Don’t pull a disappearing act

In a strong job market, workers are ghosting interviews and blowing off jobs, but the long-term repercussions make that an unwise move.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

This past June, LinkedIn published an article about the new nightmare in business circles: employee “ghosting.”

It was followed a month later by a USA Today feature on the same subject, which noted: “In the hottest job market in decades, workers are holding all the cards. And they’re starting to play dirty. A growing number are ‘ghosting’ their jobs: blowing off scheduled job interviews, accepting offers but not showing up the first day, and even vanishing from existing positions — all without giving notice.”

According to USA Today, up to 50% of job applicants are blowing off their scheduled interviews, which is frankly mind-blowing.

Hiring managers need only look in a mirror to see where these candidates learned this behavior.

Both articles note this trend is not exactly new — employers themselves have been doing this for years to applicants — but there’s a whole lot of hand-wringing over the fact that the worm has turned and now workers are the ones not returning calls or emails and going completely silent.

It’s an interesting dilemma a lot of workers now find themselves in. Just a decade ago, during the height of the Great Recession, finding a job was a task unto itself, and many highly qualified candidates felt the frequent sting of rejection as employers curtailed hiring and the rest had their pick of the litter among applicants.

Now with the shoe on the other foot, candidates are starting to find themselves spoiled for choice, and if they neglect to cancel an interview or decide at the last minute not to tell their brand new employer that they opted to take a different, better offer instead, well, hiring managers need only look in a mirror to see where these candidates learned this behavior.

While I’m pretty staunchly in the corner of the workers on this one as a matter of principle, in practice ghosting on an interview or new job is just plain stupid.

Why? Let’s look at the parallels in the dating world, where ghosting became in vogue. If you ghost someone you’ve been on a date with, what’s the worst that can happen? Maybe you run into that person again and it’s awkward. Maybe he or she tells a friend who tells a friend who tells a friend, and you wind up not getting a date with someone else because they heard you’re a jerk. Honestly, that’s kind of it for drawbacks. Even in a city like Madison that often feels smaller than it is, there are plenty of other fish out there to satisfy your dating prospects, whether they lean casual or more serious.

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Conversely, many industries are small, and the people who work in them often talk to one another. People in HR are going to keep lists of the candidates who ghost them, and you can bet many of those names will be shared among their colleagues. If the idea of being single is scary, imagine being single without a job because that’s really what’s at stake.

The obvious lesson here is when you ghost on a job, that decision could come back to haunt you. It might hurt your chances of landing another job in your field in the same city or region, and it almost definitely closes the door on any future opportunities with the employer you just rebuffed.

Ghosting also hurts you in less tangible ways. It’s a good indicator that you’re afraid of conflict, you’re unreliable and don’t know how to follow through on projects, and you’re selfish. Those are qualities that will doom your long-term career aspirations much more than the act of ghosting itself.

Ultimately, you want to be better than the employer who never calls to let you know you didn’t get the job because you just never know — someday you might be the one doing the hiring, and wouldn’t it suck if people started ghosting you?

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