(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
A disturbing and growing behavior in this country is affecting countless small and large businesses: prospective employees are turning into ghosts.
“Ghosting” happens when a prospective employee goes through all the steps of your company’s hiring process, accepts the job that you have offered … and then doesn’t show up to work because – in most cases – a better offer came along.
What kind of behavior is this? Apparently, a very popular one. A new survey of 2,800 workers from across nearly 30 US cities conducted by job search firm Robert Half found 28% of workers had backed out of offers at the last minute after initially saying yes.
The reasons? Almost half (44%) said it was because they “received a better offer from another company”. Others received counter-offers from their current employers or heard things about the new company that they “didn’t actually like”.
As you can imagine, the impact of these actions are disruptive, particularly to a smaller company. By the time an offer is made and accepted it’s likely that the competing candidates were told of the decision and moved on. Managers may feel let down. Plans probably need to be changed. Paperwork has to be thrown out.
“Having cold feet is understandable; ghosting an employer is unacceptable,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half. “Even though it may seem easier to avoid an awkward situation, transparency is always the best policy during a job search. If you have a change of heart after accepting a position, be honest with the hiring manager.”
I agree that this type of behavior is unacceptable, and if it happens to you, you have every right to be furious. “Frankly, it’s like a punch in the stomach,” one of my clients who went through the experience told me. “I would never hire that person again.”
But is that the right response? I’m not so sure.
There’s no doubt that some employees today are a little too confident about their job security. You can’t blame them – the economy is growing and our unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in 50 years. The memories of the 2009 recession have faded. Jobs are plentiful and many employers are desperate to find good workers. But here’s the thing: it’s not going to last. The economy will eventually turn south and people – many people – are ultimately going to lose their jobs. This always happens. And the employees who ghosted are going to find themselves avoiding some prospective employers because of their behavior.
So what would you do if a qualified applicant who once ghosted you suddenly shows back up looking for work? Some employers would slam the door right in his face. But not me. Why?
Just ask any experienced business owner. They will tell you that this kind of stuff happens all the time and in many different areas of their business. Customers say they will pay and they don’t. Suppliers are late on a promised delivery. Partners don’t step up to the plate like they said they would. Current employees don’t always do what they said they would do. Now, it’s prospective employees who agree to an offer and then back off. You learn that people are going to do what’s in their best interest and you should do what’s in yours.
It may come as a shock when a prospective employee ghosts you before even starting. Let’s hope they do it in a way that’s professional and transparent. But if you have a chance to hire that person again, then my advice to other business owners is to take the high road and keep the door open. If that person brings a level of skills to your organization that could potentially put more money in your pocket, keep your emotions out of it and profit.