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What Is Job Search ‘Ghosting,’ and Why the Hell Is Everyone Doing It?

Halloween dogs

I fondly remember my first “smartphone.” It was a giant Pocket PC (Google that, children) I inherited from my CPA review boss with a stylus and everything. THE FUTURE, I LIVED IT. No longer did I have to wait until I arrived at work to check my email. NO! I can work on the bus! This is incredible! I was too enthralled by the now-ancient technology at the time to realize my former boss totally set me up by gifting me a device that would compel me to answer work emails at all hours of the day rather than solely the hours I was tied to my desk in the office. Convenience!

“Pocket” PC my ass. This thing never fit in my pocket. Maybe that was my fault for being a dirty tattooed hipster wearing skinny jeans before skinny jeans were cool.

Yes it really looked like this, and yes it had Windows. My God this is awful in hindsight. *shrug* I loved how it synced my Outlook calendars. What can I say, 2008 was a different time.

As we all know, the novelty wore off once our devices got slicker, smaller, and cheaper. In some ways, I hold a certain affinity toward that gangly piece of shit Pocket PC (which, I’ll have you know, I once drowned in a bucket of water and then smashed repeatedly with a hammer at 2 a.m. after way too many Belgian IPAs so no one could steal my data once I threw it away). It was a simpler time. No one expected me to be online and available at all hours of the day and night, but if I was, hey, cool. But then something changed. Suddenly, being constantly available wasn’t this cool thing but rather an expectation. Why didn’t you read my text? I tweeted you, did you see it? Why didn’t you like my Insta post?

I don’t know about y’all but I’m tired. T-I-R-E-D. I got called out in the ol’ company Slack just last week for completely ignoring our tech guy who needed me to give him copy on something. I didn’t even half-ass a response; I just straight-up swiped away my notifications like it never happened the day he Slacked me. I did feel bad after the fact when he called me out for it, but I believe what we’re all suffering from is a severe case of data overload, the kind that causes me and likely many of you to just swipe it all away every now and then.

It’s no surprise then that people are complaining about getting ghosted. For the uninitiated, “ghosting” is generally reserved for getting blown off when you’ve already established a good rapport with someone, say, on a dating app. But it can apply to just about every aspect of your digital life, and often seeps into your actual one. No doubt we’ve all ghosted someone, but why?

Enter the Journal of Accountancy. They just did a story about job candidates ghosting during the recruiting process that is essential reading for anyone on the receiving end of a ghost.

It’s happening more frequently: A hiring manager begins the recruitment process with a job candidate, only to have that candidate disappear or “ghost” them at some point — not returning calls, texts, or emails.

Pat Cassady, talent acquisition director at BKD CPAs & Advisors in the Kansas City area, can tell her fair share of stories her staff witnessed: a college student who went through a full round of interviews, and then stopped responding when a job offer was extended; an experienced professional with connections to an employer who stopped responding upon receiving an offer letter; and many others.

Ghosting can and does happen at any point in the recruiting process, from not showing up for an interview to not returning communication when an offer is extended — even not showing up on the first day of work. The increasingly global job marketplace is making ghosting easier and more common: It’s less likely nowadays that job candidates live in the same town as an employer, and therefore they don’t risk running into the hiring manager, Cassady said.

Younger generations may be more prone to ghosting, said Maureen Hoersten, chief operating officer of LaSalle Network, a national staffing, recruiting, and culture firm located in Chicago, though all generations are guilty of it. The younger, social-media generation is doing it most, she said. This group is used to more casual forms of communication like texting, and is comfortable not communicating at all. What’s more, because there are more open positions than candidates in today’s job market, job seekers tend to feel they have options, she said.

Thank God they didn’t say “millennials,” considering I’m an elderly millennial at 30-freaking-7 years old. The “young people and their social medias hurr durr” trope is old (no pun) by now. Now it’s just “the social media generation,” as if unhinged aunts and their Minions memes on Facebook aren’t social media-ing their pancake asses off harder than any of us of the “social media generation” ever could.

I digress.

This ghosting crap is not exclusive to “the social media generation,” as we already knew. Cue this open letter to recruiters from /r/accounting the other day. Maybe the recruiter was a millennial Snapchat-loving, totally irresponsible youth who just couldn’t be arsed bc young people problems? I guess nah.

Can Recruiters Do Their Damn Jobs? (Open Letter to Recruiters)Off-Topic

And just follow up with candidates that interviewed with you? I’ve had so many interviews where internal recruiters just straight up ghosted me after in-person interviews. “You’ll hear back by next week” – two weeks eagerly waiting fly by and not a single correspondence. Good lord, it’s like the wild west out here. You could have the best interview experience and still not get a single response back. How hard is it to just send a rejection email or just something (anything).

Is common courtesy really too much to ask for? I get that you may have other things on your schedule but stop leaving your candidates in purgatory for the love of god! Not even a response to my follow-up email/call? What the heck are you guys really doing with your time? This HR culture in accounting really needs to change.

Yeah it ain’t just you, random redditor. I remember when I was looking for a job after this piece of crap website fired me a few years back and I got ghosted by a digital agency after THREE interviews. Yes, three. This is after the initial “heyyyy your resume passed our shit filter, so let’s have a call about why you want to work for us” email from HR. So technically I endured four interviews, including the phone interview with HR, only to get totally ghosted.

It’s unlikely we’ll find a solution for this anytime soon. Not so long as we have devices in front of us all hours of our waking lives screaming notifications at us. 20 minutes to work! Have you checked in today? Random Grandma has a question about the lube you bought on Amazon last week. Make it stop. No wonder everyone is just going ghost. Honestly I can’t blame them.

Don’t bother tweeting me in response to this article. I’ll be swiping “Clear All” any minute now.

One thought on “What Is Job Search ‘Ghosting,’ and Why the Hell Is Everyone Doing It?

  1. Excellent article! I love how ghosting was just fine in the minds of these employers back in 2010 when everyone needed a job, but now that the tables have turned and candidates are doing the same thing suddenly it’s a huge problem.

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