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Exorcising your ghost employees

Prevent ghost employees who don't show up after hiring by reviewing hiring processes to discover where they're slipping through the cracks.

6 min read


ghost employees

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The effects of the labor crisis are still unfolding and new challenges for leaders are emerging every day. Employees turning to ghosts has been on the rise lately. A ghost hire is when you interview a candidate, offer them the job and they accept — and then you never hear from them again! They don’t show up to orientation, they don’t respond to emails and they don’t answer calls or texts. They leave you wondering “What did I do wrong?” Managers across the country are grappling with the idea that a person accepts a job and then just disappears.  

It’s frustrating, disappointing and happening to leaders across the globe in every kind of industry. Is this just a fad? Is it just “kids today?” Or is this an indication of something else going on?

What creates ghost employees?

When we look through the People First lens, we say there’s a deeper issue that may be causing the ghosting. If new hires aren’t showing up after accepting the job, it could be for one of these reasons:

  • They weren’t impressed. People want to be WOW’ d, impressed and made to feel special. If you aren’t making a conscious effort to show your genuine appreciation for candidates’ interest or to demonstrate your commitment to employees, candidates may be going home feeling deflated. Meanwhile, they accept another position or seek other employment opportunities. What could you do during the hiring process to truly WOW candidates?
  • Communication was a problem. Today, people want to know what is going on constantly. No one likes to wait or wonder. If you aren’t keeping employees continually up to date on what is happening and what they can expect next in during the process, you may be unintentionally causing candidates to feel anxious and frustrated.
  • They didn’t connect. Hiring managers play a crucial role in the interview/hiring experience; they either make it or break it. Upbeat, respectful, kind and engaging hiring managers are often intriguing and give candidates feelings of energy and excitement about the job and the company. Arrogant, curt, annoyed or stressed managers can repel candidates. It is important for candidates to like, trust and respect their supervising manager (who often is their hiring manager) and a key piece of that comes down to connection. If the candidate doesn’t connect with the hiring manager, the foundation for a long-term relationship doesn’t form right away. When a connection between the hiring manager and the candidate happens during the first one or two interactions, it’s less likely the candidate will turn into a ghost later on.
  • Not asking the right questions. It’s easy to stick to surface-level interview questions, especially when you might be offering the job to anyone who shows up for the interview! But asking the right questions is essential for determining whether the candidate is aligned with your company and the role. What does the person want out of their job? What are they looking for? What tasks do they enjoy doing? How do they like to feel at work? Asking questions like these might help identify whether the person is truly the right fit.   
  • Another opportunity was better. The competition for great employees has never been as fierce as it is today. Companies are constantly upping compensation, benefits packages and offering additional, even unconventional, perks to attract and keep employees. If you aren’t evolving your compensation packages and communicating them effectively, someone else is likely snatching up the candidates you once were chasing.

Strategies to resurrect ghost employees

The crux of all of the above comes down to the interview/hiring experience. If the experience isn’t great, it isn’t giving candidates a strong enough reason to come back. Job opportunities are endless right now so if you want to compete, you have to be great. Level up your interview/hiring experience by considering the following:

Are you giving away “goodies?” Yeti cups, jackets, journals and backpacks complete with your company logo are impressive gifts for new hires. They make people feel part of a team, generate excitement, demonstrate appreciation (even before they start working) and are great ways to market your brand.

Are you unintentionally scaring people away? Take a good look at what is being communicated, what candidates are experiencing and how people are being treated during the hiring process. Small things may seem insignificant but if they are misinterpreted, they could be scaring new hires away. An off-kilter comment from an untrained manager, a joke about how long the days at work feel, or a behind-the-scenes tour that features an unkept employee locker room or less than pleasant breakroom can send people running in the other direction. Candidates are judging you at every single touch point so it would be wise to dig into your candidate experience and see what you could do to make a better impression.

Are there holes in the process? We often hear from leaders who are puzzled by new hires turning into ghosts. They tell us all the great things they are doing during orientation but the problem lies when they can’t get people to show up for orientation! While parts of the new hire process might be extraordinary, if there are holes in the experience, it’s falling short. After all, a chain is only as good as its weakest link. Where are the holes in your process?

As people first people, we’d be willing to wager that there is a reason candidates are turning into ghosts after interviewing. Digging into your process and focusing on enhancing the experience is the best way to ensure employees show up day after day.  


Three and Jackie Carpenter are the authors of “People First: The 5 Steps to Pure Human Connection and a Thriving Organization.” They consult, coach and speak to organizations and associations who desire to create positive employee experiences and upbeat company cultures.  

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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