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Everyone's least favourite dating trend has hit the office

By Orlando Cowcroft, LinkedIn UK

You advertise a new role. A dream candidate applies, aces the first interview and then the second. An offer is made, there is some haggling over salary, a start date is agreed. It comes, then it goes. Calls and emails go unanswered. Days pass, then weeks. Eventually, it becomes clear: You’ve been ghosted. 

It may be some consolation to know that, according to LinkedIn research, you are not alone. Across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, 95% of recruiters have experienced candidates disappearing after an interview – or in some cases, even after having accepted a new role.

In the digital age, ghosting – defined as: “ending a relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication” – has typically applied to the world of dating. But now it is recruiters being left at the restaurant as their date climbs out of the proverbial bathroom window. 

A total of 48% of 600 polled by LinkedIn have seen an increase in ghosting since the beginning of 2018. Only 5% have had no experience of ghosting.

There are regional variations: In southern England, only 40% of recruiters have witnessed an uptick in ghosting, while in Northern Ireland the figure is a staggering 66%. Only 5% of recruiters told LinkedIn that they have no experience with the practice, although 16% say there has been a drop off this year.

As a recruiter, David Hunt, CEO and founder of clean energy executive search company Hyperion, has only been ghosted once – in the mid-1990s – but says that as the practice becomes more normal in modern life, especially on social media, it is no surprise that it is spreading. 

For Hunt, though, there is some justice in it. For years, candidates were ignored or left in the dark by arrogant human resources departments or recruiters, with no replies to detailed and thoughtful applications or even after first, second or third interviews. 

“What goes around comes around. I and my team have always made ourselves available, or at least replied to messages, whether the market is candidate or client led, as it always cycles with the economy,” he says. 

Ghosting is by no means unique to Britain. An investigation by LinkedIn in June 2018 found companies across the US, from finance to food services, complaining that a sustained labour shortage and a tight job market had led to a surge in ghosting amidst a sustained labour shortage and a tight job market. 

Amanda Bradford, CEO and founder of dating app The League said that ghosting had “almost become a new vocabulary” in which “no response is a response.” Now, she said, “that same behavior is happening in the job market.”  

Abakar Saidov, CEO and co-founder at recruitment startup Beamery, agreed that the rise in ghosting is indicative of a generational shift. As social media and email have replaced the telephone or face-to-face meeting as our means of correspondence, it is easier than ever to just disappear. 

"In today's world of digital natives, people have become more averse to difficult conversations, which is why having good relationships and the right engagement is so important," he says. 

Another major factor is the UK job market, with employment at a 40 year high of 75.7% and the fastest growth in pay in a decade. In a lot of sectors – although, crucially, not all – candidates are spoiled for choice when it comes to open positions. As such, the ball is in the candidate’s court. 

As a result, recruiters are changing their strategy to account for it: 34% told LinkedIn that the rise in ghosting had increased the time it takes to hire, and 24% said they actually call a new hire on their first day in the job to check that they have shown up. 

Around 20% of recruiters said that candidates ‘ghosting’ had cost them clients and had damaged their professional reputation. 

That rude awakening, says Hyperion’s Hunt, is overdue. One of the main positives of the ghosting-at-work era, he hopes, will be a better recruitment process for both candidates and companies looking to hire. 

“Too many companies and recruiters leave people hanging, and are then surprised when they go missing,” he said. 

“I believe most people will treat you with professional respect, if you afford them the same, even in markets where candidates can have a handful of job offers to consider.”