The Darkside of a Candidate-driven Market: Ghosting, Catfishing, and No-shows

The terms “ghosting,” “catfishing,” and “no show” are mostly used in the dating world. However, these types of behaviors have become typical in recruiting situations as well, due to the candidate-driven nature of today’s hiring market.

In my own agency, I have seen an increase in the amount of no shows to interviews or appointments in the last six months. Many times an attempt to follow up with these candidates is futile, as I am being thoroughly “ghosted” or consciously ignored and avoided. This phenomenon is not specific to one industry or one type of role. I’ve seen this type of behavior at all levels and in almost every industries.

What It Means to Be Ghosted or Catfished

Ghosted

Ghosting is defined as the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly withdrawing all communication without any explanation.

My most recent experience with ghosting in recruiting happened a few weeks ago.

I was recruiting for a client who was looking for customer-service representatives and account executives. The company has a great reputation, competitive salary, and fantastic employee benefits. The team is also very friendly and great to work with. This client was a dream client. We went through the usual process and after several phone interviews, and we had 10 candidates lined up to interview in person. Only four people showed up for their interviews. I was mortified at the turnout rate and worked quickly to try to make contact with the six other candidates.

Despite calls and emails, there was not one response. I was left baffled and embarrassed.

Late that same week, I stumbled upon an article about ghosting in the workplace. This made me wonder if this behavior will be acceptable as the norm. In previous year, it was common practice for uninterested candidates to contact recruiters if they were no longer interested in a position or wouldn’t be able to make an interview. The practice maintained a good relationship between the candidate and recruiter. It used to hurt my feelings when a candidate would “ghost” me. I felt like there was something I was doing wrong; the truth is that we cannot control anyone’s actions but our own.

Another perspective

While this ghosting practice that has become more and more prevalent is concerning and shouldn’t be accepted, recruiters and HR professionals should also consider some context for its rise in popularity. A candidate-driven market means that candidates can be more selective about the interviews and offers they take. Candidates are getting more offers and they may have received a more attractive offer to interview in the interim between your correspondence.

There may be a different motivation for the ghosting that is happening to recruiters today. Many of these candidates who are now flourishing in a candidate-driven market were once struggling in a market that was not advantageous for them. Recruiters who are not as ethical as you and I potentially ghosted them as well. Perhaps these candidates are “dishing out” what they feel they’ve been given. Admittedly, this is not fair to recruiters who follow up with candidates whether the news is good or bad. However, this explanation might help us all be a little more understanding.

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Catfished

Catfishing is defined as the practice of luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona. This was certainly common prior to the candidate-driven market. However, candidate catfishing was more prevalent on the candidate side, and presented itself as fake or padded resumes. Catfishing happened a lot in software engineer roles, for example. When I first started technical recruiting, I experienced scenarios where candidates asked a friend take their technical interview. The original person, not the person who took the interview, then shows up for onboarding or for their first day. Virtual or remote jobs and interviews are particularly susceptible to this type of fraud.

Another perspective

On the flipside, fake recruiters are catfishing unsuspecting candidates as well. Predatory agencies or “career coaches” target candidates who have difficulty finding a job because of their personal situations or long-term unemployment. These catfishing recruiters promise the world to desperate candidates and don’t deliver. Although this type of scam has been around for a while, it has been taken to a new level because of the ability to post fake reviews.

Maybe communication is the key to this disconnect. I like to get to know the candidate before jumping into typical interview questions. While communication won’t completely change ghosting and catfishing behavior, reporting profiles or calling out these behaviors could deter more people from behaving this way.

 

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Tanya Bourque is an experienced sourcing, recruiting, and HR professional with a special interest in the technology field. She has successfully sourced, recruited, and hired over 2,000 professionals so far in her career. In addition, she currently provides hiring and leadership development services nationwide. Her methods are proven to help her fellow entrepreneurs, CEOs, and HR professionals consistently hire more successful candidates. She believes that the key to consistently successful hires is a dedication to understanding both candidates and company cultures. She is currently the founder of OpExpert, a quickly growing talent acquisition service, as well as the cofounder of Untappt.io, an innovative startup and small business hiring and HR consulting company that is changing the way new businesses manage employee relations.

 

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12 Comments on “The Darkside of a Candidate-driven Market: Ghosting, Catfishing, and No-shows

  1. The article seems to me a grand rationalization for rude, unprofessional candidates who were not brought up with the same values as most people. (I have been a recruiter/headhunter for 45 yeas) I wont go into a diatribe on cultural or sociological difference between cultures and generations, for i believe that is a large part of the problem. But if 6 out of 10 people “ghosted” the author , Id venture to guess that thoroughness of the vetting and making sure the candidates had some “skin in the game” wasn’t deep enough. If they see no values in your service then your chances of being ‘ghosted” increases. So id blame the lack of mechanics (partly) in qualifying candidates, and also blame the cultural shift ( and technology ) on people upbringing that they can do what ever they want without consideration or responsibility.

    1. It is a different world than the world I started recruiting in. I would say people feel less connected and less obligated to show each other respect.

  2. Great summary article!

    I learned about candidate “catfishing” (didn’t know the term) over 11 years ago. Heard about an H1b mill that had their “ringers” do the telephone interview and take any online technical tests, then this firm would send in a more Jr. person with bad communication skills to take the contract. I would hope that with the advent of video interviews, this unethical practice no longer occurs.

    1. It still happens even with Video interviewing. There are some candidates that have become very slick and there are still agencies overseas that use that practice. In my experience, it has been less H1B recently and more OPTs

          1. I still don’t know that TLA. (3 letter acronym). Please elaborate – thanks

          2. thanks – I used to use the generic “F1. ” term. Stopped recruiting visa candidates a long time ago – too many headaches.

  3. Re: candidates who have been ghosted in the past turning around and ghosting employers. I don’t think it’s as much about candidates trying to get revenge somehow; I think it’s broader than that. A lack of clear communication has been built into the job search process. I can think of so many examples: job descriptions that ask for required qualifications that aren’t actually required, “entry-level” roles requiring 5 years of experience, employers refusing to make salary ranges transparent, murky interviewing timelines, agencies being unwilling to share which employers they are representing, no one takes the time to send rejection notices to candidates who weren’t interviewed… the list goes on. Ghosting by candidates is just another symptom of this poor communication problem.

  4. Ghosting appears to be a generational phenom that was born out of poor communication habits from a young age. The constant use of Twitter and other forms of social media do not form good interpersonal communication habits. They certainly do not encourage one to confront uncomfortable situations in order to resolve the issue. It’s much easier to simply not reply. Hence, ghosting was born.

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