Professional Ghosting - A Worsening Trend

This is the time of the year when companies plan their budgets for the upcoming one, employees start wondering if their bonuses will be what they were promised, and experts and analysts start predicting trends for the new year. There is one trend that is nothing new, but which I can predict will get even worse in 2019. That is the ever-expanding phenomenon known as professional ghosting which, in a world where unemployment is at a record low and the candidate is king, unfortunately seems to be becoming the rule rather than the exception.

Call me old-fashioned but doing this is ill-mannered and also, from a professional standpoint, potentially damaging to your long-term career. As a job-seeker, or as a recruiter, ghosting someone – in essence all of the sudden no longer returning the person’s calls or emails – can have consequences down the line. You are burning bridges, and this can damage your reputation and your business.

When I was a job-seeker, I had several recruiters contact me unsolicited about roles, had positive phone calls with them and then never heard from them again despite several attempts at reestablishing contact. When I went on to become the head of HR for a hotel company, those recruiters never got any business from me despite their reaching back out to me at that point in time. Why would I want to work with companies who didn’t value their candidates enough to even send a form email to say they had nothing at that time? I am not a vindictive person so didn’t feel the need to go on social media to name and shame them as some do, but I certainly had no problem in discouraging people from using their services when asked to refer recruiting companies. Multiple potential accounts lost over one email response seems short-sighted.

As candidates, people are better about keeping in touch and following through because they need what you potentially have to offer. What has been surprising to me, is post offer ghosting. I have had candidates set an interview and not show up. I have had candidates verbally accept an offer, have sent them the offer letter and then never heard from them again. I have heard of, but thank goodness not yet experienced, candidates who have accepted an offer and just not shown up for their first day of work. Of course, I know that this means that they have accepted an offer from another company, but the courtesy of an explanation seems like an evident next step before moving on. Why? Because no matter which industry you work in, your network is smaller than you think, and people talk. Underestimate this at your future career peril.

To begin with, the company who made you the offer will blacklist you. Also, should your name ever get mentioned in front of anyone who was involved in your interview or hiring process, the story of your ghosting them at the last minute will get told and I can guarantee that everyone involved in that conversation will go right back to their office and make a note of that in their candidate database, and repeat the story when your name potentially comes up in front of them. At some point there may be a job that you really, really want but your reputation will have proceeded you and you will not even be considered for it. And all you had to do was write an email saying that you received an offer that was more in line with what you were looking for and thank the person in question for their time. People will get that, and you have kept the door for future networking and career opportunities wide-open. One email, folks.

Also, and this may not mean much to a person who would ghost, but it is not only your reputation that you are putting on the line. As a recruiter I have interviewed you, vetted you, vouched for you to my client and, as a reward for investing my time and experience in helping you find your dream job, you have just put me in an awkward position vis a vis my client and damaged my reputation as well as your own. Strangely enough, a few months down the line, you will potentially reach out to me because your new job isn’t working out and - guess what – I will not be working with you a second time around. Nor will any of my contacts in the industry who will hear what you did should your name ever come up in conversation, which it very well may because contacts reach out all the time to find out about potential hires.

Disappearing and refusing to respond to my concerned follow-ups (“maybe something awful happened and that’s why s/he didn’t show up?”) is not only rude but a sure sign of an innate inability to handle potential conflict, no matter how brief, or communicate with honesty and respect, surely all prerequisites for any business transaction and reasons not to hire you? Learning to say “no thank you” graciously is a skill that every human should learn, and the art of avoiding professional self-sabotage is certainly one that we should all be able to master.

Or, to paraphrase my whole post more succinctly, don’t ghost. Ever.