  Of course you can.  It’s ok to keep these templates brief.  But be kind.  Be straightforward.  And be quick about it.  And before you hit send, ask yourself:  would I think highly of someone if
    they sent me this email?  Just never ignore anyone who has taken the time to apply for a job.  Cultivate a reputation for kindness, courtesy and respect and it will always pay off.
  2. Set Clear Expectations with Candidates Up Front
    Find out where they are in their own job hunting process and where your job stacks up for them.  How interested are they in this position?  In this organization?  Are they interviewing elsewhere?  What are their priorities?  Likewise, tell them how your recruiting process will unfold.  Include realistic timing expectations and as many additional details as you can reasonably share.  Get agreement about how – and how often – you’ll communicate with each other.  And explicitly ask them to let you know if they decide to withdraw from consideration.    
  3. Up Your Communications Game
    Think like a marketing manager and create an entire campaign of email and/or text messages that can be easily customized for each candidate at each step of the way.  The purpose of each note you send is to make sure the candidate feels informed, engaged and respected.  In other words, never keep them guessing.  If they’re being invited to interview – even if it’s just a preliminary phone interview – share the agenda, priorities and expectations.  But don’t stop there.  Reinforce critical messages about what makes the job and the organization great.  Use a series of text messages to confirm interview times and convey your hope that the interview goes well for them.  Make sure that the interview honors what was promised.  And do another reach out immediately after the interview to check in, see how they’re feeling about the job, and let them know when to expect an update.  As the process proceeds and you’re down to a handful of top finalists, you should be reaching out frequently – and responding to calls, texts or emails immediately.
  4. Improve Your Process and Reduce Lag Times Between Steps
    Educate your hiring managers so they understand how quickly the process needs to move and how they’re communications will affect outcomes.  Schedule all interviews and follow ups to happen immediately.  What do I mean by immediately?  I mean that a week is ok.  Two weeks is stretching it.  Going beyond that is kissing your top candidates goodbye.  And hiring managers who pull the old last-minute cancellations or reschedules are your worst enemy.  Accomplishing a shorter time-to-fill will likely require a lot more than a few good chats with the hiring manager.  It’ll take a close examination of your entire process, from initial application to final offer and onboarding.  Wherever you can eliminate bottlenecks without completely undermining quality, do so.  If you’re looking at out-of-towners, try phone or Skype screening.  If your application system is the problem, figure out smart workarounds for now and start budgeting for a better one in the future.
  5. Never Stop Re-Recruiting. 

Great candidates with multiple options remain great candidates with multiple options, even after they show up for work.  So be sure that there is a stellar onboarding process – and a great manager in place – to keep the new hire fully onboard.  So, truth time:  does the hiring manager have an excellent onboarding program?  (Do they have an onboarding program at all?)  They need one.  And it needs to include a solid mix of need-to-know information:  basic how-to’s of accessing their work systems, their performance objectives, responsibilities, and organizational expectations.  But they also need the soft stuff: welcome breakfasts, buddy systems, frequent check-ins and early exposure to a robust recognition program.

The way you and your hiring managers communicate with candidates sends a powerful signal to them – and everyone else they tell – about how you operate.  The easier – and happier – you can make the entire process for every candidate, the better your chances that they’ll reciprocate.  And if they don’t?  Maybe that’s a good thing. Candidates who ghost you are showing their capacity for being disrespectful.  So thank your lucky that they cut themselves out of the process before an offer was extended. 

Brian Rudolph

Brian Rudolph