Ghostbusters: why ghosting job applicants can be harmful to your business

Have you ever heard of the term ‘ghosting’? It’s a term typically used to describe one person ignoring the other. This phrase has now crossed into the business world, and in this case, the recruiting process. Having been on the receiving end of ghosting, I can tell you now; it’s not a nice feeling. 

Let’s look at how ghosting can negatively impact a business. Ghosting job applicants is the cease of communication from the recruiter towards the applicant. Is this a beneficial strategy? No. The hiring process is a reflection of the company’s culture. Ghosting can incite a poor representation of that business. We’ve got to be aware of the potential repercussions. A ghosted applicant may also be a customer. If they feel wronged, you may lose that customer. 

The ghoster may become the ghostee

You see, in every situation, there are two sides of the coin. Today, the recruiter of a company may halt communication with an applicant. Tomorrow, that applicant may ghost that company’s products due to frustration. The tables can easily flip. Including ghosting in the recruitment process can damage a company’s image even if it is just with a couple of people. We want to avoid causing harm by upsetting rejected candidates who are also potential customers. 

Let me give you an example:

Imagine the marketing team of a well-known supermarket chain. They work day and night to establish a positive representation of the business. They strive to make the products, employees and business’ structure reliable, approachable and professional. Unfortunately, in one of their high profile stores, it has become known that their recruitment process is controversial. This is due to ghosting and lack of communication between the recruiting team and the job applicants. Most of the applicants for these positions are locals, therefore, the supermarket have potentially lost regular customers. Ghosting job seekers can drive them into the arms of your competitors. It can also squander the potential for future applications.

Let’s avoid providing a poor experience & a negative reputation 

We want our business to have a good reputation, right? We want our organisation to be known as approachable, professional and reliable. We want to avoid providing a poor experience for anyone who comes into contact with our company- whether that be customers, ex-employees, or job applicants. By ghosting job seekers, a precedent is set that this business does not value those who value them. In other words, anyone who applies for a job at an organisation clearly values what they do. To disregard them is a mistake as it implies that we don’t appreciate the interest shown in our business.  

Here’s a little anecdote:

Imagine a young marketing graduate striving to put his foot in the door and work his first professional job. After sending out two-dozen resumes, he awaits a phone call. He is ghosted by every business he applied to except one. He is contacted by a local organisation who asks him to submit a piece of written work for them to review. After spending the entire evening constructing the best piece he can muster, he emails it to the recruiter. 

Unfortunately, he never gets a response. After attempting to reach out to the organisation via email and phone, he loses hope. This deflates his confidence as he begins to second guess everything he wrote and his resume. He also grows some resentment towards the company for failing to communicate any issues preventing him from scoring the job. He goes home and tells his parents about the poor experience, who then tells their friends. Soon, the community associates this encounter with the brand. Other people who had similar interactions may back up these claims. Social media has sped up communication, so that one applicant may tell thirty people of this experience in twenty-minutes. 

Word of mouth is tricky to control, so monitoring how the company presents itself during the recruiting process is essential. 

It’s nice to be nice, but we also need to be smart

When recruiting, it’s important to be friendly to all applicants. This is also a smart business move. It is beyond reasonable to cease correspondence with an applicant who isn’t right for the company. However, we want to show professionalism and courtesy when rejecting applications. Why is this? For one, it’s polite and avoids giving the job seeker false hope. Secondly, it maintains a positive image for the company. Ghosting is associated with rudeness, and we want to prevent that descriptive word at all costs.

Let’s look at it from this angle. When interacting with job applicants, recruiters should view themselves as Public Relations (PR) specialists. Being courteous and friendly during the recruitment process will uphold a reputable appearance with their clients. Remember, job applicants could also be potential customers. When you think about it, recruiters spend a majority of their time with people who are not employees. 

Any response is a good response

We want to be reliable and approachable. From a job seeker’s perspective, receiving a response regarding my application influences my final judgement on the company I applied for. The response can be something as simple as an automatic message or a personally tailored email. It doesn’t have to be in-depth; instead, it is just a courtesy message.

As recruiters, we are in a position not only to hire but to provide constructive feedback. Maybe an applicant put a lot of effort into their resume/cover letter and showed their eagerness to score the job. Unfortunately, they aren’t the right fit for the company. Rather than ceasing all communication with the applicant, it would be a friendly alternative to reach out and explain the decision. Allowing the job seeker to know where they stand and provide feedback would set the applicant on the right path, rather than leaving them confused and defeated.

Don’t be overwhelmed!

It’s a lot of work responding to dozens of applications. We’re busy people and our brains are on the brink of explosion. Let me provide you with a solution to keep your head attached. Technology is the business world’s new best friend! Like I mentioned before, setting up an automated candidate management system could be effective. Perhaps the applicant tracking system (ATS) your company is using can handle this kind of responsibility. Let me show you an effective tool as an example.

Here’s a screenshot of this feature within Myrecruitment+:

As you can see, there are options to send an automated rejection message to applicants who submitted their CV or progressed to the interview stage. How convenient is that?

We don’t want to burn our bridges. Every person a business comes into contact with adds value to that company. As I’ve mentioned in this article, anyone could be a customer or have the ability to alter a business’ image within the community. Ghosting won’t do us any favours.

It’s time to bust ghosting within the recruitment process.