The Ghosts of Labor Day Present

Recently I spoke with an HR leader from a Silicon Valley software company and we started talking shop about recruiting and the candidate experience. We got on the subject of communication and feedback, and how candidates for too long have felt neglected in the recruiting process, and then we talked about candidates ghosting employers.

I keep hearing about it this phenomenon anecdotally, and she confirmed she had a few key candidates who got job offers after months of recruiting and negotiating, and then the candidates took other jobs in the 11th hour with other employers before their start date, mostly without any communication at all. This was something she couldn’t recall happening very much during her tenure of 20 years in HR and recruiting.

Looking into this further, I thought that most of us as job candidates wouldn’t have ghosted an employer, no matter the candidate experiences we’ve had to date, and no matter how much in demand we may be in a tight job market. Money talks. We all know that. And while in-demand job candidates have more choice, employers still wield the hiring power, and so we wouldn’t want to tarnish whatever potential candidate equity we have if and when the economic growth we’ve had takes a hit.

And yet, out of a group of 30 employers Talent Board recently surveyed, 89 percent said they have been ghosted, albeit by a smaller percentage of candidates overall. Those job candidates who have accepted a job offer in the past 12 months and then declined and/or not shown up last minute because of taking another job. Many employers also said even more candidates ghost during the interview process.

Other highlights of this brief survey include:

  • Most of the ghosting is done by hourly candidates followed by salaried entry level, salaried technical and salaried non-technical roles.
  • Over 60 percent were tactical roles versus strategic.
  • Nearly 50 percent were Millennials (although just over 50 percent of the responding employers say they didn’t know what generation).
  • 40 percent of the responding employers said that ghosting has only increased by less than 10 percent in the past 12 months.
  • Over a third were healthcare organizations, followed by 18 percent in services and 12 percent in technology.

Maybe it’s because we just haven’t gotten consistent communication and/or feedback along the candidate journey, and we’re done with it. And if we’re in demand, we can be more demanding. Especially since, for most of us at least who get the jobs, we’re still not getting much in the way of communication or asked for feedback (only 26% of new hires in North America in 2019 were asked before their start date). In the nine years we’ve being doing candidate experience benchmark research at Talent Board and the Candidate Experience Awards, feedback loops always result in higher positive candidate ratings and a higher level of perceived fairness.

Unfortunately, candidate resentment has increased 40 percent in North America since 2016 – the fact that based on their experience candidates say they’ll never apply again, refer others or buy stuff if and when applicable from employers where they’ve had a poor candidate experience. Obviously, something is going on. This from nearly 200 North American employers and over 180,000 candidate responses we’ve collected in 2019 (we’re still collecting data in the rest of the world for 2019).

That’s not to say there aren’t companies trying to improve the recruiting and hiring process. There are – we work with hundreds of employers big and small across industries each year that are identifying trouble spots and making incremental improvements, from pre-application to onboarding. And every year dozens of employers will win our coveted CandE Awards based on having the highest positive candidate ratings.

Whatever the reasons for this seemingly newer phenomenon (with more media attention as well), these are the ghosts of Labor Day present that can and do haunt some employers for key positions. And yes, too many candidates still get ghosted by employers, even in the final interview/offer stages. If I could impart anything on both employers and job candidates alike, it would be to provide each other clear acknowledgement upon interest and clear closure upon final decision-making. It will definitely improve the brand and business impact on both.

–Kevin Grossman, President, Talent Board and the Candidate Experience Awards


If improving your recruiting processes and the candidate experience for both external and internal candidates are key priorities for you and your organization, then we highly recommend you come to the 2019 North American CandE Symposium and Awards Gala on October 14 in Washington DC. We have a full day of amazing speakers and sessions and we’re also running this event in conjunction with the ERE Recruiting Conference on October 15-16.

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