Three faces of ghosting: emotional, employee and recruitment

Three faces of ghosting: emotional, employee and recruitment

Until recently the term “ghosting” appeared in the context of male-female relations, specifically in a situation in which one says that they love the other and then all of a sudden disappear like a ghost. They stop answering the phone, fail to respond to messages, it’s like the earth has simply swallowed them up. In the psychological context, a person who has experienced ghosting does not take too kindly to it, as they will likely never learn the reasons why the object of their sighs left, they blame themselves for this occurrence, which has a negative impact on their feeling of self-worth. The “ghost” in this case is simply avoiding confrontation and the difficult emotions connected with it.

Ghosts in the recruiting process

The term ghosting appeared in corporations around 2 years ago. Candidates, representing various professions, mainly specialists, began a process that shocked at the beginning, to very quickly become the norm, and even a trend. Not to show up for a job interview and not even having the courtesy to say so? Such a situation would have been unthinkable at one time. Meanwhile, HR departments and recruiters complain that at the moment this is simply a normal occurrence. It’s one thing if the candidate doesn’t show up for the first stage of discussion. It’s much worse if they fail to show during a meeting in which a job offer was to be presented to them. In the psychological context, the recruiter feels down, as they gave a high assessment to a candidate that proved to be unreliable. Or, they look bad in front of the business, or, God forbid, in front of the President, who reserved time to meet the candidate. And even though the recruiter would like to vocally express their dissatisfaction, they will not get such an opportunity as the “ghost” is very consistent in their actions. They do not answer the phone, they don’t respond to messages wanting to avoid a confrontation.

How is it done throughout the world

As the Washington Post states, the number of candidates that don’t show up to their arranged recruitment meetings, don’t respond to their messages, do not show up for the first day at work or simply leave from one day to the next is becoming so large that in the US,  that ghosting at work has become a trend on the labor market. The American media compete with each other in publications providing guidelines to candidates on how to leave your job with class, how not to burn bridges, e.g. “6 tips to quit your job with grace”. However the problem does not lie in the lack of awareness. The problem lies in the inner need to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation.

In Japan the matters went even further. In one of the articles we can read that a start-up founded 18 months ago by Yuichiro Okazaki i Toshiyuki Niino, gave notice of termination on behalf of 1,500 employees. As Okazaki explains, many Japanese employees are paralyzed by the thought of confrontation with an often times expressive boss, looking them in the eye and relaying uncomfortable information about leaving. The work cult in Japan is so strong that an attempt to leave in the psychological context is a huge trauma for the “ghost”. The ghost feels as if they are doing something wrong, that they are behaving like a bad person. It is much easier to pay USD 457 and to entrust this difficult task to professionals.

Recruiters like Goth ghosts

Dear recruiters, and now for a moment of truth. No one knows the meaning of ghosting better than many, and I mean many recruitment agencies and HR departments. In each of these groups, this case was and continues to be a sad normal occurrence, which disappointed candidates write about on forums, as they have no other possibility of articulating their disappointment.  Why is this so? In this situation, the “ghost” is the recruiter, and the candidate experiences the ghosting. It’s a real wonder that in the age of ATS systems, recruiters find it difficult to send a short message to a candidate: “Thank you for participating in the recruitment process and for your time”. It’s unbelievable that recruiters do not answer the phone and do not respond to messages. It is not simply proper to inform them that the process has been suspended, if this is the information that the business or client relays to us?

It’s an utter embarrassment that even recruitment agencies at the highest level claim that they ensure the appropriate level of communication with the candidates. Meanwhile during my meeting with the HR Director active on the labor market, I heard that for every 10 e-mails sent directly to high level head hunters, she had only received 2 responses. After she moved to the other side and went from being a client to a candidate, her perception of head hunting companies underwent a dramatic change. Has sending back a response or feedback become paranormal activity?

Karma comes back to you

The market is flourishing. Job offers spring up like mushrooms, and the number of candidates is not growing proportionally to the supply. Now it is the recruiters lamenting that the candidates are disappearing. Karma has come back. Meanwhile, the group of those who know that conclusions need to be drawn from every lesson, are starting to look after the “candidate’s experience”. Johnson&Johnson implemented an interesting solution by building a platform allowing the candidates to track their status in a recruitment process.  The solution works well in recruitment for lower level and specialized positions. The candidates, in knowing their status in a specific situation, can thus make decisions in other processes that they are participating in. This sounds very fair. At the higher level, this type of communication seems to be somewhat automated. In senior level recruiting we focus on relations, above all else. Of course, on the condition that we do not spoil them due to the lack of communication.

The above observations indicate that in fact knowledge about where we stand at a given point in time is essential for both parties. Both in love as well as in recruitment, this lack of knowledge results in discomfort. And as psychologists claim – even physical pain. Avoiding confrontation and uncomfortable situations is not the way to go, its simply a way to run away. The “ghost” leaves behind a baffled partner in business or private relations, causing havoc in the heart or the mind of the injured party. In coming to an imminent conclusion, I will sound a bit like a coach, in fact like a headhunter with a large dose of empathy.

Let’s not be ghosts to each other. Let’s be human.

Monika Ciesielska
President at IMSA Search Global Partners. An experienced consultant in the recruitment of the management staff, including board members, and a leader of the recruiting team in the IT/Tech area. Enthusiast of digital transformation of HR processes. Podcaster at "Skrzydlaty HR" and "Top Leaders Club".
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