Do You Ghost Your Applicants?

There is a disturbing trend among employers – ghosting job applicants. Okay, it’s not really a new trend, it’s been happening for decades. But you may have noticed that the environment is changing, and people are a little more sensitive and more aware of their rights than ever before.

If you aren’t familiar with the term, “ghosting” refers to the practice of suddenly cutting off all communication with someone without any explanation. In the context of hiring, it means not responding to job applicants’ emails or phone calls, even after they have gone through the interview process.

While ghosting might look like an easy way to deal with job applicants you’re no longer interested in, this practice can have serious consequences for your business. Here are a few reasons why you should avoid ghosting your job applicants:

1. Damage to your company’s reputation: Ghosting sends a message to job seekers that your company is not concerned with them and can be interpreted as disrespectful and unprofessional. If you treat job applicants poorly, they are likely to share their negative experience with others, which could harm your brand and make it more difficult to attract top talent in the future.

Think for a moment where most of your job applicants live. Do they live in your community? Do they work in your industry? Do they know people and talk to people who are also in your community and industry?

And beyond the self-interest side of things for you and your business, how do you feel about treating people this way? Is this how you would want to be treated?

2. Lost opportunities to build relationships: Even if you do not hire a particular applicant, treating them with respect and providing feedback can help you build relationships with talented individuals who may be a good fit for future positions or for your network. If you ghost them, you are missing out on the opportunity to establish valuable connections.

3. Legal risks: Failing to communicate with job applicants can lead to legal issues, such as discrimination claims. If an applicant feels that they were rejected because of their race, gender, age, or other protected characteristics, they may take legal action. And if you didn’t communicate with them, who’s to say they’re wrong? People fill in the gaps to stories. Leaving a huge gap at the end of your hiring process could set you up for any number of claims against you.

Ghosting can also put your company at risk of breaching the law or violating regulatory requirements. For more on legal issues, see the addendum below.

4. Negative impact on your current employees: Ghosting can have a negative impact on your current employees, too. If you fail to respond to job applicants, what do your current team members think of this practice? Does it engender a sense of value and belonging? Or could it be interpreted as seeing people as expendable and replaceable? What’s the impact on your workplace culture? If you claim that people are valuable and that “they are our greatest asset”, then put your actions where your mouth is and show them this is true.

So, what can you do instead of ghosting? The best way to handle job applicants you are no longer interested in is to be honest and communicate clearly. If you decide not to hire an applicant, let them know as soon as possible, and provide constructive feedback, if at all possible. This not only helps the applicant understand why they were not selected, but it also helps them to improve their skills and prepare for future job opportunities. Remember the relationships item above?

Ghosting job applicants is a bad idea on many levels. Your convenience may be doing damage to your brand, limiting your opportunities, putting you at risk, and undermining the culture you want.  Instead, treat job applicants with respect. Communicate with them. They put themselves out there for you. They were interested in you. They started with a positive impression. Don’t ruin that. Remember, a company’s success is ultimately dependent on its employees, so it’s important to treat them well at every stage of the hiring process.


More on the legal issues you might encounter…

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. This is not legal advice. This is based on research and hopefully helps you with questions you can ask of your attorney to get actual legal advice.

Failing to communicate with job applicants after they have gone through the hiring process can put business owners at risk of legal issues, such as discrimination claims. This is because the failure to communicate with an applicant may be seen as an adverse employment action, which can be illegal if it is based on protected characteristics such as age, race, gender, or disability.

For example, if an employer interviews a job applicant who is over 40 years old and later decides not to hire that applicant but fails to communicate this decision or provide any feedback, the applicant may claim that they were discriminated against on the basis of their age. If the applicant can show that the employer’s failure to communicate was based on their age, the employer could be found liable for discrimination.

Consider if this might apply based on gender, orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. Any protected class of person might decide that your decision to ghost them was based on this. If you don’t communicate with them and close the loop, you are leaving it up to them to interpret your actions.  

In addition to discrimination claims, business owners who ghost job applicants may also face legal consequences for violating federal or state labor laws. Some states have specific laws that require employers to provide job applicants with certain information, such as a copy of the job description, the pay rate, or the anticipated work schedule. If an employer fails to provide this information and subsequently decides not to hire the applicant, they may be in violation of these laws and could face penalties.

The potential consequences for business owners who are found to have violated employment laws can be severe, including monetary damages, legal fees, and damage to your reputation. In addition, violating employment laws can harm a company’s reputation and make it more difficult to attract and retain top talent in the future. Therefore, it is important for business owners to take the hiring process seriously, and to communicate with job applicants in a timely and respectful manner.

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