The “Irish Goodbye” or How to Discourage “Ghosting” Among Candidates, Workers

Jan 3, 2019 11:55:00 AM

Ahh yes, the notorious “Irish Goodbye,” the practice of leaving a party or gathering undetected and unannounced, purposely avoiding the expected formalities. This activity is also known today as “ghosting,” and it doesn’t just happen among friends who wish to slip out of your cocktail party unnoticed. It also happens in the workplace. There’s not a single workforce management professional who hasn’t encountered ghosting among candidates and hires over the last few years. Here’s why it happens and what can be done to discourage this irritating and costly behavior.

Ghostingis formally defined as a trend wherein professionals abruptly cut off contact from a recruiter or employer. Common examples include when a candidate or new hire fails to appear for a scheduled interview, their first day of work, or when they leave their job without notice. All the time and effort spent recruiting, scheduling, recruiting, onboarding and training is lost when you’re ghosted, and if it is happening frequently, those wasted costs and time can really add up to a noticeable drain on your budget.

Why has ghosting been on the rise across the US workforce recently? A major cause is the unemployment rate currently at 18-year lows. Tight labor supply has produced a shift in the employer/employee power dynamic which emboldens candidates and employees to light out unannounced if/when they encounter more lucrative job offers. It is also more typical to occur with younger, more inexperienced candidates who have less exposure to the reputational ramifications of improperly handling employment issues.

What can be done to mitigate this troubling trend? First and foremost, many organizations must admit that they have had a hand in allowing this dynamic to occur. Sadly, many companies have been ghosting candidates for the longest time in the wake of the Great Recession of 2009 when the employment market decidedly favored employers. By failing to maintain honorable standards and practices when labor was suffering, many employers forfeited the loyalty of workers and damaged their own credibility during the widespread layoffs during the recession. Today, many companies are reaping the consequences of poor employee/candidate engagement practices.

There are some affirmative steps a hiring organization can take to engender greater good will among workers and candidates. For example, engage in rigorous employment branding to maintain high standards for candidate experience. This is a strategy we’ve been recommending for at least five years in posts like this and this – since long before ghosting became the vexing problem it is today.

Next, focus on transparency in the process from sourcing through onboarding and training. With so much opportunity out there, candidates exhibit very low tolerance for opaque processes or roles that turn out to be different than what was suggested.

Lastly, emphasize process efficiency in all your interactions with candidates and workers. Find ways to streamline the onboarding process, identify communication gaps and make the entire process painless and effective for the worker. This will engender a greater sense of loyalty to your brand among workers and that reputation can be a powerful tool for attracting talent.

Let’s face it, the old “Irish Goodbye” may be overlooked (or even kind of endearing) among friends, but in the business world, it is simply rude and unprofessional. Prepare your operations to minimize this activity and you’ll be more effective overall in your workforce pursuits.

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