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September 2, 2021

How to Stop Ghosting in its Tracks

Welcome to part two of our series on ghosting in staffing and recruiting. For those who missed part one, where we drilled down on the causes of candidate and recruiter ghosting, you can check it out here.

Having worked to understand the problem, it’s time to move on to the possible solutions. And we’ll begin, as is tradition in any game of relationships, with communication.

Setting communication expectations

Clear, honest, open, and transparent communication with your candidates is your number one weapon against ghosting. According to Indeed, 63% of employers believe that better communication can help reduce ghosting, while jobseekers name communication problems as one of the biggest reasons why they ghost recruiters.

“Stopping ghosting comes down to expectations, process, and mutual responsibility,” declares Maggie Williams, Associate VP of Operations at AREVO Group. “We're not here to get a body to the customer, and if your team thinks like that, it shows that there’s something wrong with your structure, processes, and organization as a whole.” 

Seeing the candidate as a human, not a number, will help to drive communication. An organization should create communication expectations for recruiters, and ensure that they are crystal clear, as internal transparency with recruiters will lead to external transparency with candidates. Clear communication KPIs should be developed by asking yourself questions like:

  • How do we plan to stay engaged with the candidates?
  • How many touchpoints should we have in place?
  • How many times should we follow up with a candidate?
  • At what point should we consider ourselves ghosted?

Achieving transparency

Communication is a two-way street - the candidate needs to play their part too. But there are things that a recruiter can do to encourage more open conversation.

Candidates can tell when you’re treating them like a number or trying to tick some boxes. It becomes a different conversation altogether if the candidate feels as though you're there to help and support them. Trade conversations about pay rate, commute, and qualifications, for conversations about their passions, needs, and desires. This not only helps you find a more appropriate opportunity for the candidate - one that won’t end in you being ghosted - it’s also a better experience for a recruiter because it humanizes the work. You go from ticking boxes to fulfilling dreams.

If you make it clear that you’re there to help the candidate meet their goals, they’ll be less hesitant to share the fact that they took another role, or that they feel a certain job isn’t right for them.

Creating such an open and honest relationship can be surprisingly simple. Call a candidate after an interview and ask how they felt about it; try to gauge their interest so you’re not blindsided. Make it clear that if they change their mind or lose interest in a role, that’s absolutely fine, as long as they let you know. In fact, by keeping you in the loop, they could soon be offered a more attractive opportunity.

Walking the walk

Open communication is built on a foundation of trust. And building that trust is about following through. When you say you’ll send a resume to a client, send it, then confirm that it’s submitted with the candidate. Give them a timeframe for the next step in the process, and if you or your client is struggling to meet it, let them know.

It might be as simple as an email saying ‘this particular hiring manager is really busy, she usually only gets back to me after two or three business days. If you don't hear from me in the next couple of days, don’t worry, I’ll be in touch by [this day].

Familiarity also breeds trust. Just as there’s value in treating candidates as humans, there’s also value in showing yourself to be human. “I'm more likely to ghost someone if I don’t know who they are, if I don't have trust in them or a relationship with them, and if I’ve only ever emailed or texted them,” says Williams. “Recruiters should talk to candidates on the phone, over Zoom, or in-person where possible.”

Attracting the right candidates

Ghosting can be greatly reduced by being smart with job posts. By creating more targeted posts, you’ll focus your efforts on the most relevant candidates, doing away with the rest.

Create candidate profiles – personas for any marketers in the room – that guide you in creating posts that speak to the exact worker you’re hoping to attract. Be perfectly transparent about the realities of the job: the salary, the day-to-day, maybe some testimonials from current workers. The clearer the picture, the fewer unsuitable candidates you’ll attract.

Where a generic job post might result in a few thousand applicants for you to sift through, a targeted job post might serve up just a few dozen, but each is likely to be super relevant. This frees up endless hours for the recruiter, allowing them to deliver the intimate, communication-filled candidate experience that the modern candidate is looking for.

Ghosting happens post-hire too, so once a placement is made, recruiters should follow up on their first day, at the end of their first week, at 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days, to ensure that the candidate is comfortable in the job, and that there have been no unexpected surprises.

Training your team

Recruiters, hiring managers, and employers need to understand that good candidates won’t wait for you to hire them. 

“I’ve worked with employers in the past that have said ‘I’m giving someone a job - they’re lucky to work here,” says Julie Wiser, Senior Manager of HR and Talent Acquisition at BrandMuscle. “That attitude just does not match the realities of the market right now.”

Education and training are critical. Recruiters should know the state of the job market, appropriate salaries, and how they can source more candidates. They should be educated on the importance of process, communication, and efficiency. Coach them on finding the best candidate, not the perfect one: if you pass on someone who ticks nine boxes in the hope of finding someone who ticks ten, you’ll always be disappointed, not least because the nine-box option will quickly be snapped up by others.

“In a tough hiring market you might move away from checking boxes altogether, and instead work to identify the candidate that has the raw materials and drive to succeed,” says Cassi Harris, Talent Acquisition Specialist at American Family Insurance. “I often put people forward who aren’t perfect, but many end up being promoted, and enjoy long careers.”

Soft skill development is critical too, says Williams. “Train recruiters on how to approach conversations and engage with candidates. Often recruiters will want to go down the route of ‘I see your resume, it looks really good. Here's the role. Does that sound good to you? Great. Let's get you submitted’. We forget to have (or avoid having) the tough yet critical conversations around salary, flexibility, location, and other common tripping points. We highlight the good and downplay the bad, and in the process, we set ourselves up to be ghosted.

If we say ‘the pay rate is $20/hr’ and the candidate says ‘that could work’, it’s tempting to reply with ‘great!’ But we should be training our recruiters to say ‘you sound hesitant – can we talk about that?’”

Capitalizing on technology

Our final solution can be thought of as the one that brings all others together. In technology you not only have the answers to many of the industry’s current ghosting problems, you have the answer to future issues too.

“We need to be giving candidates the experience that they didn't realize that they wanted from recruiters,” Williams explains. “I didn't know that I wanted Amazon to tell me that they were seven blocks away from my house. But they do that now. And I love it.”

What is it that you want to give your candidates, customers, and recruiters? You need to define it, and implement systems, processes, and solutions to support it. The good news? It’s more than likely that the necessary tech already exists. The following solutions can have a huge impact on your rates of ghosting:

  • Automated communication software: Communicate clearer and more often with chatbots capable of answering basic candidate questions, email marketing solutions that create personalized communications by applying ATS data to pre-written templates, automated surveys, and text message reminders.
  • Meeting/calendar tools: Allow candidates to book time in your calendar and speak with you over the internet to simplify communication and reduce back-and-forth.
  • Onboarding tools: Ghosting occurs post-hire too, but by streamlining and simplifying the onboarding process, you can guard against the pain and frustration of beginning the entire process again from the start.

Some form of ghosting is almost inevitable in staffing and recruiting. There will always be candidates who seem to fall off the face of the earth. But by targeting the right people, by treating them as humans, by communicating clearly and often, by following through on your promises, by training your recruiters, and by leaning on technology, you can significantly reduce the rate at which ghosting occurs.

And if we as an industry commit to doing better, we can halt - and eventually reverse - the current ghosting epidemic.