What is
What is "employee ghosting" and how can you avoid it?

Filling open positions in a competitive job market can be difficult and costly, as hiring managers dedicate considerable time to poring over resumes, interviewing potential candidates and running background checks. Recruiters can spend months searching for qualified job seekers, checking references and initiating the onboarding process, but what happens when a new employee doesn't show up to their first day of work?

This phenomenon has been widely referred to as "ghosting" within professional circles and is considered one of the most difficult situations for employers to navigate. What's worse, many hiring managers have started to see an uptick in this sort of behavior, with recruiters from the global staffing firm, Robert Half, noticing a "10 to 20% increase" over the past few years, The Washington Post reported. While there is no national data on the prevalence of this issue, it's worth taking a closer look at what it could mean for employers moving forward.

How ghosting impacts companies
First, it's important to note that employee ghosting can occur in a wide range of scenarios, not just during the first week of employment. For example, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted in its December 2018 Beige Book that a number of high-profile contacts have had employees stop showing up to work without giving any notice. Following the unexpected absence, these companies were unable to contact the worker and were left questioning whether they had any plans to return.

Beyond the obvious staffing issues, ghosting can have a significant impact on general productivity and morale. Losing a top performer can interrupt key workflows and often forces employers to reallocate complex tasks to employees who may not be prepared for the added responsibility. It's crucial to be transparent with your workforce when these incidents occur, as failing to comment can leave workers questioning whether their jobs are at risk.

Job applicant shaking hands with her new bossPersonalizing your interview process can help reassure job seekers that your company is a great place to work.

Tips to reduce employee ghosting
While it's likely impossible to eliminate ghosting altogether, there are several steps employers can take to alleviate some of the motivations that new hires may have for disappearing. For example, job applicants are often weighing the benefits and limitations of several openings simultaneously, even after they have accepted a position. Presenting your company as an attractive and exciting place to work can fuel a candidate's enthusiasm and convince them to opt out of alternative employment opportunities. Other useful tips include:

  • Ask the right questions: Before you interview a promising applicant, it's important to create a list of targeted questions that may help you determine if they've ghosted employers in the past. Be sure to ask about gaps in their employment history and why they decided to move on from previous roles.
  • Check references thoroughly: Following up on a candidate's work experience and references is essential to properly assessing their flight risk, as it may be your only chance to get an outside perspective. Remember to ask straightforward questions when speaking with former managers and coworkers about an applicant's disposition and work ethic.
  • Streamline your onboarding process: Unemployed job seekers are often determined to start working as soon as possible, so it's critical to eliminate unnecessary delays in your onboarding process. Setting a clear start date during the final pre-hire interview is a great way to put new employees at ease.
  • Set clear expectations: Explaining what a candidate's first day will entail can help reassure them that they've made the right decision, especially when you're trying to staff a complex role. Introducing new hires to their team members and holding a day-one orientation can also support positive relationship building.

The best ways to mitigate the impact of employee ghosting is to personalize your hiring and onboarding practices, improve your employee health and wellness programs, and reamain proactive about your company's staffing needs.

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