New-Hire Ghosting Is Back – The Definitive Guide For Preventing It – Part I and Part II

Today’s hires can be arrogant, so use proven preboarding best practice tools to stop new-hire no-shows.

Because the competition for talent during the post-Covid turnaround is so great. New hires in many industries have many, many choices. And as a result of those choices, that old irritating candidate practice is known as “new-hire ghosting” has returned. It is where a top candidate has accepted your job offer and agreed to a starting date. Then simply, without even the courtesy of a call, they don’t show up on their first day of work.

Of course, as a benefit when this happens, you now definitively know that your new-hire would have been arrogant. Unfortunately, this unanticipated loss of an employee also means that your staff will be overworked for some additional time. And it also means that your customers will suffer and that you may have to repeat the entire painful and costly hiring process again. 

Of course, you can complain to yourself about how the world and candidates are going to hell. But a superior approach is to realize that “the balance of power has shifted” back to the candidate. And as a result, you now must take proactive actions during the preboarding process to completely eliminate first-day no-shows. 

Incidentally, if you’re not familiar with the term “preboarding.” It is the time between offer acceptance and their showing up the first day. Fortunately, there are numerous company actions that can be taken that can effectively eliminate new-hire ghosting. And in this article, I have provided the top cheap and easy-to-implement actions that you can browse through in order to find the ones that best fit your new-hire ghosting situation and your organization’s culture. 

The Most Effective New-Hire Anti-Ghosting Best Practices And Tools 

Each of these preboarding new-hire anti-ghosting approaches are designed to meet one of six basic goals. In the following section, you can find the first three goals and the 18 recommended actions under each goal. (The remaining three goals can be found in Part II of this article).

Anti-ghosting Goal 1 – Immediately end their job search so they won’t fail to show because of a new job offer 

Even though they’ve accepted your offer, whether you believe it to be ethical or not, some new-hires will continue to receive (and sometimes accept) offers that were already in their job search pipeline. To permanently stop the flow of offers, it’s important that you take proactive actions to encourage them to end their job search activities and conversations with recruiters immediately.

  1. Get them to quickly sign your offer letter – because signing your offer letter may make them feel like it’s a done deal if the candidate has only accepted your verbal offer. Get them your formal offer as quickly as possible. And tell them that you expect them to sign and return it immediately. Because that signing might by itself increase their commitment level. If it is possible, have them sign the offer acceptance letter in your presence because that will further reinforce the sale (consider giving them a picture of everyone when they sign it). 
  2. Directly ask them to stop job-searching – don’t hesitate to simply tell them that you expect them to cease all job-search activities immediately. And to cease talking to recruiters. And if you’re bold, ask them to agree to these stipulations formally.
  3. Ask them to tell you when they officially quit – if they are currently employed, many will delay telling their boss that they are quitting for various reasons. So first, tell them that you expect them to tell your boss immediately. And then, if you’re bold, consider asking them to let you know the exact day and time when their boss formally accepted their resignation. 
  4. Tell them you expect them to change their social media profiles – it’s harder to renege after you’ve publicly declared your new commitment. So tell them that you expect them to reveal their commitment to your firm publicly. By immediately changing their LinkedIn and social media profiles so that they now list your firm as their employer. If you’re unsure, check to make sure that they have actually met your expectations.
  5. Turn off the “I’m open to new job opportunities” LinkedIn notification flag – one of the most important indicators that they stop searching is when they turn off their LinkedIn “open the new opportunities” notice. So ask them to change their company affiliation on their LinkedIn profile. Specifically, ask them to also take down their LinkedIn “open to new job opportunities” notification.
  6. Notify their references that they have accepted – when they are aware that their references know that they have made a commitment. This will reinforce their need to show up on the first day. So if you’re bold, consider proactively notifying their references that they have accepted your offer and thank them for their help. You might also ask top references to make referrals in the future.
  7. Prepare for a counter-offer – it is highly likely that their boss will decide to give them a counteroffer at the last minute. So it’s essential that you prepare for a counteroffer by compiling a list of compelling arguments covering why they shouldn’t even consider it. Next, make a list of what you might be willing to do to meet the counteroffer. And finally, what you will do if they happen to accept it.

Goal 2 – Take positive actions that will draw them to work on their first day

You can do many things that will significantly build their interest in coming to work the first day. 

  1. Start by prioritizing your new-hires – because we all have limited resources. So it makes sense to prioritize your new-hires for anti-ghosting purposes. So that you give top priority to those jobs and individuals that will have the highest negative impact if they don’t show up.
  2. Alleviate any fear that they may get Covid 19 one of the primary reasons for not showing during the pandemic has been that the new-hire’s (or their family’s) fear that their new workplace won’t be safe. So tell them when you have had zero cases. And provide them with a list of the steps that you’ve taken to ensure employee safety.
  3. Make them aware of their activities that are scheduled for the first day – many don’t show up because they think there’ll be no consequences to the organization if they don’t. So show them that you have already invested in them. And that the work that they have done will go to waste if they don’t show. The easiest approach to make them aware of your investment is to send them a personalized first-day schedule of their activities. So they can see the many people that are counting on them. Where possible, include a team welcoming meeting, a luncheon, a party, or a team picture-taking event in their first-day schedule. Where feasible, schedule a meeting with a senior manager. And if you’re really bold, have your CEO personally greet them on their first day.
  4. A personalized welcome video can show that they are expected – consider sending them a personalized, but informal, team mobile phone video. It reveals that everyone on the team is excited about them joining. Another important action is to send them pictures of their work area with the team standing around it because this can remind them that everything is set up and ready for them before their first day. 
  5. Influence their families – because their family can be instrumental in encouraging them to meet this commitment. For example, send their families a welcome letter accompanied by small gifts, company logo T-shirts, product discounts, and product samples. So that family members will also already feel that they are part of the team. And that might cause them to actively discourage your new-hire from dropping out.
  6. Provide a “show up bonus” – many firms are now offering their new-hires a small “show up bonus” (usually under $100). However, they only get a bonus if they show up for their first day of work (or after completing one month of work). If you offer them a sign-on bonus as part of their offer package. Make it a requirement that they show up on their first day in order to earn.
  7. If you’re really bold and you want to get their attention – consider these bold approaches. Send them an Uber ride to and from work on their first day. Or send the family a free high-end Grubhub meal for the whole family the day before the start. Also, consider sending them a truly personal welcoming letter from the CEO as part of preboarding. Also, consider following IBM’s lead and offering each new-hire voluntary online learning opportunities before they start work. And finally, encourage them to begin acting as a brand ambassador for our firm immediately. By openly “talking the organization up” among their friends and current colleagues.

Goal 3 – Reinforce their decision by reminding them that your firm is first-class

Even though you told them already, reminding them about the factors that make your firm a highly desirable place to work will further encourage them to show up on the first day. Look for opportunities to show the factors that make the firm a best place to work. 

  1. Send them “a startup package” before their first day – this action is listed first. Because even though it’s not easy, it will guarantee that this employee will show up the first day. So for professional-level jobs, why not WOW them before they even start. Do this by sending “a starter package” to their home that includes their mobile phone and laptop. Also include message pads with their name on them and business cards to make them feel like they have already formally joined the team. Where feasible, let them know their future email address and give them access to it. This expensive package will likely also show that you trust them (with thousands of dollars worth of equipment) and that you are 100% invested in them. In this starter package. When appropriate, 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 (survey previous hires to see what they found to be helpful). Include in it a list of frequently asked questions with answers that you have gleaned from previous new-hires. And if you’re bold, give them a number to call (their manager, their recruiter, their peer buddy, or a key teammate) if they have any questions or concerns. And finally, provide them with a one-page checklist covering everything they should or could be doing prior to their first day. 
  2. Assign them a peer buddy mentor – one of the most powerful preboarding actions is to show them that someone will be waiting to welcome them on the first day. So before they even start, assign them a peer buddy (as Google does). Then, have that peer buddy (or mentor) contact them and begin talking with the new-hire at least several days before starting. Also, ask their peer buddy to schedule a first-day lunch meeting with them. And to call them the afternoon before to remind them that everyone is looking forward to meeting them. Having a peer buddy/mentor might also help minimize any fears they may have about the company and the job.
  3. Send them a personalized thank you note – the cheapest option that still has a major impact is sending them a thank you note. Start by immediately sending them a written personalized “thank you note” for accepting your offer. This action will show them that you are responsive (and because it is on paper, it will be a constant reminder). Also, consider sending them a “reinforce the sale” email, which is a marketing approach that reminds them that they have chosen wisely. Include in that email a listing of the top factors that make your organization outstanding. They might include the best place to work towards, glassdoor.com ratings, popular worker amenities, and key features about your values and culture.
  4. Post a “they have joined announcement” – once the public knows that you have joined our organization, it will be extremely hard not to show up on the first day. So if you are bold, create an announcement that this named new-hire has started at your firm. And then place these announcements in your organization’s social media pages. Or if you can afford it, in the local newspaper. Sending out a “this new hire joined our organization” announcement on Twitter can also be a good idea.

Part II – it covers the remaining three new-hire ghosting goals and the best practice tools needed to meet each of them.

Anti-ghosting Goal 4 – Actions that can reduce the new hire’s first-day anxieties

You shouldn’t be surprised to know that strong anxieties and fears are often the primary reason why a new hire doesn’t show on their first day. So, try to limit those anxieties by taking the following “anxiety-reducing actions.”

  1. Limit any uneasiness by providing them with “first-day showing up information” – Anxieties about what will happen during their first day should not be ignored. New hires may have anxiety about getting to work and what will happen during the first day. Proactively provide new hires with crystal clear transportation directions, parking information, what they should wear, the available lunch options, and what they should bring or not bring the first day. Also, where possible, send them a picture of their workstation. Let them know their office location, phone number, email address, the type of computer they will have, and make them aware that their physical worksite is already prepared for their arrival.
  2. Reduce any “can’t do the job” fears with a prescheduled call – some new hires (especially those that are moving up a level or changing functions) may feel like they are “an imposter.” Even though you liked them, they, unfortunately, think that they have “fooled you.” And as a result, they still have serious doubts that they can’t actually “do the job.” This fear of “being caught as an imposter” is surprisingly often a primary reason why they don’t show up on day 1. Schedule a call for several days before they start and proactively remind them that they meet each of the job qualifications and are a great fit for the team. Let them know that the manager and everyone on the team are 100% confident that they will succeed. Also, let them know that this team simply assumes that every new hire will need some training. So, if they were to have an area that needed to be strengthened, additional training will be scheduled for them during the first week. Finally, when feasible, give them the direct number of their assigned “onboarding partner” (it can be their manager, another teammate, or their peer buddy, and encourage them to call their onboarding partner when any major issue arises.
  3. Provide Q&A covering previous new-hire concerns – show that you have empathy and want to answer all of their questions. By revealing that you have surveyed all recent new hires to identify any unforeseen first-day issues. And then on your corporate website or via email. Provide this new hire with a current list covering all of the likely new-hire questions (and their answers) pertaining to their first day of onboarding. 

Anti-ghosting Goal 5 – Show them the economic and business impacts caused by no-shows 

Based on the premise that new hires will be less likely to ghost us if they are fully aware of the problems they will cause their team and the organization if they don’t show the first day.

  1. Make them aware of the negative team impacts caused by a no-show – some new hires will rethink ghosting if you make them fully aware of the many problems they will create if they don’t show on the first day. Start by letting them know, on your corporate website or via email, generally the amount of time and money spent on their hiring. Also, make them aware of the added pain, costs, and the required added manager time if the hiring process must be restarted. Finally, let them know how not immediately filling the position (if you don’t show) will damage the team’s results and increase their workload over the next few weeks.
  2. Make them aware of the manager/recruiter impacts created by a no-show – many new hires get extremely close with their recruiter. So it also makes sense for the recruiter to make them fully aware of how being a no-show will unfortunately negatively affect their reputation as a recruiter (and perhaps also the reputation of their hiring manager). 

Goal 6 – Increased networking within the company will make them feel less like a stranger

Some new hires ghost on the first day because they feel like a stranger. They don’t know anyone in the organization other than their recruiter. You can minimize that “feeling like a stranger” by helping the new-hire build and utilize their network that includes team and business unit members before they start. To do that, their preboarding partner or peer buddy suggests some names that they should contact. Also, encourage those contacts to, when appropriate, reach out to the new hire.

  1. Facilitate the immediate building of their internal network, so they don’t feel like strangers – having a strong internal network will increase the odds the new hire will succeed. So jumpstarting the network-building process before they start will help to increase their commitment. And it will make them feel less like strangers in the team and the organization. Start by sending them brief bios of their soon-to-be teammates and strongly encouraging both sides to begin communications. Next, request that each teammate send the new hire a personal invitation to connect on LinkedIn and other safe industry sites. The manager should select one single coworker to be the team’s assigned preboarding buddy. This individual will serve as a team’s “champion.” Part of their duties is to encourage every other teammate to connect and communicate with the new hire immediately.
  2. Plan frequent contacts with the recruiter and the hiring manager – because direct contact is the #1 most powerful relationship builder. Both their recruiter and their manager must use a customer relationship management approach to ensure that they periodically connect with the new hire at least twice after accepting the offer but before they start. Whenever this particular new hire is in a high-impact job or when they are highly “at risk of not showing.” It is a good idea to prescheduled at least two zoom meetings with the recruiter or manager. Or, when possible because of the pandemic, at least one off-site face-to-face meeting over drinks, coffee, lunch, or dinner within 10 days after accepting.

Final Thoughts

Preboarding is, unfortunately, an often-omitted phase of the complete onboarding process. Preboarding begins when an offer is accepted and ends on the new hire’s starting date. It should also be considered as the last component of the “candidate experience.” Preboarding is primarily designed to get new hires to show up and be completely prepared for their first day of work. Typical preboarding activities include providing information, frequent contacts, providing training, benefits sign-ups, and taking actions to increase their commitment to the firm before they start. 

Ghosting can occur among applicants, interviewees, and with new-hires. However, the most damage to the firm occurs when there is new-hire ghosting. Losing those that have already accepted can be extremely expensive. Mostly because you often have to settle on the #2 candidate, which is likely to be significantly weaker than your first choice. And if you have to reopen the search, your recruiting costs will escalate. But it will also extend the position vacancy time, where there is no one to do the work. As a result, productivity is lowered, and team stress increases. You should also pay attention to “the candidate experience.” Because ghosting sometimes occurs because it is a candidate’s final chance to get even when they feel that they were treated inappropriately during the hiring process. 

Unfortunately, as many as 25% of new-hires (especially in lower-wage jobs and among college hires) simply don’t show up for work on their first day. So if you don’t already have a preboarding process to combat this evil, you should immediately develop one that includes several of the above tools because you will find that the ROI of any of these listed anti-ghosting tools will be extremely high.

Author’s Note 

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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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