Employee ‘Ghosting’ May be the New Norm


Facebook Share Icon LinkedIn Share Icon Twitter Share Icon Share by EMail icon Print Icon


For decades, employers have felt that employees should be happy to have the job they provide to them. Employees have felt indebted to employers, almost beholden to them. In 2018, the employees are revolting and are turning the tables on employers at a level that has been unheard of on the hiring landscape.

To some extent, employees are giving employers a taste of their own medicine, or so they tell themselves. During and after the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, when unemployment reached 10 percent, many firms ignored job applicants. Candidates were frustrated because they felt employers were “ghosting” them, even though those employers did not have jobs to offer because of terrible economic conditions. 

And, when they did interview job seekers, they had many qualified candidates to choose from. Many employers did not communicate with the candidates that were not chosen. This left a bitter taste in the mouths of hungry job seekers.

Employees are now ghosting employers at an alarming rate. Ghosting is when an employee chooses not to show up for work or a potential employee fails to show up for the job interview. In other words, ghosting is when people avoid communicating an honest but unpleasant message such as “I am resigning my job” or “I have accepted another job.” The thought here is, “If I ignore you, you will get the hint and go away.”

Ghosting comes in many forms, which we have been tracking at my recruiting firm, Diversified Industrial Staffing:

  • No show on first day of a new job: This area is where we have seen the greatest increase in candidate ghosting in 2018. Between January and June, we had an astounding 26 people not show up for their first day direct hire job. These were all employed professionals who had received and accepted written job offers. In more than 25 years in the recruiting industry, we have never seen this type of candidate behavior. 
  • No-show for a first interview: In a one-week period in July 2018, we had 13 first interviews scheduled with our clients for direct hire jobs. Nine of these candidates ghosted us and our clients—they did not show up for the interview.
  • Quitting a job without giving notice. While this is nothing new, we have seen an increase. What is new is that the Labor Department reported that in May, 2.4 percent of all those employed quit jobs, typically to take another—the largest share in 17 years. 

Why can employees get away with such unprofessional behavior? It’s a candidate market and they have more job options, and the data proves it out. In May, with unemployment then near an 18-year low of 3.8 percent, there were more job openings than unemployed people for only the second month in the past two decades, according to the Department of Labor. 

In business, time is money. Ghosting by employees or job seekers correlates to wasted recruiting time and costs, and potentially lost production or sales, as hard-to-fill jobs stay open longer than anticipated.

To combat this new employee ghosting behavior, employers are trying to mitigate wasted time. Since they can no longer take the verbal or written commitment of a job offer acceptance, some employers are now doing mass group interviews for entry level jobs, knowing that a large majority of people in the interview process will opt out or stop communicating. 

Other employers are working harder during interviews to sell candidates on the benefits of working for their company, including having potential co-workers meet with job candidates and having them do an experience share of why their company is a great place to work.

Last, other employers are shortening the interval before a new hire starts to have them begin immediately, or as soon as possible, instead of having them start in a few weeks. They are seeking employees who match their sense of urgency. If they don’t start a new employee quickly, that employee could still have the mind-set of being a free agent.