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On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Michael from Customer Solutions, Inc. about defining ghosting during the recruitment and hiring process.
Some Conversation Highlights:
Listening time: 24 minutes
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This is Recruiting Daily’s Recruiting Live podcast where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup (00:34):
Ladies and gentlemen, this William Tincup, and you’re listening to the Recruiting Daily podcast. Today we have Michael on from Customer Solutions, and our topic is… I’ve been looking forward to this all day long. So, the topic is “define ghosting.” First thing we’ll do is do introductions. Michael, would you do us a favor and both intro yourself and also introduce your company?
Mike Langer (00:55):
Sure. Thanks, William. I’m happy to be here. Mike Langer, the founder and principle of Customer Solutions. We focus on talent acquisition strategy and process, and helping companies find and keep the best people. There’s a simple introduction for you.
William Tincup (01:17):
Done. Drops mic, walks off stage. That’s easy to remember. Ghosting, we can look at this from a number of different ways. Obviously, the candidate and recruiters. Let’s do that first. So, in the candidate’s mind as of today, what do you think that they use as a working definition of ghosting?
Mike Langer (01:43):
I think what the candidates are doing is in some ways I think there’s a revenge factor because there’s so much ghosting going on the other way. And I know you said we’d get to that. I think that what the candidates are doing is they’re saying, “Well, it’s happening to me, so I’m not really thinking about it. I’m applying to all these jobs and I’ll just talk to the one that I’m interested in and just ignore the others.” You have recruiters talk about being ghosted, companies talk about losing track of candidates and I think that there is a certain amount of revenge that, because it was pretty fierce the other way, if you go back to sort mid-COVID, right? And there were just so many candidates for obvious reasons.
William Tincup (02:25):
This is candidate driven market versus employer driven market.
Mike Langer (02:31):
William Tincup (02:32):
Mike Langer (02:32):
William Tincup (02:35):
You think some of it is just that simple? Don’t need to overthink it. It’s just the candidates, this is their moment. They’re going to take their moment and get their pound of flesh.
Mike Langer (02:45):
Yeah, and I think that the thing that comes into it a lot, and if you read some of the articles that are written about ghosting, even in Forbes, they’re talking about ghosting. There’s a certain amount of people who just don’t like to say no. Somebody gets an offer and it’s whatever the offer is, but they get an offer from somebody else. They take the offer they want, and they don’t want to go back, and upset somebody and tell them no for the offer. There’s a certain amount of human nature that comes into it as well. Particularly, if you read some of the anecdotes about it. But it’s pretty rampant, I think is the important thing to think about.
William Tincup (03:28):
I’ll tell you, this is probably… A 19 year old tells me this story. It’s probably six months ago now, so it’s a bit dated. But he’d apply to six different companies, Verizon, Taco Bell, just the usual suspects, all hourly, early stage career jobs, hourly jobs. And he’d accept all of them and then he’d show up to work, and if he didn’t like the experience that he’d just not go back the next day.
Mike Langer (03:58):
Oh, my gosh.
William Tincup (04:01):
And as he’s telling me this story… I’m related to this person by the way, so as he’s telling me this story, I’m like, “Oh, my God.” First of all, I got to double check this with other people, and I did with people that work hourly and they’re like, “Yeah, that’s true. That happens.” I’m like, “You’re kidding.” No, you thought their moms and dads showing up to interviews was bad. No, this is actually the new frontier of them accepting multiple offers and then just…
Mike Langer (04:30):
It’s clever, though.
William Tincup (04:34):
Mike Langer (04:36):
How else are you going to get a realistic job preview?
William Tincup (04:39):
Yeah, no, I mean, again, you would like to think that the company does a great job of portraying that in the recruiting process.
Mike Langer (04:48):
William Tincup (04:49):
But well, let’s say that doesn’t happen. This is a try before you buy it. Well, it’s try after you’ve accepted. I mean, it’s crazy because I can’t imagine that chaos of managing that. You got somebody, they’re in there, you’re manager of a Verizon store, it’s hard enough to get somebody. You got somebody, you like them, they’re good, it’s done. They’re showing up on Monday, they’re there, they go through the whole day. Tuesday comes around and it’s like they’re not there.
Mike Langer (05:16):
Never heard from them again.
William Tincup (05:19):
Never to be… I guess there was this sense… I mean, I’m Gen X, so I guess there was this sense of reputation management or a decorum. I can’t do this because I don’t want it to follow me around in my career. Whereas, it just doesn’t seem like…
Mike Langer (05:42):
It doesn’t stick that. They’re not going to think about that because how is not showing up for a job going to show up on your record? I’m still trying to get my mind around the thinking that goes into planning it that way, because that’s pretty sophisticated.
William Tincup (06:06):
Well, okay, so now we’ve got a beat on… Do you believe that… So, we’ll stick with candidates for just a second. Do you believe there’s a difference between candidates that are hourly, and candidates that are not exempt versus non-exempt, but basically hourly versus corporate? We’ll use that as a phrase.
Mike Langer (06:27):
I think so, yes, for two reasons. One is the one you were just talking about, which is reputational, for somebody who’s looking at a higher level job, and that word could get around. The second may not be so intuitive. It’s harder to find jobs at the more senior level now than it is at an entry level. They’re about the mismatch between the number of jobs are available and the number of people to take them. And even if we took everybody back who was off the rolls from COVID, we still would have jobs going empty. Most of those jobs are flipping hamburgers or shoveling chicken, and I’m not denigrating those as jobs. I’m just saying those jobs are the ones where people have choices and they’re going for a quarter, or 50 cents, or a better schedule, or something else.
I think you would see a difference in that, particularly because those higher level jobs, they’re still hard to find for those job seekers. They’re still struggling. I talked to one senior person who was applying to chief operating jobs. So pretty senior, right? 300 applications, 10 rejections, one interview. Now, maybe this person was not applying to the right jobs. This over a course of about six months, so it wasn’t like sort of a shotgun. But not to hear at all on about 90% of the jobs that this person was applying to, that’s a different kind of ghosting. That says that their recruiting process doesn’t even have a, “Thanks, but no thanks,” built into it. Which if you’re applying in jobs at LinkedIn, if you’re using LinkedIn as the tool, LinkedIn does that for you. All you have to do is just click a little box and it sends off a nicely worded note that says go elsewhere.
William Tincup (08:32):
A couple things to unpack. Last week I was doing a strategic offsite for a company and it came around at one point, we discussed that companies view candidates as commodities, and candidates view companies as commodities. And it was just a fascinating discussion because we used to call it spray and pray. And this would happen both on the recruiting side, but it would also happen on the candidate side. And I don’t think easy apply or one-click apply has made that better, per se.
It’s probably a better candidate experience instead of having to fill out forms multiple times, this, that, and the other. But if I can just go apply to a thousand jobs, one click, okay. What’s the downside? Right? Well, the downside is it creates a bunch of noise in the system and it’s hard to manage. But what do you think about that commodities bit?
Mike Langer (09:28):
I think that’s an accurate perception. I’m actually just reading a book right now called The Autonomous Organization, and it comes from the premise that organizations shouldn’t be thinking about people as assets or commodities. That it’s people that make an organization function. Gee, go figure. I mean, that’s not a revelation, but it’s funny how many times we have to learn that, and yet we treat these people…
Josh Bersen said something maybe a year ago that just the whole concept of talent acquisition is flawed because of what talent means and where it comes from, that it speaks to commodity, if you go back to the ancient Greek, somehow he did this thing back to Greek. And it brings that whole mindset to it, not recognizing on the part of the corporation that these are people. They’re not commodities, they’re not assets. If you don’t treat them right, then they’re not going to be part of your picture for very long. And that’s a real flaw, I think, in our recruiting process today.
William Tincup (10:45):
Wow. Okay, let’s flip the other side of this. Now, let’s go to the candidates… Excuse me, through the recruiter side and think about what is… And we’ll deal with currently, how do they define ghosting right now?
Mike Langer (11:08):
Well, ironically, I think that recruiters know they’re being ghosted, but they probably don’t think that they’re ghosting somebody else.
William Tincup (11:15):
That’s great. Good call.
Mike Langer (11:17):
How else could you explain it, right? It’s a recruiter’s job to tell somebody that they weren’t a good fit. That’s part of the job. And I mean, if you’re lucky, you’re telling 19 people out of 20 that they’re not a good fit.
William Tincup (11:33):
Right. And some of those are, I hate the term, silver medalist, which is the worst phrase ever. But so they see ghosting, okay, you scheduled an interview. Janet didn’t show up to the interview. That’s a clear case of ghosting. Yet, flip the situation. We have an interview, James scheduled it, and I have to go get my kids from school that day and I cancel the meeting. If I’m a recruiter, that’s not ghosting.
Mike Langer (12:03):
No, I wouldn’t say that’s ghosting. Now, if they cancel the meeting and then never reschedule it…
William Tincup (12:11):
Mike Langer (12:12):
That’s ghosting, right?
William Tincup (12:13):
Mike Langer (12:14):
Ghosting is when you’ve been through… This is sort of my layman’s definition. Ghosting is when you’ve been through the process, not just an application, but you’ve talked to somebody, maybe you’ve had one interview, and then you never hear from them again, and you have to ask them what happened. And even then you might not hear from them. I get those kind of stories as I talk to people. “I had two interviews and I never heard from the recruiter again. And I sent a note to the recruiter and they never responded.” That’s ghosting. You can explain some of that due to circumstance, they quit, they moved on to another job. But it’s far too prevalent to say that it’s anything other than people…
Here I am perhaps cutting them a little slack, right? That one of the things coming out of COVID is that aren’t enough recruiters. And so recruiters are carrying, in my sense, a much larger load than they would pre-COVID. And it’s hard to find recruiters because they went and found other jobs, and they’re not going back into recruiting. This is a pretty common theme that you see. And so we’re overworking the recruiters, but that doesn’t explain why, in my mind, the common courtesy of a, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Right?
If you’re really not qualified, if you’re one of the 19, of the 20, take this person off the hook. But it’s administrative. It’s stuff that just doesn’t happen. And we were talking back in 2019 about the year of the candidate and how important the candidate experience was. And again, anecdotally, what I read, when I talk to people, the candidate experience now is worse than it was in 2019, and you would think in the year of the candidate that they’d be having a great time. But I guess that doesn’t seem to be the case. Companies are just not rolling out the red carpet in a way that makes it conducive to come to work. And ghosting is just a symptom of that.
William Tincup (14:28):
It’s fascinating to me because again, like you said, if there’s a good reason on either side… Now, we just talked about candidates and recruiters on either side. If life happens and you communicate properly and you reschedule, then that’s not ghosting. That’s just life. And that’s on both sides. Both equal, anything can happen. Emergencies happen, life happens, and then you reschedule. Okay, that’s not ghosting, that’s just life. But it’s the non-show up and non-reschedule. That on both sides is ghosting.
Mike Langer (15:10):
And my sense is that there’s a certain amount of it that’s just tit for tat.
William Tincup (15:14):
Right. Right, right, right. So, you see in a candidate driven market, more candidates in the definition that we are using now, more candidates ghosting. And in an employer driven market, you see more recruiters ghosting.
Mike Langer (15:33):
William Tincup (15:34):
So, the third leg of this awkward stool is hiring managers.
Mike Langer (15:42):
William Tincup (15:44):
And so, one to get your take on, okay, what’s their definition of ghosting today?
Mike Langer (15:52):
Well, I think that hiring managers are going to see ghosting in a couple of ways. They’re going to see it… Well, you’ve introduced a third one that never even occurred to me, which is the show up and then never show up again. They’re going to see it where people don’t show for interviews. Who’s doing the hiring? Is there recruiter involved or is there hiring manager involved? That starts to get a little more complicated. If there’s a recruiter who is the intermediary, the hiring manager might see it with somebody that is a no-show for an interview, or is a no-show for a job offer, or rescinds the job offer or something like that.
But in a case where there’s a recruiter, the hiring managers not going to see most of the mechanics. I think it’s not as likely that you’re going to see… You might see a candidate ghosting a hiring manager because they were supposed to go in for an interview and they just don’t show up and they don’t bother to call.
William Tincup (16:51):
Sure, that happens.
Mike Langer (16:54):
That’s going to happen. I think it’s less likely to be in a situation where someone’s scheduled with an interview with a hiring manager, and the hiring manager blows it off and doesn’t follow up. I haven’t heard those kinds of stories. Generally, the communication where the recruiter just goes dark, the company goes dark, because of course the candidate doesn’t necessarily know they’re even talking to a recruiter? Maybe they’re talking to a recruiting coordinator or they’re talking to an RPO firm on behalf of the company. Who knows?
The hiring managers are going to see it as people who just don’t show up for work or don’t show up for an interview. I worked on a project and it was in the quick serve space, the ghost kitchen part of quick serve, which is even more obscure. And we would schedule 15 to 18 people to come in and meet with a hiring manager and three would show up.
William Tincup (17:51):
Wow. Do that again. Say that again?
Mike Langer (17:54):
Yeah, we would schedule 15 to 18 people for an interview day and we’d have a hiring manager sitting there, and three would show up.
William Tincup (18:03):
Oh, my God.
Mike Langer (18:04):
Now, that was pre-COVID. That was pre-COVID. There were still people who felt like they had lots of choices and they were willing to do their own thing. That’s how a hiring manager’s going to feel ghosting, is they’re going to be set up for something. Or they make an offer, the offer is accepted, and the person’s going to show up for work, and doesn’t bother to call. Again, something I think is more common these days.
William Tincup (18:31):
Mike Langer (18:33):
I don’t want to make a big societal comment. Is there just a little less courtesy going around right now? Maybe that’s part of it.
William Tincup (18:41):
Right. I want to unpack just really quickly. In the situations where there is a hiring manager and a recruiter, does the recruiter… Okay, candidate doesn’t show up or something, does the recruiter get the blame? Or does the candidate? Just anecdotally. I’m sure there’s not a whole lot of research, primary research that’s been done about this, but does the recruiter get blamed in that situation? Or does the candidate get blamed from the hiring manager’s perspective?
Mike Langer (19:13):
I’m sure there is going to be some give and take on that. It depends on how proactive the recruiter is in terms of managing the candidate and doing their best in advance to ensure that the interview, or showing up for the first day of work actually takes place. The hiring managers are going to point to the recruiter because they’re not directly involved in the candidate. And whether or not the recruiter can get off the hook by pointing back the candidate, I’m sure they’re going to do that. No recruiter is going to want to set the hiring manager up for an interview that wasn’t going to happen. And I think hiring managers, unless they’re just completely vindictive, they’re going to know that. I think the recruiter’s definitely going to point at the candidate, because it isn’t the recruiter’s fault, probably, that a candidate didn’t show up for an interview? It’s the candidate’s choice.
William Tincup (20:11):
One thing that is painfully clear through the three themes of both candidate, recruiter, and hiring manager is that in essence, ghosting, there’s a kind of tethering to power. Who’s in power at that particular moment? Whether or not it’s real or perceived. It could be just the perception of power and they perceive themselves as a power of leverage or a moment of power where they have more power and they use it. Am I reading too much into that or is that…
Mike Langer (20:50):
Oh, no, I think that’s wrapped up in it. “This is my decision. I have the power to make the decision right now.” And it goes back to something I said at the beginning. People just don’t like to disappoint other people, so they don’t like to say no. They don’t like to say, “I don’t want to do this,” or, “No, you didn’t get the job,” or any other number of things that in their perception don’t make them look good. Or even stronger, make them look bad somehow. It’s hard to argue that we’re certainly tied up in image in our culture generally and how people project themselves. It’s a complex mix of things, which I think is a blend of all the stuff that we’ve talked about. It’s the environment, it’s the process, it’s the scarcity or the surplus of resources on one side of the equation or the other.
It’s an unfortunate situation because particularly on the part of the company, think of the brand damage, if you do ghost candidates regularly. Sometimes it happens inadvertently, okay, whatever. Somebody slips through the cracks. But if that’s your way of handling the numbers that you’re getting is to simply just ignore them or let them go, what does that do to your brand? Even more directly, you mentioned reputational, which I put on the side of the person. It’s less likely to accrue then because who’s going to chase one person? But if somebody gets ghosted by XYZ company, they’re going to tell 10 friends, and they’re going to tell 10 friends, and so on and so on. Really significant impact of candidate experience.
Not to mention what if they were ghosted along the way, but ultimately ended up getting hired, somehow? They disappeared for three weeks and then they came back. They set commitments that they didn’t keep. What does that set in the mind of the candidate, in terms of the company that they’re going to work for? The company culture that, “Oh, you can just ignore me and until you go through all of their candidates and then you hire me. Well, I guess I’m not going to try this job very hard.” You can see all those kinds of possible permutations, which just continues to point to, it is in your best interest as a company to treat candidates the way you would like to be treated. Otherwise, there might be some consequences from it. I don’t want to be too dire about it. But there’s a lot of moving parts here, but still.
William Tincup (23:44):
There should be, if we go that far, there should be. Actions should have consequences. I mean, we teach our kids this from a very early age. There should be, if there is an action, there should be consequences. This has been all I wanted it to be and more. Thank you.
Mike Langer (24:00):
William Tincup (24:01):
I know you’re super busy. Thank you so much for carving out time for us.
Mike Langer (24:05):
Oh, happy to be here. It’s been a good conversation, and it’s something that’s certainly top of mind right now.
William Tincup (24:11):
A hundred percent. And thanks everyone for listening to Recruiting Daily Podcasts. Until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.
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