As the economy has grown stronger and the hiring market has flipped from employer-centric to candidate-focused, a phenomenon usually tied to dating has begun to seep into the business world. Workplace ghosting is on the rise, but if you’re considering ghosting your job, think again. This short-sighted behavior could damage your career over the long term.
Before we examine why interview ghosting and job ghosting are bad ideas, we must first answer the question, “What is ghosting a job?” The term “ghosting” originated in the dating world and refers to the practice of cutting off all communication with a person with no explanation. Interview ghosting is when an applicant accepts an interview request but doesn’t show up. Job ghosting can be used to mean a new hire who never arrives for their first day of work or an established employee who simply stops coming to work. In all cases, the individual’s disappearance is accompanied by zero further communication.
In romance, this behavior seems immature and callous, but in the professional realm, workplace ghosting can severely impact a company’s production and profitability. Ghosting your job harms your employer, your coworkers, and your reputation.
It’s a good time to be a job seeker in the US – the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 50 years (3.7%), there are more job openings than unemployed persons to fill them, and nearly twice as many people are quitting their jobs as being laid off. Many companies are struggling to find qualified workers and talented professionals often have multiple offers to consider.
This abundance of opportunity has made interview ghosting and job ghosting more prevalent. Who cares if I ghost this employer? I can find a better job somewhere else. That might be true now, but the economy can turn on a dime. If the job market suddenly flips again, you may find yourself out of options.
This phenomenon didn’t start with millennials ghosting jobs. It’s a learned behavior, and many employers who now complain about workplace ghosting exhibited a similar disregard for job seekers during the last recession. When the number of unemployed persons per job opening topped out at 6.4 in July 2009, it was accepted that recruiters and hiring managers would cut off contact with applicants. No one was talking about “ghosting” then.
Back then the term was “black hole.” As in, I applied for a job and my resume must have fallen into a black hole because I haven’t heard anything since. It was rude for employers to do that to applicants a decade ago and it’s impolite for job seekers to return the favor today.
You may think ghosting your job won’t come back to haunt you, but the world is surprisingly small, and your particular field or industry is even smaller. The recruiter who is a victim of your interview ghosting at one employer may go on to be head of HR at a company you love. Or, the coworker you leave holding the bag when ghosting your job may go on to launch the next big startup.
Predicting the future is impossible, so err on the side of courtesy and caution. Networking plays a huge role in career success, and you can’t afford to dismiss contacts or burn bridges. Also, don’t forget that many companies perform thorough background and reference checks, so it’s in your best interest to stay on good terms with your previous employers.
At its core, workplace ghosting is just plain rude. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind about interviewing for a job, deciding you no longer want to accept a position, or choosing to move on from an employer as long as you let the other party know. Being polite and considerate only costs a few moments of your time, but keeping your professional relationships intact may help you land your dream job later.