As the economy heats up and the job market tightens a new phenomenon is emerging in the workplace – “ghosting” and it’s not only making life miserable for hiring managers, it’s changing how they select, hire and onboard new employees.

So, what is ghosting?

Ghosting is a cultural phenomenon that has crossed over into the workplace where candidates and even employees go missing in action (MIA) with no word or explanation. For example, sometimes you set up a face-to-face interview and the candidate simply doesn’t show up. Other times you have a new employee you’re expecting and they don’t report to work on their hire date or they come to work and then disappear with no warning leaving you to guess they have quit. However it rears its ugly head, it’s becoming more commonplace and causing significant problems for employers.

Business statistics are hard to come by, but it’s estimated that 20-50% of job applicants and employees (including 20% of professional level employees) are pulling ghosting stunts in some form or another.

Why is it happening? I find there are 2 main reasons driving this behavior:

  1. Younger employees, more comfortable with texting and technology than personal face-to-face conversations, are not comfortable discussing difficult topics so they simply avoid the confrontation of telling an employer they have a better offer or have accepted another position.
  2. It’s a difference in values and philosophies

Whatever the reason, it’s happening with more frequency.

Here are some tips to help you deal with it:

  1. Treat candidates with respect and dignity, even in hard times. Many companies took a very cavalier attitude toward candidates during the recession and ghosted them by never calling them back as promised, not dispositioning or following up on resumes received, canceling interviews or not “remembering” interviews when candidates arrived and now their chickens are coming home to roost. When candidates are treated badly by organizations they feel no sense of obligation to treat companies with respect and dignity.
  2. Interview for culture fit. As previously noted, showing respect and dignity is a matter of values and philosophies. Live your values by caring enough to make them a priority during the hiring process. Ask specific questions related to your values. If you value open, honest communication, follow-up and managerial courage, find out if a candidate shares those values and lives by them through their actions. For example, you might ask, “tell me about a time when you had to communicate something unpleasant to someone. How did you handle it?”
  3. Shorten your interview timeline. Note that I am not suggesting you short-change your process, but when you find a great candidate move expeditiously. Don’t delay in bureaucracy for the simple sake of “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.
  4. Get your onboarding game on. Make your onboarding process less about completing paperwork and more about assimilating into the organization. Employees, and especially new hires, who feel they “belong” are more likely to stay for the long haul.
  5. Mentor employees in how to discuss difficult topics and follow the 2 rules of leadership.

Today’s employees are looking for more than a job. They are looking to connect and find meaning. They are looking for the overall experience. Align both your tactical and strategic processes to anticipate and avoid being ghosted.