A Ghost in the Pipeline: What to Do About Disappearing Candidates

A Ghost in the Pipeline: What to Do About Disappearing Candidates

In recent months, many employers have been noticing a trend of candidates and employees “ghosting” them — a term borrowed from online dating that refers to someone dropping out of contact without so much as a goodbye. Recruiters are seeing candidates make it halfway through the hiring process, then simply stop responding to phone calls, text messages, or emails. Chip Cutter, then a managing editor at LinkedIn, was among the first to spot the trend last June:

Where once it was companies ignoring job applicants or snubbing candidates after interviews, the world has flipped. Candidates agree to job interviews and fail to show up, never saying more. Some accept jobs, only to not appear for the first day of work, no reason given, of course. Instead of formally quitting, enduring a potentially awkward conversation with a manager, some employees leave and never return. Bosses realize they’ve quit only after a series of unsuccessful attempts to reach them. The hiring process begins anew. …

Some of the behavior may stem not from malice, but inexperience. Professionals who entered the workforce a decade ago, during the height of the Great Recession, have never encountered a job market this strong. The unemployment rate is at an 18-year low. More open jobs exist than unemployed workers, the first time that’s happened since the Labor Dept. began keeping such records in 2000. The rate of professionals quitting their jobs hit a record level in March; among those who left their companies, almost two thirds voluntarily quit. Presented with multiple opportunities, professionals face a task some have rarely practiced: saying no to jobs.

It’s not only candidates, either; in December, the Washington Post reported that more employees were also “ghosting” their employers, walking out of work one day and not showing up again, with no notice or explanation:

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ReimagineHR: How Digital Recruiting Has Changed the Candidate Journey

ReimagineHR: How Digital Recruiting Has Changed the Candidate Journey

“Writing a check,” Warren Buffett famously quipped, “separates a commitment from a conversation.” This used to be true of submitting a job application as well, but not in today’s increasingly competitive, digitally enhanced recruiting environment, Gartner Principal Executive Advisor Dion Love explained at Gartner’s ReimagineHR summit in London on Wednesday. The path most candidates take through the recruiting process has fundamentally changed, which means organizations must also change their approach to recruiting in order to remain competitive.

Prior to the digital era, the typical candidate’s journey looked something like this: They researched companies to find out whether they wanted to work there, narrowed down their choices to a shortlist of preferred employers, applied for jobs, and finally spoke with recruiters. This candidate usually only made it to the interview stage with organizations they had already researched and were certainly interested in joining. Recruiters could assume that a candidate who sent in a résumé was committed to seeing the process through to the end.

Yet whereas the job application used to come toward the end of the candidate journey, it now often comes at the very beginning. Here’s what the journey normally looks like now: A candidate casually applies to a number of jobs they may or may not want, speaks with recruiters, then researches the employers that are interested in hiring them and narrows their choices down to one.

This shift in candidate behavior creates a whole new set of challenges for recruiters.

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