Ghosting and Its Effect on Small Business
Have you ever heard of “Ghosting”? I hear it’s a well-known term in the online dating world, but maybe not to the rest of us. This fun term has found its way into the business world. If you haven’t heard, let me enlighten you. “The practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication” is Ghosting.
After responding to our employment ad on www.indeed.com, “John” (name was changed to keep him from embarrassment, but maybe we shouldn’t care) went to our website and filled out our online employment application. We read his application, stalked him on Facebook (everyone does that, right?!), and then decided he was worth interviewing. We planned on meeting in his neighborhood for an interview at a Starbucks, a 25-minute drive from our office. He emailed back and agreed to the date, time and location. Perfect! We showed up a few minutes early and waited. We waited some more. Five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes go by. Now we’re worried that something may have happened so we’re checking our phones, email, and searching the horizon. Nothing...crickets. Ok maybe not crickets, more like baristas, but he wasn’t there. Innocently hoping that this had to be a mistake, we text the candidate and no response was given.
Wow, we felt so rejected. Probably like a person feels after you’ve gone on a few dates and thought “we were good, weren’t we good? We were communicating and planning the next date.” I personally can’t relate, but I’m sure that’s how it feels. Ha! This candidate never showed up to the interview and didn’t even bother letting us know he couldn’t make it. This was UNFATHOMABLE! This was an interview and it mattered, at least it should have! I realize I’m showing my age here, but not long ago if you found another job, or didn’t need the interview anymore, you reached out to the HR department thanking them for the opportunity and let them know you were moving in another direction. It only takes a couple minutes at most to accomplish this task. We learned a lesson that day, this new environment of digital communication and low unemployment has led to a decrease in professional comportment. At least that’s our theory.
My wife and I understand that the jobs we are interviewing for are not glamourous. We usually are interviewing for part time commercial cleaners. Many times, these are jobs for people needing a little extra money after their day jobs to pay off debt or save for a large purchase. Sometimes people work part time in the evenings to get paid to “work out”. Since it’s not glamourous, I recognize this may be why we’re being ghosted by potential candidates. However, it seems this is happening across the nation in many different industries.
“Many businesses report that 20% to 50% of job applicants and workers are no-shows.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/07/19/strong-job-market-candidates-ghosting-interviews-offers/794264002/)
We have found the 50% ghosting statistic to be accurate for our interviews. Our most recent ghosting experience exposed us more fully to this ever-strange behavior. We arrived at a café near the applicant's home. They had emailed that they were excited to meet us and agreed to the place and time of the interview. Two minutes before the scheduled interview meeting time, we received a text message from the candidate. He said that his GPS took him to the wrong café and that he was just a few minutes away. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, we waited another 10 minutes; surprise, he didn’t appear. We text letting him know that we were getting close to the time that we needed to leave, and if he could let us know when he thought he would be arriving. No answer. We waited another 10 minutes and still nothing. We were feeling generous that day, weren’t we? Finally, we decided to value our time and leave. We text him while leaving the café “we are leaving, good luck in your job search”. Not that he deserved it. We were baffled! Why go through the effort to apply, coordinate an in-person interview, confirm, and then text us to explain why you’re running late? All to not even show up! How much time do you have on your hands?! That had to be one of the most bizarre interpersonal experiences in my professional career.
People aren’t just ghosting the interview, they sometimes show up to the interview and never show up to their first day of work after a job offer was made. Luckily this hasn’t happened to us yet, but we foresee this happening in the future.
Here’s a summary of my take on why this is happening:
-An abundance of jobs available:
The national unemployment rate is around 3.7% (the lowest in nearly 50 years) which gives the power to the applicants when picking which jobs suit them best.
-Digital World of Applying (and dating for that matter)
If you have never met someone in person, it’s much easier to “Ghost” them as you will probably not run into them again and there is no personal connection.
-Requirements for unemployment benefits:
Most states require that you are “willing and ready to accept work”. Maybe candidates feel they need to respond to interview requests to fulfill this requirement but are not serious about the job.
For whatever reason, this is happening, and it’s happening more often. For the small business owner, this means wasted time and resources trying to staff your business. Which obviously leads to loss of productivity, morale for current staff, and revenue. You already have enough to do wearing all those hats, wasting time is not on the schedule.
Having been in the Human Resource field for over 10 years of my professional career, I have some ideas on how to help mitigate this rising trend for your individual businesses. However, I don’t know all, so my next post will be about how to address this issue, with ideas from my professional experience and ideas from other professionals.
Who ever thought that we would reach a day where not showing up to a job interview and your first day of work would be expected by HR departments and small business owners? Each time I get ghosted, it still blows my mind that this is happening. Here’s my wife’s take:
“I think sites like Indeed may need to start rating their applicants. If you’ve ever used Airbnb you’ll know that the property owner and the person looking to rent it are both rated based upon their “reputation”. If you’re a destructive guest or have a disgusting residence, you’re going to get rated poorly. This may affect your future options when using the site. I think employers should be able to rate candidates so that they are held accountable for their behavior. I also think employees should be able to rate the employers, like Glassdoor does.”
A check and balance in the hiring world would save everyone a lot of time, a precious commodity especially for small businesses.