Ghosting, Zombieing, and Haunting: What Do These Terms Have to Do with the Hiring Process?

Picture this: You meet someone on Bumble. This person seems like a great match for you. You go on a bunch of dates and start to assume things are getting serious. And then it happens…

What happens exactly? Well, nothing. You hear nothing. You see nothing. “Bae” is off the radar like a rogue ship in the night. You, my friend, have just been ghosted.

A more recent trend is “zombieing.” The gem who ghosted you suddenly resurfaces months later – as if back from the dead. If the person has the audacity, the communication can open with a super casual line as if the ghosting never even occurred. “Hey, Amanda, how was your weekend?” asks the zombie.  If Amanda is smart, she will summon Ghost Derek back to his self-made grave.

And an even MORE recent trend is called “haunting.” You were shamelessly ghosted, but then the ghost haunts your every move on social media. They watch your Snap Story. They ‘like’ your Instagram post of the selfie you took with your dog. They are spookily watching…but no less gone.

Ghosting in the Workplace

How do these three trends relate to the workplace, you ask? No, it’s not because you can get ghosted by a co-worker – although office romances do occur, and it’s safe to assume some end in ghosting, leading to awkward run-ins in the employee cafeteria – it’s because more and more HR professionals and recruiters have been getting ghosted by potential hires.

HR professionals have seen an uptick in applicants not returning calls, or simply failing to appear for their expected first day on the job. Giving no notice when quitting a job is also happening more often – with employees walking away from their post simply never to be heard from again.

Although the “haunting” part of this scenario isn’t very likely to occur unless the ghosting candidate starts liking all the recruiter’s LinkedIn posts, zombieing can take place. Zombieing in this scenario involves the candidate’s ghost reapplying to the same company months later as if nothing happened.

“Our process at Salary.com is simple,” said Jillian Marques, SHRM-CP, Director of Human Resources at Salary.com. “I phone screen just about every candidate, but sometimes after a really good call they refrain from returning messages to get them in for an interview. Additionally, in the past, I’ve extended an offer and had an employee not show up for their first day. I’ve also had two situations where employees only lasted a day and on their first night as an employee would resign.” 

The Rational of a Ghost

So, what’s the deal? Why are more and more candidates ghosting and/or zombieing and think it’s socially acceptable to do so?

One reason may be that younger generations feel like no response is a response– a “no” response, specifically. Ghosting is so common in the dating world that if someone starts ignoring your texts, it’s safe to assume that person will “get the hint” that the ghost is no longer interested. So, it’s not unfounded to believe candidates may be applying the same “rule of thumb” to their job search.

Another theory involves the unemployment rate being at its lowest since April of 2000 at only 3.8%. If you pair this with the recent talent shortage of highly skilled workers, top candidates may end up with more offers than they can accept and don’t bother to turn down offers they don’t plan to accept. This is a stark change from the times when it was more likely that a candidate would never hear back from a job during the hiring cycle than vice-versa.

Although some people may think, “what’s the big deal?” the rude act of workplace ghosting can, ironically, come back to haunt you.

If you ghost an employer, it’s advisable to be 100% positive you will never be looking for a job there in the future. HR professionals can be unforgiving when you waste their time.

When asked if she would reconsider a ghost for a role later in life, Jillian Marques, SHRM-CP, Director of Human Resources at Salary.com had this to say: “If they ghosted me between a phone screen and invitation for an interview, maybe.”

“If it occurred before or on a first day, unless there was a valid reason for the unprofessionalism (death in the family, they were in a coma, could clinically claim stupidity), absolutely not. If they’re disrespectful and/or disengaged before they even walk in the door or that quickly, how committed do you really think they’d be to the organization?”

Resist Seeking “Payback”

Although candidates may claim they have had many experiences involving employers ghosting them, and that the fact that the tables have now turned is a form of “payback” – it still isn’t the best idea.

People in professional realms run in smaller circles than one may think, and it’s best not to burn bridges. If you’re no longer interested in a role, say so. Recruiters understand the nature of their job and will not take it personally. Many will be relieved to hear “no” so they are not wasting their time attempting to make contact.

Being able to effectively communicate is a skill that will help you both in the workplace and in day-to-day life. Ultimately, it’s in every job seeker’s best interest to “just say no” to ghosting, and leave those figurative bridges unburned.

Have you been ghosted by an employer? Find out your worth so your salary requirements will never be a reason you’re ghosted ever again.

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