QUESTION: Good morning, Mike. I have been having some issues with ghosting. I am not really sure if it is my presentation or something else. Any advice is appreciated. – Jim

ANSWER: I am not sure on the client or candidate side, or both, so I will go to both because it is such a phenomenal question.  We talked about this at length at our June Mastermind meeting. The theme was setting and managing expectations because this is both sides, the client and candidate. 

Let’s start with the candidates since candidate ghosting is a huge issue lately. Generally, when I make the diagnosis on this issue, I will ask about how the candidate engagement process takes the datasheet. 

I will ask these two specific questions: When you were doing the assessment, what was the exact, specific process you followed?  Did you get their agreement on how to communicate?  

Notice those words- exact, specific process – that you outlined with the candidate expectation-wise. The vast majority of the time, the recruiter will say, I did not follow a process or have that conversation.  

You can ask the same questions on the client-side. Did you agree on arranging interviews once you submitted a resume, preparing them about the candidate’s agenda before the first and second interviews, the debrief process, i.e., what did you like or dislike about the candidate and the offer stage? What was the exact, specific way you discussed that you were going to communicate with the client?  

All of those are processes on both the candidate and client sides, need to be negotiated. I will break it down.   

The process I went through, taught each of my recruiters to follow, and now teach our clients is as follows. When I got on the phone with a candidate, I would determine if that candidate is probably a fit.  If you determine that you will submit the candidate, I would say: “Mr. or Ms. Candidate, I need to know before we go forward; let’s just set some expectations on how we will talk to each other.”  

The point of saying this is to exchanging commitments. It is not giving them a to-do list, and you provide nothing in return. Let’s go through this step by step.  

You have assessed the candidate; there is a valid reason for them to consider a change. You know what they like about their current role and what their ideal next role looks like. You have also determined there is alignment between them and the opportunity. Let’s explore how the situation could play out. I will use your name, Jim since you asked the question.  

Since you said you are interested, Jim, I am going to submit your resume to my client later today or tomorrow. My agreement with the client is that we communicate within 24 hours. Even if there is a little slippage there because they are busy, I will be having a conversation with that individual in the next two days. I will call you back with one of two responses: They are interested, or they are not. Based on my assessment, I believe they will be interested. I need your commitment to the following steps. Once I get back to you, I need a 6 to 12-hour turnaround, especially in the interview process on these following items. 

  1. If I text you or send you a note that they are interested, I want to talk to you about the next steps, you will call me. You will not text me and say, let’s go over this via text. No.  Setting you up is a verbal process. I can be flexible when we have that conversation. It is probably going to be 5 or 10 minutes.  
    1. Then before the first interview, I want to spend about 15 or 20 minutes with you and go through a process where I give you a little more insight into the company and what the hiring manager’s expectations are to set you up to win the interview and come out in the best-case scenario. It is the first interview. You will probably not get an offer, but you will be clear on, I want to move forward, or I do not. I am okay either way. You do not have to feel bad about calling me after the first interview and telling me you do not like it.  

Notice all these things benefit the candidate. The critical point here is you want to make the candidate incredibly comfortable with no’s because I hate maybe’s. I will even say to the candidate, maybe to me means no, and that is okay. All I want are decisions. I will also tell the candidate that If I do not hear from them, that is a no. I am clear that I will not chase them. 

There are consequences if the candidate does not communicate with me. They are ghosting for a reason. Usually, the reason is that they are at the end of the process, and they are trying to buy time, waiting for another offer. No one ghosts a person when they are passionate about having something in their life. If you were starving and I said, I will text you with the food location, you would not blow that off, only if you had a full stomach—same thing. If a candidate wants a job and knows you are the source of it, and they do not get back to you, that is a pretty loud endorsement that it is not their number one opportunity.   

The way to prevent ghosting is by setting and managing expectations in advance. That is to say to the candidate, “If I do not hear from you, I am pulling you from the process.”  

When I coach clients on this process, they go to the negative and think that this will cause them to lose candidates. You never lose a candidate who wants the job. If anything, when you reward no’s, you do not beat them up for a no. You increase the likelihood of getting more responses.  You give the candidate a specific timeframe for feedback, so you have a rapid response.  

How I set up the expectation of rapid response is to say, “When you get out of an interview, you are in a race to talk to me before I talk to the hiring manager because here is what happens a lot of times, Mr. or Ms. Candidate, I will talk to a hiring manager, and they will say, ‘Hey, Mike, did you talk to Jim yet?’”  

I’m like, “No. I have not heard from him.” 

I cannot tell you how many times I heard from hiring managers, “Huh. I wonder how interested he is.”  

When the conversation progresses like this, the hiring manager begins disengaging from the candidate at some level. 

I always tell the candidate: “You want to get back in touch with me. Again, if you say it is not what I want, it is not what I thought it was, I am totally fine with that. I will ask you why so I can gain a little bit of clarity, and we can move on, and I will professionally withdraw you from the process.  

Mr. or Ms. Candidate, do I have your commitment that I will hear from you right after the interview? That is not 6 to 12 hours; that is like right after the interview. If the interview ends at 4:00, we are talking at 4:05 or 4:10. That is the type of urgency I want.”  

That is how I mitigate ghosting on the candidate side. I want to be in rapid communication so I can give that feedback to the client. You can negotiate any of these terms based on certain things that they tell you.  

Next week we will pick up the discussion with strategies to mitigate ghosting on the client-side.

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