When you accept a job then don’t show up on day one, what does it say about you as a professional? To me, these and other actions behind a recent rise in so-called ghosting, are part of a series of behavioural issues worth discussion by the hiring community. 

Put simply, ghosting is a modern term for a complete no-show. In a work context, it refers to the practice of failing to show up for an interview or a new job, despite having previously committed to do so. Or in other instances, simply saying nothing when you’re expected to make a decision on an offer. In the most extreme cases, ghosting can mean simply walking out on a job without serving adequate notice. To use the term, you avoid any discussion and simply ghost, or disappear.

Healthy market hangover

Ghosting is a product of a today’s stronger job market, where candidates have a lot more job choices on their hands. In the US, some say ghosting is up by around 10-20 percent. In Asia, where we’re perhaps less vocal about it, conversations I’ve had suggest the trend is also on the rise. Significantly, where many of us previously assumed that ghosting might decrease as a market matured, the recent spate in developed markets might suggest otherwise. 

Many employers will share similar stories: a prospective team member appears certain to accept an offer after several rounds of discussion. After agreeing to “give you a firm decision Friday”, they just say nothing. Or worse, having agreed to start work on a certain day, your anticipated new hire simply never appears.

Despite whatever we may feel at the time, we need to act in ways that we’re proud of.  

Hirers ghost too

There are always two sides. Of course, surveys suggest what we all know – recruiters and companies can be equally guilty of not contacting job-seekers when it’s a no; or in extreme cases, of dismissing people without a fair process. For many, the fact that ghosting seems more prevalent among employees is simply an expression of a market with unemployment lower than we’ve seen in four decades. Others see it as a sign of a workplace embracing less formality and process.

Might it’s also be a by-product of our digital age, where so much more communication is remote – and as a result, perhaps we shy away even more from tough discussions. Whatever the case, whether it’s in within recruitment or in the wider HR discussion in general, I personally believe we need to try and get beyond this. Old-school it might seem, but my advice to my own children is the same as to my colleagues, clients or employers. Despite whatever we may feel at the time, we need to act in ways that we’re proud of.  

Be true to your brand

Where possible, even where you feel poorly served from a situation, remember that you not only represent a company, but that your own personal brand is on display too. Leave aside any sense of injustice, or deal with any grievance in an appropriate way, within say an exit interview – or as calm and factual feedback. It’s always perfectly fine to politely decline an offer, just so long as it’s done with consideration.

Within the HR and the hiring communities, we should all take the time to quietly caution people of both the personal risks, as well as the ethical questions around ghosting and general non-communicative behaviour. Indeed, the future of work dictates that in order to future-proof our work prospects, we all need to get better in our interpersonal skills.

Where possible, let’s learn from any mistakes we all make along the way. And as HR leaders, let’s try to advise those we’re in contact with, to set the kind of standards in our behaviour and communications that we’d like others to follow too.

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