Personal Finance

Why ghosting a potential employer is a huge no-no 

Key Points
  • Ghosting is common in dating and in the workplace — now it's job candidates who are turning the tables.
  • Digital communication may make it easier to ghost a hiring manager, but it will always reflect poorly on you as a professional.
  • Don’t be a no-show when there are easy phrases to turn down a job interview or a job you don’t want.
Yew! Images | Image Source | Getty Images

You've seen the headlines.

People are "ghosting" companies, not showing up for interviews or the first day of a new job, and are even walking out on their current boss— without a word to anyone.

In June, 3.4 million people quit their jobs, according to Bureau of Labor statistics. That's up a notch from the 3.1 million who walked out a year ago – an argument for the side that says low unemployment is a factor, since job candidates are now in the driver's seat.

As most people know, companies have been guilty of the same, or similar, behavior they're now complaining about: ignoring job inquiries or firing employees on the spot without any prior notice. In some cases, the new ghosting trend could be a matter of payback, where people who were previously ignored now exhibit the same conduct.

"The tables are turned," said Ed Tsyitee, a Tucson resident who is job hunting.

The trend seems to be worsening communication on both sides, Tsyitee says. If companies are offended when candidates ghost them, he said, "what did you think your candidate experience was, up to this point?" Tsyitee noted he once received an automated rejection letter for a job he'd applied for eight months previously.

Ghosting in the workplace
Ghosting in the workplace

Ghosting is less likely when someone feels respected, says Carlos Escobar, a human resources and organizational development expert who volunteers with the Society for Human Resources Management.

"There are some generational and some technological influences, but at its core is the lack of trust and the lack of a relationship," Escobar said. "It's been brewing for a long time."

Escobar says companies have had a hand in creating this culture.

Ghosting is probably still more commonly used by hiring managers against job applicants, Escobar says. "Employers are more hypersensitive to it when it happens to them," he said. "If you think about what ghosting represents – a lack of respect, a lack of a relationship – you don't ghost people you know well or trust."

Beth Zoller, a legal editor at XpertHR, an HR content provider, says the gig economy and the rise of the internet economy have helped reduce loyalty. "People go online and fill out a quick form," she said. "Communications are so much less personalized that it's easier to disappear."

"There's probably more [ghosting] going on, but I'd hold off thinking it's a trend until I see it affecting a lot of companies," said John Hollon, a freelance editor who recently posted a blog on candidate experiences in the workplace.

You're just not that into them

What to do when your feelings aren't very strong, and you ask yourself, "why bother?"

Ghosting reflects poorly on you professionally. "You never know when you'll lose the chance for a good reference down the line," Zoller said.

Don't ditch the interview. Show up for that phone call or meeting, and present yourself as a viable candidate. You don't have to accept the job.

And if you actually accepted a job – either show up and give it a chance, or have the courtesy to say you've changed your mind so they can fill the spot with someone who wants the position.

How to quit your job without burning any bridges
How to quit your job without burning any bridges

You gave the job a shot – but you hate it? Don't go out for lunch and fail to return. Instead, gather all your courage and speak to your supervisor.

But proceed with extreme caution. Future employers will look askance on a job you held for a short time, and it can easily show up in a background check. Leaving it off your resume altogether is frowned on by many employers.

Zoller has some useful phrases to end the relationship in the best way. From the company's point of view, it won't be the best way, but it will absolutely be better than ghosting.

It's not you, it's me

Just like in a relationship, it's better to take the high road.

Turn it around, Zoller says. Instead of talking about your disappointment, talk about their needs: "I don't see myself being a successful fill-in-the-blank," she said. "Another candidate might be more what you are looking for."

Zoller recommends saying, "Thank you so much for this opportunity. I really appreciated learning about your organization. But I just don't think this is going to be the right fit, the right culture."

This is a better strategy than listing your grievances because you can leave on better terms (if not good ones).

If you think fleeing or ghosting is the better tactic, this could be a gap in our workforce readiness, Escobar says.

At higher professional levels, there's more at stake and ghosting is less common. "In lower-paid jobs, front-line jobs, it could be more likely," Escobar said.

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