'Ghosting' On The Rise As Workers Blow Off Interviews

In a clear but perhaps unwelcome, for companies, sign that the US job market is at its hottest in decades, applicants are increasingly "ghosting" interviews, resulting in employers getting more creative in their hiring and retention efforts after frustration in attracting ideal candidates is on the rise, according to a new report.

"Ghosting" is a term coined by millennials denoting cutting off all communication with friends or a date, with zero warning or notice before hand, including blocking social media communications and avoiding them in public. Job candidates and employees are now "ghosting" their jobs by way of ditching scheduled job interviews, or even not showing up on the first day of work, or disappearing from existing positions without notice or reason.  

"Office Space" (1999) via Hollywood Reporter
"Office Space" (1999) via Hollywood Reporter

That this is taking place at the same time as the quits rate hit an all time high, is probably not a surprise: we detailed the so-called "take this job and shove it" indicator from the latest JOLTS report earlier this month - it shows worker confidence that they can leave their current job and find a better paying job elsewhere. Well, according to the BLS, as of May, this number hit an all time high, rising from 3.349MM in April to 3.561MM in May, an increase of 212K in the month, the biggest monthly increase since December 2015.

Meanwhile, unemployment has reached an 18-year low of nearly 3.8%, with more job openings than unemployed people in May of this year — only the second month in the past two decades this has happened.

As a result, employees increasingly find themselves holding all the cards as 2.4% of all those employed quitting their jobs, usually to take another preferred position, the largest share in 17 years.

One president of a major staffing firm in the New York City area, Dawn Fay, told USA Today that "up to 20 percent of white-collar workers" are no-shows at scheduled interviews as they find themselves with more options, and explained further:

To some extent, employees are giving employers a taste of their own medicine. During and after the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, when unemployment reached 10 percent, many firms ignored job applicants and never followed up after interviews. “Candidates were very frustrated because they felt employers were ghosting on them,” Fay says.

Now it's payback time as other staffing agencies recently profiled report that they see upwards of 60% of candidates with multiple offers in a market that's now pit companies in a cut-throat race to attract talent. Some companies report experimenting with group interviews of 20 or 30 applicants or more, with the expectation that up to half may never show up. 

USA Today notes that "While no one formally tracks such antics, many businesses report that 20 to 50 percent of job applicants and workers are pulling no-shows in some form, forcing many firms to modify their hiring practices."

In one prominent online journal geared towards HR professionals and employers, company owners and headhunters rant over recent hiring frustrations

“Downright rude and unprofessional,” says Carl Schussler, managing principal of Mitigate Partners. “What happened to handwritten thank you notes and treating people with respect?”

Kathleen Downs, senior vice president with staffing and recruiting company Robert Half Finance & Accounting agrees with Bieler that candidates’ having multiple choices in today’s job market feeds into this new trend of professional ghosting. She explains that during the Great Recession, companies would receive 100 applications and choose to interview 15 of them. “Now they receive five or six resumes, and if they are fortunate enough to interview all, each of them would have had three or four previous interviews,” she says.

Leylek agrees. “We are now working with a candidate-driven market,” he says. “Candidates are in a position where they hold all the cards.”

For businesses all of this of course spells lost money, time, and wasted expenses as difficult to fill and skill set specific jobs stay vacant event longer. 

Some staffing firms speculate in recent reports that it could simply be a decline in manners among a younger generation more at home in a social media world of impersonal relations and the ease of "blocking" contact.

Employee Benefit News cites the reasons behind "ghosting" in the work world as that while "social media made reaching out to people easier, it also made it easier for candidates to just not reply back," and that "the uncomfortable situation of delivering the rejection personally that plays into this."

But more obviously, it's not social media induced shyness that's the culprit, but a natural confidence that comes with a robust and growing job market so perhaps ghosting is but the latest positive phenomenon in a resurgent economy.