Onboarding starts from the moment a candidate applies for a role and ghosting sends a strong message: that your business doesn’t care about people.
It doesn’t matter what stage of the recruiting process you’re at, leaving candidates in the dark and disappearing without a trace – i.e., “ghosting” them – is a bad idea.
Statistically speaking, most of the candidates who apply for positions with your company won’t become employees, but they might be existing or potential customers, or at least were, before feeling like your business doesn’t give a hoot about them.
Proof that ghosting candidates can be costly
Graeme Johnson, former head of resourcing at Virgin Media, reviewed how rejected candidates viewed the company’s brand. He estimated that poor hiring practices were costing them £4.4 million (AU$8 million) annually in canceled subscriptions – an arguably conservative figure since it didn’t factor in word-of-mouth loss.
That’s an extreme example, but a Future Workplace and CareerArc survey came up with another business-busting number: 64% of people are less likely to purchase goods and services from a company that delivered a negative candidate experience.
And that’s not the only downside of ghosting. Not keeping your applicants up to date during the hiring process or not notifying them about the outcome of their application, can also shrink your talent pool, because job seekers who may be ideal at a different time or for another position will be less likely to apply in the future or respond to your requests to re-interview for a different role down the track.
Why candidates are more than just numbers
“Think of your candidate experience like YELP for your business”, says global talent acquisition lead Mark Mansour.
Despite being an experienced technical recruiter and former head of his own agency, Mark also experienced his fair share of ghosting when transitioning to corporate. Companies went so far as to verbally offer him roles, and one even asked him to get a medical examination in anticipation of such, before “dropping off the planet”.
Maybe they were too busy or said nothing because it was easier than delivering bad news. But these experiences taught Mansour a lasting lesson – as a recruiter, never forget that every job seeker is a human being with real, human needs.
“The role where I went and did the health check was at a rough point in my life. My sister had passed away, there was a lot going on in the family, and I needed a job,” he says. “I wasn’t desperate, I wanted to keep my mind busy, and of course there are always bills to pay and you’ve got to put food on the table, and it was a horrendous experience. So I always build recruitment processes around the candidate experience and I’ve set myself very strict service level agreements to engage with people, because I don’t want them to feel that way, like a commodity – undervalued. Unappreciated, and at times, worthless”.
Top tips for more human recruiting
Back at Virgin Media, the ever-investigative Johnson discovered another interesting insight: it’s 10 times cheaper to gain business from the recruiting process than through traditional marketing channels.
With that in mind, here are some of Mansour’s top practical tips for avoiding candidate ghosting.
1. Automate where possible.
Set up a system – Mansour rates JobAdder – that acknowledges applications so candidates can see their CV has been received, gives them an estimated time for when you’ll be in touch, and maybe also a breakdown of your interview process.
“So you’re prepping them straight away, they know what’s happening,” Mansour explains. “Some people will read it, some people won’t, but they’ve received something and you can start the engagement process from there.”
2. Don’t keep people waiting.
Some businesses won’t send candidates a rejection notification until the date applications close, even if they’ve reviewed their CV days or weeks earlier, a practice that Mansour finds foolish.
“If I like a CV, I send them an email saying that I’d like to continue through the hiring process,” he explains. “If I don’t like it, I also send them back a response – sometimes it’s a day later, but it’s always quick.”
3. Engage stakeholders.
Why do companies still engage in poor hiring practices, given the potential for damage to their brand? Simple: “They don’t understand what the hell we, recruiters, do,” Mansour says.
He advises recruiters to: “Run through the process with your stakeholders to get buy-in from the business and articulate to them why the process should be the way that you’re trying to construct it.”
4. Have the tough conversations.
Be open to providing or offering feedback to rejected applicants at every stage of the recruitment process, whether that feedback is limited experience, lack of pre-interview preparation, or a failed background check. It’s better for the candidate from a long-term career perspective, Mansour says, and shows you actually care.
And that’s the bottom line: if your hiring practices put people first, it stands to reason your business does too.