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Why are PR recruiters haunted by ghosting candidates?

Earlier this month, Neha Mathur Rastogi, Founder of sports PR firm Wordswork took to Linkedin to share her experience of being ghosted by a candidate who had travelled far in the recruitment process.

Rastogi shared in her post, "I have had two instances of people getting into advanced stages of negotiation, taking an offer, showing all the signs of coming on board and disappearing in the last minute. We wasted time and the effort we could have put into continuing our search."

Is ghosting at work gaining ground?

PR insiders say that this trend has been growing in the last 5 years and has gained further ground post Covid.

Candidate experience can decide if its a yes or no: Sudipta Gupta

Sudipta Gupta, HR director at HiveMinds (A Madison World Company) says the trend is seen mainly at junior levels. She explains, " I believe the major reason behind this behaviour is overall candidate immaturity and state of confusion towards career goals. Today’s job market is good for digital talent, so there are many job options at entry levels. Therefore, those who are in 0-3 year experience bands get confused and keep trying to get better offers till the date of joining."

Amit Gupta, founder: The Reppro, agrees saying, "Fundamentally, this boils down to the maturity of individuals in the conversation.  Often, candidates are retained or they renegotiate with the current organization basis the offer – which is ok – as long as they make their position clear to the employer in time so that an offer can be made to the next best candidate."

Pankaj Suri, executive VP, HR, Edelman India, "Ghosting mostly occurs at junior levels, where a candidate may be too fresh in the corporate world to understand far-reaching consequences of leaving a conversation incomplete and with no information. 

At mid and senior levels, this phenomenon is rare but is happening more frequently in today’s date.

Sometimes it boils down to one’s mental makeup and values – some candidates are uncomfortable announcing that they’re reneging on a commitment. They feel embarrassed about it and hence, think that avoidance is better than facing up and telling HR that they’re dropping out of a process after accepting an offer."

Take candidate feedback on the hiring process: Ritika Sood

Ritika Sood, manager - of HR & Talent at Regional PR, feels that "Sometimes candidates vanish after getting a job offer because they might have other offers too, making it tricky for them to respond right away. Other times, personal situations change suddenly, causing them to rethink their job choice. Some candidates may be nervous about saying no to a job, so they avoid it.

Employers can do better by talking to candidates regularly during the hiring process. A friendly and respectful atmosphere during interviews helps. Also, employers can clearly explain when they need candidates to reply and what's expected of them."

The candidate view

However, candidates can also feel that they are being ghosted.  

Pratishtha Kaura, a marketing communications professional says, "Some time ago in a group of friends, we had this conversation that these days getting ghosted on dating apps and by HR professionals has become quite common. And though we had a good laugh on it, it is worth noting that it's not only potential candidates who might end up ghosting employers but it happens the other way round as well. 

Both are not healthy I believe, especially in the business of communications if one cannot clearly communicate and set the right expectations. Irrespective of whether a person didn't qualify or if they didn't fit into the current required roles, there must be a response that should go from the HR teams to the candidates post the recruitment discussions and interviews are done."

How recruiters can address the job ghosting challenge 

Sudipta Gupta, who formerly led HR at the Bengaluru-based PR firm, The PRactice, outlines the main way to address the challenge of candidate ghosting saying, "Candidates feel that they have many job options, especially those from younger generations like the millennials and Gen Z. 

Candidate experience has become the main differentiator to be the ‘chosen one’. 

Maintain a good Turn-Around-Time (TAT) to respond to candidates at every stage of the hiring process. Automation can help to respond promptly to candidates, facilitating more engagement with them. Offer constructive feedback to candidates and help ‘trainable’ candidates prepare better for the next interview rounds."

Sood says, "Employers can ask candidates how their experience was and use their feedback to make things better. Through this way everyone can trust each other and candidates are less likely to disappear."

Gupta also recommends, "Starting the onboarding process as soon as the candidate accepts the offer". Equally important Gupta says companies can establish a buddy system, "Assigning a mentor or buddy to new hires to help them integrate into the team and answer questions during their initial weeks"

Amit Gupta suggests that, "Organizations could invest more time in giving role clarity and being transparent about tasks that a role will entail. Often roles are made to look more glamorous than they actually are and job titles smack of more privilege than there’s to the role in reality.

I have always stated to my managerial role hires that they’d be functional managers, meaning they’d be performing some tasks themselves, in addition to enabling their team do the same."

As the PR job market shifts with more options available at the early career end, recruiters have to work harder to minimise being ghosted.

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