According to Urban Dictionary, the hipper, cooler version of Merriam-Webster, the term “ghosting” is defined as:
“The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just ‘get the hint’ and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested.”
Ghosting has its origins in the social media world of the Millennial and Generation Z crowd. Young folks realized it’s much easier to just abruptly stop all communications with a person and disappear rather than take the time and energy to explain why they want to break up or end a relationship.
Ghosting has now joined the grown-up business world. In the course of the interview process, we have noticed a disturbing, growing trend of hiring managers, human resource professionals, recruiters and candidates all ghosting one other.
The candidate may lose interest in a job and just bail out of the interview without giving any advance notice. A hiring manager decides that a job seeker does not possess a certain needed skill set, so he stops answering the candidate’s emails and telephone calls. The ghosts feel that by simply ignoring the other party, they’ll soon get the message. Ghosters rationalize their rude behavior by saying, “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s just easier and cleaner this way. I’m sure the other person understands.”
Maybe this makes me old-fashioned, but when I first started recruiting, telephone conversations and in-person meetings were standard operating procedures. With the rapid ascension of technology, I’ve noticed that while human interactions within the interview cycle still occur, it has increasingly lessened in importance over the years. In-person conversations were replaced by phone calls, then emails and texts.
Giant social media platforms such as LinkedIn, corporate career portals and the proliferation of job aggregators and job sites made it exceedingly easy for people to find job listings and email their résumés. Human resources, recruiters and hiring managers became inundated with résumés. It becomes nearly impossible for companies to get back to all the job applicants, especially since many corporations downsized their internal recruiting and related human resources staff and replaced them with artificial intelligence and technology.
I confess that I too am guilty. The firm I head is well known in our space, has a large social media presence and gets overwhelmed with résumés at times. A big challenge is that due to the ubiquity of job listings on the internet, candidates take chances and submit résumés for jobs they are not suitable for. I don’t blame them, as they feel it is worth a shot. In the past, when someone had to fax résumés, it was too time consuming to shotgun résumés all over the place. With this volume, it is literally impossible to get back to everyone.
This sets the belief that companies don’t care about people. Since job seekers think that the hiring managers are rude, it’s then justifiable for them to act in the same manner.
It doesn’t help that we live in a society in which we are all at each other’s throats. Post an opinion on social media and, if people disagree, they’ll attack you. There is no “let’s agree to disagree.” It’s all about, “I’m right and you’re a Nazi!” Our leaders in Washington are the worst offenders. Instead of setting the example, they act like spoiled children, yelling, screaming, cursing and stomping their feet if they don’t get their way. Watch any cable news show at night and they’ll feature six talking heads in boxes angrily shouting over the commentators. There is never an attempt of having a meeting of the minds. Instead, the goal is to get the best shot at your enemy who has the audacity to disagree with your brilliant opinion.
Unfortunately, it looks like we are fast approaching a new paradigm. Instead of providing feedback, discussing jobs and sharing information in person or over the phone, we’ll just disengage from the process—no calls, emails or goodbyes.
It becomes self fulfilling. When you’re the ghostee, you’re apt to ghost someone else. It is easy to see why this happens. A hiring manager is scared that he’ll run the risk of being accused of discrimination, sexism, ageism or any other allegation if he offers constructive feedback to a candidate who later does not get the job offer. It looks like an easier and safer route to just not say anything and hope the candidate gets the hint and walks away.
I’m concerned that at this pace, the future for human interactions in the interview process may disappear and be replaced by cold, unfeeling technology.