Silent Rejection: The Ghosting Epidemic in Recruitment

Why Candidates are Ghosting after Interviews and What Can Be Done About It

There are often profound discourses on microblogging sites and social channels about employers ghosting candidates. There's hardly any concrete solution laid out, but everyone agrees on the ever-persistent communication gap that looms during the hiring process across industries.

Lately, this conversation has shifted towards another troubling trend — candidates ghosting employers. The 2024 Candidate Experience Report from Career Plug reveals that 44% of the candidates have started ghosting employers compared to 53% candidates who have been ghosted by the employer.

In fact, a recent study by Talantix found that candidate ghosting has increased by two times since 2023. Sectors like healthcare, finance, and technology are severely impacted by this because of a dearth of top talent and the teams being stretched thin or hyper-critical projects. Let's see why this silent rejection has gained prominence and how employers can deal with it.

Reasons Behind Candidate Ghosting

There could be various explanations for why candidates would ghost recruiters. From a 10,000 ft, though, the reasons can be clubbed under market dynamics in play and how the recruitment process has been curated to convert candidates into employees.

Increased Job Opportunities & Candidate-Driven Market Leverage

It's difficult to put a finger on whether the job market is expanding worldwide because of varying economic variables coming into play. However, the employment quantifiables seem to suggest so. For instance, in 2024, approx. 3.5 billion people are employed worldwide - compared to 3.4 billion in 2023 and 3.22 billion in 2021, respectively.

Research from Robert Half Press also reveals that 51% of employers plan to increase salaries in 2024 – primarily because of competitive hiring in a labour market that has more job openings than available talent.

Apart from salaries, employers also look to promote flexibility, work-life balance, better candidate experience, salary transparency, etc. There's, in fact, a significant surge in companies showcasing salary ranges on job platforms like LinkedIn. In the US, eight states have already enacted the salary range transparency law, while 15 more are considering it.

The weight of flexible work has also increased in negotiations. The COVID-19-induced remote working has worked wonders for a lot of employees and companies alike. And it's understandable that employees would want to maintain that work-life balance, especially when there hasn't been a noticeable productivity drop.

All these factors induce what we call a Candidate-driven market leverage. What would these mean?

  • Candidates have increased bargaining power. They have more offers on the table; they are empowered to demand higher salaries.

  • Candidates practice selectivity. They are better placed to choose where they want to work based on the perks being offered. For instance, hybrid and remote working options are key to candidates staying put with recruitment.

  • Candidates value employee branding. Top talent, in particular, researches everything from a company's values to how people feel about working there.

With such leverage, candidates feel in control of the process and are more likely to abruptly end the process if it doesn't align with their goal. Of course, such leverage doesn't necessarily bear a direct correlation in all cases, but it sure does have its role to play in influencing candidates to act decisively.

Poor Candidate Experience During the Hiring Process

It certainly won't be prudent to consider that every candidate has leverage in the current job market. However, the increased job opportunities and the fact that organisations are looking to improve, implement, and continue policies associated with flexible working, competitive offers, etc., are factors that put candidates on the pedestal.

This works well when the recruitment process, the company culture, and offerings are in alignment with the candidate's expectations. Any discrepancies across any of these factors can lead to ghosting.

The 2024 Monster Work Watch Report, relays that 47% of candidates quit their application process due to poor communication. 46% are put off by the interviewer's attitude, and 35% are driven away by the fact that they'll be required to do extensive projects and long presentations.

Experience can be ruined at any stage of recruitment. For a person dropping off at the application stage, the exhaustive form and intrusive soliciting of information could be a turn off. For someone who is in-between the interviews, the interview experience and the gaps in communication could prove pivotal in a ghosting decision.

Sluggish, unresponsive, draining hiring processes act as enemies to the time and effort that the hiring team spends in bringing on board top talent. Such processes only breed disengagement and withdrawals.

Why Candidates are Ghosting after Interviews and What Can Be Done About It

Impact on Employers

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when a candidate ghosts an employer is the immediate disruption to the hiring process.

Wastage of Time, Resources, and Effort

There's no doubt that extensive effort and time goes into sourcing, interviewing, and evaluating candidates. A number of resources, including HRs, team directors/executives, concerned team lead, accounting team, and more, contribute to a successful hiring.

Research, claims that it takes 42 days on average to hire for open positions. The time is even more for technical profiles like engineering. When a candidate ghosts, all this effort is lost with little learning cues that employers can extract to improve the process.

Most importantly, the financial impact is substantial. As per SHRM, the average cost per hire was $4,700, in 2022. For executive positions, this rises up to a whopping $28,329. Why such exorbitant expenses? Well, there's so much to account for — from job advertising to recruiting software to the salaries of the staff involved. Then there are expenses that often go unnoticed like interview costs, background check and assessment expenses, costs incurred for onboarding an employee before the join the company.

Long-term implications for talent acquisition

Effect on Team Morale and Workload

  • Existing employees keep experiencing increased workloads when the team is stretched thin.

  • The team's morale goes down if the ghosting incidents keep happening.

  • There's an impact on the team's cohesion and stability because employees can get frustrated over the organisation's inability to land good talent.

Bryan Hancock, partner at McKinsey, says how "organisations really dig into is why we are feeling burned out. And some of that may be the workload and the nature of how that intersects with your life. We need to treat that seriously."

We need to take that even more seriously when repeated ghosting incidents leave the team on the brink. On that note, let's see what organisations can do to mitigate ghosting.

How Can Employers Mitigate Ghosting?

Needless to say, this requires a foolproof plan. Of course, employers can't psychologically intervene and understand what a candidate is thinking at a certain hiring stage. However, they can surely improve on the aspects that are in their control.

The aim should be to improve the candidate experience by building a solid brand. That happens when the employers:

  1. Set clear-as-day expectations

    You have three steps in the interview process? Good. Communicate that upfront. Your hiring process takes a month? Good. Communicate that. The idea is to be profound at communicating what candidates can expect from this hiring process and what you'll expect from them through it.

    For instance, candidates often complain on social media that the hiring manager asked for a detailed prototype of the product, or an exhaustive presentation or even a complete business plan as one of the steps during the interviews — when it wasn't highlighted before. Be sure to be extremely transparent here.

  2. Keep candidates updated

    One of the major reasons for candidates ghosting the process is the communication gap from the employer side. For sure, there are so many things to manage and consider from the human resource standpoint and the concerned hiring team. But that's not what the candidate is concerned about, and understandably so.

    The perception of time is different on the candidate and the employer side. Any gap is communication from either side is a recipe for disaster.

    Hence, regularly updating the candidates on their application systems (even if that happens via automated systems during the primary stages) is good for keeping candidates engaging and waving off any uncertainty that might otherwise transpire.

  3. Keep the process personalised

    Often, good candidates would want to know about who's interviewing them, the culture of the company, the best practices that a team follows for the required role, the state of the system within which the current role fits, etc. It's here that employers need to grow out of generalised interactions and make the candidates feel valued.

  4. Simplify applications and structure interviews

    Right from when a candidate applies for the job to the one-to-one discussion with them during interviews, the process should be structured and seamless. By structure, we don't necessarily mean that it should be stringent. But there should be a method to it.

    For one, keep the application process crisp and concise. Reduce complexity by inviting mobile-friendly applications and avoid lengthy forms. A good way to go about it is to time the application internally. That way, you can settle on a timeframe that it takes to fill it out and compare it against your benchmark.

    For the interviews, it's super critical that the interviewers know exactly what they want from the discussion and that they are respectful and professional. Any sort of structure to the interview further adds to a good experience as it serves to ward off any ambiguity and vagueness.

  5. Use technology to the best effect

    Equip the human resource professionals with applicant tracking systems (ATS) and CRMs. This way, they can keep track of all the end-to-end interactions and send timely updates and communications to keep the process engaging.

    There you have it! A better candidate experience can go a long way in preserving the employer's time, effort, and resources. It can serve to create an excellent talent conversion pipeline.

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