Ghosting — Prevent Candidates Who Accept Your Offer From Disappearing

Ghosting in business is getting worse. The Washington Post reports that there was a 10- 20 percent increase in ghosting over the past year. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago for the first time even cited an uptick in ghosting in its recent economic activity report. If you’re not familiar with the term ghosting, during recruiting, it’s when a candidate stops merely responding to their recruiter.

Ghosting can occur among applicants and interviewees. However, the most damage to the firm occurs when a finalist who has already accepted your job offer “ghosts your firm.” Without any further communications, they just don’t show up on their first day. Losing those who have already accepted can be extremely expensive because you may have to settle on the No. 2 candidate, who is likely to be significantly weaker. Alternatively, if you must reopen the search, your recruiting costs will escalate, and it will extend the time where there is no one in the job to do the work, lowering team productivity. Fortunately, there is a range of simple, intuitive tools that can almost eliminate the chance that an offered candidate will ghost you.

The Goals of This Anti-Ghosting Toolkit

The tools in this anti-ghosting toolkit are effective because they contribute to several important goals. Those pre-boarding goals include:

  • Reinforcing the sale — remind and reinforce the many reasons why the new hire was initially attracted to the job and why it was superior to other opportunities.
  • Reminding them that they are expected/needed — actions and scheduled activities that reveal that the team has put together plans to make sure that the new hire feels welcomed and to ensure that they fit in. A related goal: remind the new hire how their contribution is essential. Let them know that team members are counting on them and the things that they will do for the team.
  • Getting the new hire to end their job search — take proactive actions to minimize the chances that the new hire will continue their job search and then receive and accept another competing offer.
  • Reducing new job anxiety — provide information covering common high-anxiety concerns. Increase interactions with the team to overcome fears that the new hire won’t fit within the group.

A Toolkit for Making Ghosting Disappear During the Preboarding Process

The anti-ghosting tools in this toolkit are designed to be applied during the “notice period.” Usually, two weeks is a long time between when a candidate quits their current job and starts their new one. Smart firms and recruiting leaders try to reduce the chances that the offered candidate will become a no-show, using a process known as pre-boarding. The following toolkit lists and describes tools that have proven themselves in the corporate world to dramatically reduce the chances that a new hire will ghost their firm.

The Top 20 Most Effective Actions for Reducing Ghosting Before a New Hire Starts

The different anti-ghosting tools listed below are broken into six categories. They are placed in bullet point format so that you can easily scan the titles of these tools until you find ones that are most relevant to your situation.

Category 1 — Reinforce their acceptance decision by reminding them that your firm is classy

Do some positive things that tell them that your firm is classy and that it trusts you as a new hire even before you start.

  • Send them a thank-you note — immediately thank them in writing for accepting your offer. Also reinforce the sale in that note by reminding them that they have chosen wisely by listing the factors that make your firm outstanding.
  • Send them “a startup package” before they start — for professional jobs, consider sending to their home a starter package that includes their mobile phone and laptop. Also, include their new business cards and message pads with their name on them. It will make them feel like they have already formally joined the team. Where feasible, let them know their future email address. This package will likely also show that you trust them and that you are invested in them. In that starter package, include a packet of company information, with links to websites, wikis, blogs, podcasts, company social media sites, and videos that describe and introduce them to your firm. Include in it a list of frequently asked questions with answers that you have gleaned from previous new hires. Give them a number to call if they have any questions or concerns, and a checklist covering everything to do, up to and including their first day.
  • Post a “joining announcement” — place an announcement that they are starting at your firm on your social media pages or even in the local newspaper. It can put peer pressure on them to show up. Send out an announcement tweet.
  • Assign them a mentor — show them that you will be supportive from the start. Assign them a peer buddy (as Google does) or a mentor. Have that individual contact them and begin helping the new hire during their “notice period.”

Category 2 — Proactive actions that will end their job search

Take proactive actions to encourage them to stop their job search activities immediately.

  • Ask them to stop job searching — if you’re bold, tell them that you expect them to cease all job-search activities immediately; moreover, to cease talking to recruiters.
  • Get them to quickly sign your offer letter — if you only have a verbal acceptance, get the formal offer letter out immediately. Encourage immediate signing and return of your official offer letter, because that might by itself increase the commitment level. If it is possible, do it quickly, and have it signed in your presence, because that will further reinforce the sale (consider taking a picture of both of you when they sign it).
  • Ask them to tell you when they officially quit — consider telling them that you expect them to resign immediately. Ask them to let you know when they have formally done so. Also, encourage new hires to change their LinkedIn and social media profiles so that they reflect their new employer.
  • Notify their references that they have accepted — consider notifying their references that they have accepted your offer. Thank them for their help. The references will likely call them with congratulations. Knowing that others know that they have committed will reinforce their need to show up on the first day.
  • Prepare for a counteroffer — within a few days after they accept. Specifically ask them if their boss is still actively fighting to keep them. Alternatively, assume that they will get a counteroffer from their boss, and be ready to make a counteroffer if your company allows it.

Category 3 — Do a few positive things that will draw them to work on their first day

Use a few of these first-day attraction tools to make them look forward to starting.

  • Make them aware of their first day scheduled activities — knowing that many important things are already scheduled for them will encourage them to show up for these first-day activities. Where possible, including the schedule of a welcome team meeting, luncheon, party, or a group picture. Where feasible, schedule a meeting with a senior manager or even the CEO to personally greet them on their first day.
  • A personalized welcome video can show that they are expected — send a personalized team video that reveals that everyone is excited about them joining. Or, send pictures of their work area with the team surrounding it. The picture reminds them that everything is set up and ready for them even before their first day.
  • Provide a “show up bonus” — if you’re really bold, offer a small “show up bonus” that they get on their first day of work. Or, after completing one month of work. If you offer them a sign-on bonus as part of their package, that will also increase their odds of showing on the first day.
  • Influence their families — send their families a welcome letter accompanied by small gifts, company logo T-shirts, and product samples. It will help them feel part of the team and encourage them to show up.

Category 4 — Actions that can reduce any first-day anxieties

Anxieties and fears are often primary reasons why new hires don’t show on their first day. Try to limit those anxieties by taking the following actions.

  • Reduce any “can’t do the job” fears — even though they accepted, they may still have serious doubts about whether they can actually “do the job.” Remind them that they clearly meet each of the job qualifications and that they are an excellent fit for the team. Let them know that their manager and everyone on the team is 100 percent confident that they will succeed. Also, let them know that if there is an area that they need to strengthen, further training can be scheduled on the first day. When feasible, give them their manager’s (or another teammate’s) direct number and encourage them to call should any issue arise.
  • Limit any confusion by providing them with first-day information well in advance — simply getting the work can create anxiety. Provide directions, parking information, what they should wear, and what they should bring or not bring the first day. Also, let them know their office location, phone number, email address, and the type of computer they will have. Make them aware that their physical worksite is ready for their arrival.
  • Provide Q&A covering previous new-hire concerns — show that you take reducing new-hire anxiety seriously by revealing that you survey new hires to identify any possible issues. Provide them by email or on a company website a comprehensive list of questions and answers relating to first-day anxiety.

Category 5 — Show them the economic and business impacts caused by no-shows

Make them fully aware of the problems that they cause their team in the firm when they don’t show the first day.

  • Make them aware of the negative team impacts from a no-show — some will rethink ghosting if you make them aware of the problems created when a new hire doesn’t show. Start by letting the new hire generally know the amount of time and money that was spent on their hiring. Also, make them aware of the added costs and the required added time it takes to restart the hiring process. Finally, let them know why not immediately filling the position will damage the team’s results and increase their workload.
  • Make them aware of the manager/recruiter impacts from a no-show — make them aware that not showing will affect the reputation of their manager and recruiter. Personalize those impacts by revealing that not showing may damage the hiring manager and the recruiter’s careers.

Category 6 — Increased networking builds relationships and cohesion

If a new hire has built a network within the firm, it increases the likelihood that they will show up on the first day.

  • Facilitate the building of their internal network — the process of building their internal network before they start will help to increase their commitment. Start by sending brief bios of their soon-to-be teammates and encourage two-way communications. Request that teammates send them invitations to connect on LinkedIn and safe social media sites. Encourage one single coworker to be their “champion” for encouraging teammates to connect immediately.
  • Plan frequent contact from the recruiter and the hiring manager — direct contact is the No. 2 most powerful relationship-builder. Both their recruiter and their manager should use a CRM approach to ensure that they periodically connect with the new hire at least twice during their notice period. Skype calls may be the most powerful approach. And with high priority or at risk new hires, schedule at least one offsite face-to-face meeting over drinks, coffee, lunch, or dinner within 10 days after accepting.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, in times of low unemployment, ghosting by people who have already accepted your offer becomes much more common. In a market where it’s extremely difficult to find replacements, a single no-show will likely cause a cascade of problems. Once you understand the reasons behind ghosting by new hires, it’s relatively easy to find a simple and intuitive tool to counter that ghosting cause. If you don’t already have a preboarding process that focuses on minimizing ghosting, you should immediately begin developing one. You will find the ROI of these anti-ghosting tools to be extremely high.

Author’s Note: If this article stimulated your thinking and provided you with actionable tips, follow or connect with me on LinkedIn, subscribe to the ERE Daily, and hear me and others speak at ERE’s event in Washington, D.C. in October.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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