The practice of ghosting throws professional courtesy out the window

Failing to show up for a job interview or for work without formally quitting used to be something left for the inexperienced or not-so-serious job searcher or worker. It now seems to be more common – you see it in all industries and all levels, from entry to senior. Such “ghosting” is on the rise, and workers, candidates and employers are all part of the problem.

“Communication methods have changed – e-mail, text, social media – there is a lack of formality and with that notions of being polite and courteous may go out the window,” says Beth Zoller, legal editor for XpertHR. “There are also different societal generations in the workplace with different cultural norms. Individuals may shy away from difficult conversations and may pursue other options for better pay, benefits, child care and work/life balance.”

With unemployment numbers low, candidates or new hires may feel that options are at their fingertips and that they are solely in charge. It’s true that we’re all responsible for our own careers. We also are responsible for our reputation, and ghosting is going to have a negative effect – especially in the work world where everyone knows everyone, and back-door (unofficial) references are common.

On the flip side, candidates and new hires may just be giving back what they have been taking for years: an often impersonal, unprofessional process for recruitment and on-boarding (bringing on new hires). Instead of the potential employer routinely ignoring their calls, the candidate is doing so. In addition, when the new hire starts, there still is too often a complete lack of preparation on behalf of the employer. The workstation has not been established. Computer access has not been set up. Nobody, including the team, knows that a new team member starts work that day.

Two wrongs do not make a right. Perhaps now is the time to put some simple, courteous approaches into the workplace.

For candidates, if you do not want the job, call the interview lead and withdraw from the competition. Briefly explain why, and there is nothing wrong with being as vague as “It just does not feel right for me.” This way, you give the employer the respect they provided you in extending an offer – remember, you may find yourself interviewing for a more suitable role at that employer in the future.

The same advice goes for new hires. Most employers establish probationary periods for new hires, allowing them to release the new hire if they feel it is not working out, without any explanation or repercussions. But the probation period is a two-way street. Either the employer or the new hire can terminate the employment without hard feelings within the established probation period.

Employers have a role to play as well.

In the interview process, be open and honest with candidates. Tell them when you will get back to them about next steps – and honour that timeline. If timelines get moved, tell the candidates. In addition, interview candidates in person wherever possible: Do not rely on Skype or some artificial-intelligence mechanism. If employers want the candidates to be personal with them, then they need to be personal back – and set the tone. Once a candidate clearly will not be going further in the hiring process, call and tell that person. Do not send a text, e-mail or, worse, just drop them. Take some time to give them feedback so they can be successful in future interviews.

In addition, employers should use this opportunity to showcase the role and the company, creating a sense of pride, honesty and inclusiveness, something that many candidates value.

“The employer should be transparent and truthful about the job and the individual’s duties and responsibilities and what they can expect,” Ms. Zoller says.

Ensure your company has a great on-boarding process, one built by employees who know what it means to feel welcome and included, especially in the early days of the role. This is not about forms to fill out: It’s about ensuring new hires have the tools, both physical and mental, to be happy with this new opportunity. Employers need to communicate that they are as delighted to have the new hire, as much as the new hire is happy to be starting a new job.

Ending ghosting is comparatively simple: Both sides simply need to show up, and do their part by practising some common recruitment and workplace courtesies.