Ghosts are a welcome site this time of year. Just not everywhere. Like, say, in the world of recruiting.
We’re all familiar with the concept at this point, but just for the record, look up the word "ghosting" in the dictionary. You’ll see a picture of…nobody, of course. That’s sort of the point. You will, though, find the word itself. Ghosting is one of those terms that feels as if it’s been around forever, although it didn’t formally enter the Merriam-Webster Dictionary until 2017.
Those folks at M-W write that “Ghosting (the noun) and ghost (the verb) both describe this phenomenon of leaving a relationship of some kind by abruptly ending all contact with the other person, and especially electronic contact, like texts, emails, and chats.” In the earliest days of its usage, it referred to romantic relationships, and while that application still holds true, ghosting has become a common aspect of the professional world as well.
We’re not here to judge your dating life or whether or not such behavior is acceptable in your personal relationships. But on the business front, if you’re a job-seeking candidate who has been speaking with a recruiter, taking the time to pursue opportunities, and all of a sudden you just disappear without a trace, stop taking calls, not answering texts or emails, then we do have something to say about that: It’s a very bad idea.
Now, some of you may be asking why or how this would this ever happen in the first place. Aren’t candidates looking to land a job? Haven’t they invested time and energy? Why would they simply become invisible, nonexistent?
“The biggest reason I believe candidates ghost is because they have another opportunity that they are pursuing, and they’re trying to hold off the other company from moving forward,” says Charly Vie, Manager of Professional Hiring for Eclaro. “They didn’t necessarily lose interest, they just don’t realize that they should keep going, even though there’s another shiny object they’re now going after. They ghost you because something else has caught their attention.
“The biggest problem with that,” Vie continues, “is if that other opportunity doesn’t’ come through for them. Then what?”
A candidate may feel that kind of conversation is too hard to have, the equivalent of “I’ve been seeing somebody else.” But that’s okay here. Communicating is actually the key to a successful candidate-recruiter relationship, Vie says, even if it’s something that some might consider bad, or at least uncomfortable, news.
“If somebody told me, ‘I’m interviewing at another place because I like the opportunity better,’ at least then I can help them through it, talk about it with them. ‘Well, where does this opportunity fit if that other one doesn’t come through? Is this interesting enough for you? Do you want to still pursue, because you’ve only met with one person.”
Of course, another shiny opportunity isn’t the only reason candidates take to ghosting Indecision, or a fear of having to make a decision, can play a role. “They could ghost because they get cold feet, or maybe they told me they’re more technical than they really are and they don’t want to embarrass themselves, so they just disappear,” Vie offers.
Maybe they’ve just gotten too busy in life or at their current job. That’s okay, it happens. Good recruiters want to hear about that, too.
“I would say to you, ‘Are you so busy now that you can’t make interviews happen, maybe it’s not the right time for you, so do you want me to put this on pause for you and revisit it in the future if it’s still open?” Or I can go to my client and say, “Hey, he’s really great but his schedule is nuts, and most of his interviews are going to have to be late in the afternoon or maybe at five o’clock, or first thing in the morning before the market opens.’ There are so many flexible things we can offer if you just talk to us.”
When candidates stop talking, that’s when the problems can begin. The best advice Vie can offer anyone working with a recruiter is this: “Trust us. It’s all about trust. Talk to us. If you decide an opportunity is not right for you, that’s okay. But let us know, because we always want to close the door with that client the right way.
“You can say no. You can say ‘I want to put it on pause.’ You can tell me you have another opportunity. Because then we can have a conversation, and I can say, ‘Is it definitely something you’re going to get hired for? If you lose that, are you going to be upset that you lost this opportunity? Then I can help you. But if you don’t talk to me, I can’t help you.
“We are here to do two things,” she adds, speaking of professionals in the recruiting world. “We’re here to put great candidates in front of our clients, and we’re here to put great opportunities in front of you. And then everything else has to happen organically.
"So, when you’re looking for a job, make sure you have your reasons already set up,” Vie continues. “Are you ready for your next move because you feel you’re getting stale? Do you not like your company? Did you exhaust your opportunities within your company?
“All of those are reasonable questions to ask yourself when you’re looking for a job. But you can communicate all of that to your recruiter so that they know how to proceed with you. They can then tell you, for example, ‘Well, if you apply for this job, they’re looking to fill it right away, so the interviews are going to start right away, if they like you. This is an immediate fill. Are you ready to move now? Are you just looking for next year? Are you passively looking?
It all comes down to communication, reaching out, being visible. Don’t disappear.
“If you communicate, I can help you. If you don’t, I can’t. Let the recruiter help you through the process,” Vie says. “I want to tell everyone, don’t ghost! Let us know if there’s something else going on. You don’t want to ghost, because that will come back and haunt you.”