How Ghosting an Employer Can Completely Ruin Your Professional Reputation

Remember Casper the Friendly Ghost? He’s a good-natured, lovable character that you just want to wrap your arms around in a cuddly embrace – if, of course, he wasn’t able to float right through you.

While Casper is a pop-culture icon, real life ghosts certainly are not. And boy do they exist now more than ever. Not only do ghosts appear in the dating world, disappearing after a romantic night out without a single text or call, but they have now infiltrated the working world.

Ghosts in today’s workforce look suspiciously like the everyday job seeker. You know what I’m talking about; the ones who suddenly vanish without a trace and never wind up responding to a hiring manager or recruiter – even when they are in the middle of the interview process or have been extended a job offer.

We’ve seen it in our own office. Our internal hiring manager will speak with a candidate at 9 am to confirm their 2 pm interview for later that day, and once the clock hits 2:15 pm, he’s scratching his head when the candidate is a complete no-show. Ok, we get it, its human nature to avoid conflict. After all, disappointing someone does not elicit feelings of joy. But, not even an email with a heads up?

Jo Weech, founder of Exemplary Consultants, an HR and Talent Management consulting firm, found herself in a similar situation. Her candidate aced technical tests, breezed through multiple interviews, and even obtained the security clearance needed to work the federal contract. Weech called the candidate with the intent of extending an offer only to have dozens of her messages ignored. She tried being playful, sending notes saying, “Please let me know that you have not been kidnapped by aliens. I’m worried about you.” The lack of response started to become concerning for Weech. Was the candidate sick? In a car accident? Nope. In the end, Weech had just been ghosted.

The true problem here is job seekers don’t stop and think about their actions. It’s a small world and ghosting could cost you a major career opportunity down the road.

With unemployment at an all-time low, you may be lucky enough to have multiple job offers on the table. I wouldn’t blame you for feeling like a rockstar. But just because you have options, doesn’t mean you should blow off all of the other opportunities you’ve decided not to accept.

Always, I repeat, ALWAYS, communicate with the recruiter or hiring manager. Because the truth is, you never know where that hiring manager or recruiter may wind up working in the future, who their professional connections are, or if you’ll want to apply for a role with that company again down the road.

Instead of ghosting, here’s what you should do instead.

You’ve Decided to Forgo an Interview

Dropping out of the interview process, whether it’s your first scheduled meeting or you have a second interview coming up, is pain-free and gives the employer the opportunity to consider other applicants before extending an official offer. Crafting an email to give the hiring manager the heads up will only take a few minutes of your time and will ensure you don’t burn any bridges. All you need to do is thank the individual for their time, explain why you’ve decided to pass on the opportunity, and finish it up by leaving the door open should you want to revisit working for the company in the future.

It always good to reference a little tidbit from your conversation to show your appreciation for the hiring manager and the value the organization has to offer. Maybe you thought the company’s mission was inspiring or you truly admired the individual’s management style – whatever it may be, flattery never hurts.

Working with a recruitment agency? If so, be transparent with the recruiter, providing insight into why the opportunity wasn’t a good fit for you. By doing so, you’re supplying the recruiter with the information they need to either continue helping you with your job search, or to keep you in mind for any future positions that match what you’re looking for. 

You’ve Decided to Turn Down a Job Offer

So, what do you do if you’ve already received an official offer from an employer? First off, never accept an offer and then pull a one-eighty and opt out of showing up on your first day. Ghosting a company, especially after committing to a start date, is not only incredibly disrespectful, but it’s a terrible rabbit hole to jump down. I can’t stress enough how detrimental a decision like this could be to your career. What if you ditched one employer for an opportunity with another company and those two hiring managers happen to know each other? You can basically kiss that job offer goodbye.

Maybe you’ve given the position some serious thought and ultimately decided that plucking yourself out of the equation is best for your career. While severing ties earlier on in the interview process is more preferable, it’s still better to pick up the phone and explain your decision rather than ghost on the company.

Since you’re so far along in the process, it’s essential that you pick up the phone and communicate in a way that’s honest and sincere. Don’t just hide behind an email. The goal is to preserve your professional brand and reputation as much as possible here. Remember, you’re putting the employer in a tough spot, as they’re now in a time crunch to find a replacement.

Try saying something along the lines of: “I know we’ve agreed to a start date of [day], however, I’m calling to unfortunately turn down the position. I am [list your reason – i.e. pursuing an opportunity elsewhere, tending to personal matters, etc.]. Once the decision was made, I knew I had to tell you straight away, as I understand the kind of position this now puts you in. I truly appreciate the time you’ve spent getting to know me and I want to thank you for inviting me to join such a great company.”

Timing Is Key

Speed is essential – I’m talking Olympic runner style. I cannot emphasize this enough. Once you’ve determined you no longer want to interview or work with an employer, you need to let the hiring manager or recruiter know immediately. Why? For one, you want to give the company as much time as you can to begin reaching out to other applicants. Secondly, transparency and sincerity are highly valued in the business world and by communicating your decision with the employer, you are opening up the opportunity to strengthen your professional network. 

The key takeaway here is to never ghost on an employer. Think about it. How would you feel if you were to swipe right, match with someone you’re really interested in, and have great conversations for weeks, only to find yourself sitting in a restaurant alone when they don’t show up for your date? Nor do they answer your calls or texts. Being stood up doesn’t feel good. Neither does being ghosted by a job seeker or new hire. So the moral of the story is, do not ghost on an employer or recruiter.

Michele Loizzi Written by:

Michele Loizzi is the Director of Recruitment Marketing Services at Human Edge.

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