Recruitment Process “Ghosting” – A Great Way to Burn a Bridge

Ghosting, not just an urban dictionary myth anymore. Before we dive in, let us explore the word by definition: Ghost·ing/ˈɡōstiNG/ noun – The practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication. You know the word…and, likely connect “ghosting” to the context of dating or friendship. Unfortunately, ghosting someone has become an all too common occurrence in the world of recruiting as well. And, not just with candidates…but with hiring managers alike. Never during my thirty-years of recruiting experience have I heard more second-hand accounts, or personally experienced, such a level of unprofessional and discourteous behavior within the recruiting process than today. No, not the majority of candidates. But, at a much higher percentage in today’s instant-gratification social media driven society than I have ever experienced before. And, fair warning. There could be career-damaging and/or career-ending ramifications as a result.

Let’s take a look at the players: Candidates. Hiring managers. And yes, even my side…working with a recruiting firm to land your next opportunity.

First up, the job seeker. You know the drill. You are looking for a job. Maybe you have been downsized, terminated, or you are fresh out of college. Maybe you are just looking to advance your career. Promotion. Larger city. More pay. And just to make a job search more interesting today, you are a candidate seeking employment during a full-blown global pandemic. Fun times, right? And, all too time consuming. You take the time to create/update your resume. You browse the countless job boards, trade websites, and company websites in order to apply to a position. Often times this entails navigating a cumbersome company applicant tracking system linked to a sometimes poorly written/vague job posting. Perhaps you receive an automatically generated email response thanking you for your application, your qualifications will be reviewed, so forth and so on. Perhaps you receive zero communication or feedback. If you are lucky, you might receive an email or call from a Human Resources professional to schedule a phone interview. Or, maybe you are really lucky and the hiring manager him/herself reaches out. You prepare for the interview, research the company and interviewer, spend thirty minutes to an hour or so on the phone giving your “A” game interview answers, and then wait. Maybe you hear back from the company. Maybe you do not. All too often these days, you do not. You are now in the black hole of the recruiting process. You sit. You wonder. You feel used. Frustrated. Where is the professional courtesy? At least have the common decency to give a yes/no answer. Or, maybe you do make it to the next interview round. Zoom interview or an onsite visit. Again, you prepare. You wear your professional best. You take (more) time out of your busy schedule. Maybe you even travel to (gasp, even during a pandemic) the city where the job is located to interview onsite, thus taking a day or two of your time. You interview. Again, you wait. Again, maybe you receive a response. Maybe you do not. Or, maybe you receive the dreaded “Dear John/Jane” rejection email. Cold. Impersonal. Zero details regarding why you were not chosen. And, this is if you are lucky. Often times as a candidate, you are simply “ghosted” by the hiring manager…never to be heard from again. Not always. But, sometimes. Sound familiar?

And then there is the hiring manager side. He/she has a job opening. They are often times tasked with not only performing their own job duties, but also the duties of the job for which they are now hiring in order to somehow keep the work flow moving. Trust me, they are not receiving extra income to do so. An effort is made to write a job description and/or partner with Human Resources professional to do so. The job is posted. Candidates start rolling into the cumbersome company applicant tracking system for review. If you somehow manage to remember your login/password, you enter into your cumbersome applicant tracking system with dread and fear. Knowing what is to come. Many (not all) unqualified applicants who may either mercilessly stalk you on social media or ghost you eventually. You click on resume one. Then two. And so on. Maybe two or three resumes appear, at least on the surface, to be of interest. You email the candidate to schedule an interview. The email bounces back. Their email address is, of course, out of date or incorrect. You dial their cell. Their phone is disconnected or their voicemail is full. Or, you are lucky enough to connect. You schedule the interview. Maybe they show on time. Maybe they do not. Maybe they are a great interview. Percentages of a cruel numbers game will prove they sometimes are not. You interview. You like a candidate. You move them to the next step. You finish your interview process. Confident you have chosen wisely. You like them. You ask all the right questions regarding where they are in their job search, whether they have other opportunities in the mix, where does your opportunity rank, etc. You make an offer. The candidate actually does not counter with a ridiculous swing-for-the-fences number. You come to an agreement. With a tentative start date. You counsel the candidate on giving notice to their current employer. What if they counter? What are you going to say? The candidate states they are “all-in” and eager to get started. You ask “what if your current employer promises you the moon?” Still, all-in. And then “poof”…they disappear. Ghosting at its very best. Or worst. It happens. And the candidate is then blacklisted within the company…Forever labeled within the cumbersome company applicant tracking system as a dreaded “DNH”…Do not hire. Bridge burned within that company. And, bridge burned any time the hiring manager discusses that person to other people. And yes, people talk in the media industry.

And then, there is the side I now find myself on…The recruiting firm/headhunter side. An interesting side for sure. Part relationship-builder. Part silent ninja assassin. We speak with candidates, decide to represent the most qualified and those we hope will not ruin our reputation one day, and convince them we are the best resource to assist with their job search. Whilst, in most cases, they are still searching for a job on their own. And, we speak to hiring manager decision-makers within a company and convince them their priority recruiting needs are now in extremely capable hands. Whilst, in most cases, they are still conducting their own recruiting search in the hope of not paying a placement fee. The race is on. Compare our best candidate(s) against what they are seeing with their job posting and who they already know. We talk. We take down all the information about their job. Technical competencies. Behavioral competencies. Compensation structure. Why is the position open? What other resources are being used? We discuss the recruiting process. We discuss the fact that times kills all deals in recruiting and we need to move fast when a candidate is submitted. The hiring manager agrees. Lets go. Etc. and so on. Candidates are hunted. We interview. What do you want to do, where do you want to do it, and for how much money? Proudest accomplishments? Reasons for leaving past positions? Management style? Etc. Are you really open to relocation? Are you really ready to make a move? 100% sure? Candidates are submitted. Candidates go through the interview process. And then, candidate ghosts the hiring manager and/or the recruiting firm. Or maybe just as bad, withdraws from consideration by sending an impersonal email in the middle of the night to the hiring manager and/or recruiting firm.

Granted, the examples given may seem extreme. However, they do happen a certain percentage of the time. The fact ghosting happens at all, on either side of the recruiting process, is unfathomable. It is unprofessional. It is discourteous. It wastes time. And it may just come back to bite you later. You do not want to burn a bridge in any industry. But, especially within the media industry. If you play the fun “six degrees of separation” Kevin Bacon movie game but in the context of the local broadcast media world…there are one to two degrees of separation tops. People talk. And people land in the most surprising of places sometimes. The person you are interviewing today could be your boss one day. Or your bosses boss. Or, the hiring manager you ghost today could cost you ten job opportunities down the road. You ghost a recruiting firm? Trust me, we talk. Again, you have been fairly warned. My point? Play nice in the sandbox. Pull up your big girl/boy pants and face uncomfortable situations head-on with direct communication without just walking away…i.e. ghosting. When you get a weird feeling in your gut that sending an email may not be the best way to communicate bad news, pick up the phone. Communicate directly, openly, and honestly. On all sides of the recruitment process.

About the Author: Ty Carver has over 30 years of recruiting, HR management, sales, and leadership experience…including the last 10 specific to the broadcast media industry. He is the Founder/CEO of Carver Talent, a local broadcast media management recruiting firm. As the former Director of Recruiting for Raycom Media, he has deep industry relationships. Have a media corporate executive or television station management recruiting need? Contact [email protected] for more information.