Trying to fill a marketing job? Watch out for ghosting


One of the biggest challenges to any business right now is finding the right people to fill our marketing jobs. And this pervasive trend of “ghosting” is not helping.

Ghosting is this trend (first coined about 20 years ago) of connections that disappear. A person cuts off all communications without explanation.

It’s becoming a common dating relationship strategy and unfortunately, the behavior is now plaguing the business world, too. Perhaps somebody interviews for a job — or even accepts a job — and then you never hear from them again. Measured against an expectation of traditional business civility, this is bizarre … but becoming prevalent.

For six months, I tried to hire a community manager. Three different people had conversations with me enthusiastically expressing interest in the job (and even accepting it). And then I never heard from them again.

I hired an intern who stopped showing up at work. When I finally reached him three weeks later, he said he had accepted another job in Nashville. That is probably the last intern I will ever hire.

Of course, it’s not just me. This is a national phenomenon and it is changing the nature of business. One friend recently told me, “I’ve given up trying to hire for diversity or even the top skills. I just want anybody who will actually show up for work. My best hiring policy seems to be nepotism.”

Ghosting is rude and unprofessional. Ghosting burns bridges and ruins your reputation. When ghosting ends a firm commitment, it is a betrayal.

So why would a person act this way? Let’s start there …

The psychology of ghosting

According to behavioral scientist Nuala Walsh, there are five reasons that explain the trend of professional ghosting:

  1. Convenience: Avoiding conflict and explanations saves time, especially when a person is applying for a lot of jobs.
  2. Conflict Avoidance: Nobody wants confrontation, conflict, or communication of bad news. It’s emotionally uncomfortable, creates cognitive dissonance, and causes distress.
  3. Apathy: The ghoster doesn’t care about microaggressions or burning bridges. This typically reflects a degree of arrogance and low desire for long-term affiliation.
  4. Low Accountability: Often, there are no immediate consequences for poor behavior. Ghosting is becoming more acceptable as a societal norm, so why worry about it?
  5. Data Overload: Recruits can be deluged with offers and paperwork. It’s easier to just avoid the work.

What can you do about ghosting?

Not much.

As a person frequently on the receiving end of the ghosting, my only choice is to follow up and toughen up.

I consider myself an empathetic person. So I can excuse a lot and forgive a lot. I understand that doo-doo happens in every person’s life and there is always the chance that there was a miscommunication or mistake.

So I always give a person the benefit of the doubt. I pursue them at least two, and maybe even three, times through multiple communication channels to account for emails deposited into the spam file, dead smartphone batteries, illness, or whatever else might be going on.

But after I give a person two or three chances, it’s time to toughen up and move on. Being ghosted hurts my feelings at first. Nurturing a professional relationship requires my time and emotional commitment and I don’t like having that effort rejected.

I’m not going to take somebody’s rude behavior personally, I’m not going to dwell on it, and I’m not going to go out of my way “punish” ghosters. But toughening up means excluding this person from any future benefits or professional consideration. That’s simply a smart business decision.

And for those of you ghosting me and others, hear this: Your actions reflect who you are. Ghosting becomes a permanent part of your reputation and personal brand.

There are no decent excuses. Ghosting is lazy and unacceptable. People never forget how you treat them — and in the long run, there’s always a price to pay. If you keep this up and do it enough, it’s just a matter of time before you are banished from professional life.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of some of the world’s bestselling digital marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Follow Mark on TwitterLinkedInYouTube, and Instagram. Discover his $RISE create community.

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