What is Employee Ghosting and How HR Managers and Organizations Can Deal with it

What is Employee Ghosting?

In recent months, a new term has entered the parlance of HR (Human Resources) professionals worldwide and that is Employee Ghosting.

This term refers to the practice of prospective applicants and potential employees not “showing up” after being recruited, or not attending the final stages of the interview process after being almost assured of placement, employees dropping “off the radar” after a few months or even years and not reporting to work, and associated forms of “simply disappearing” without prior notice or information.

As can be seen from the list of practices above, ghosting refers to the trend of employees or applicants not being seen or heard and hence, they are deemed to be ghosts who vanished.

While this practice has been around for a few decades, what is new is the increasing numbers of cases of employees who have stopped reporting for work without notice or those who do not turn up on the first day of work after they have been recruited.

Past Cases and Present Trends on Why Has It Returned?

Indeed, this practice is known to HR Managers working in Tech firms in the United States and countries such as India during the so-called “Y2K Boom” when there were reports of how during interviews, prospective applicants used to take calls from other recruiters in the middle of the interview with an air of insouciance and arrogance that used to put off HR professionals.

For instance, during our working career, we ran into several of such cases where employees not showing up for work was a common practice due to them being recruited by somebody else and they not having the time to wait until the notice period was over.

In other words, Employee Ghosting has been around with us for some time and what are different now are the frequency and the volume of such cases being reported from Silicon Valley and other tech hotspots worldwide.

One of the reasons why Employee Ghosting has returned or recurred is that the job market again is booming and it is an employee’s market in so far as the number and the attractiveness of job opportunities are concerned.

Indeed, with the US Economy and more importantly, Silicon Valley reporting low rates of unemployment, job seekers have not had it as good as in the recent months and this gives them the confidence or as some would say, arrogance to Ghost their jobs.

What HR Managers and Organizations Can Do?

Having said that, many employees also say that they are just “returning the favor” to employers who do not think twice before laying off employees and being given such short notices that they are suddenly left without a source of livelihood and income.

Without taking sides, it is indeed the case that the HR Managers have their task cut out and that is related to ensuring that whoever has been offered the appointment letter does not Ghost. This can be done by identifying potential Ghosting cases during the recruitment process wherein trained HR Managers with a Skillful eye can spot whom among the pool of applicants and interviewees would Ghost.

Further, it also makes sense to have a database of those who have Ghosted so that if the same applicant returns in a few months or even years’ time, then he or she can be notified or without such courtesies, eliminated from the recruitment process.

Indeed, this is something that we have come across wherein employers who do not store the details of those who have Ghosted are more likely to hire them back when compared to those employers who maintain such records.

Engage, Respect, Spot, and Act for Profit

On the other hand, the HR Managers also have to ensure that the existing employees are treated well and do not “disconnect” or “disengage” at work.

In other words, most of the cases of employees who have been with the employers for a few years and who Ghost are of those who have simply “lost interest” in their jobs and hence, resort to Ghosting.

Indeed, it is high time organizations and HR Managers take employee engagement seriously so that dissatisfied employees and those who have lost the interest or their Mojo do not Ghost.

There are solid commercial reasons for discouraging the practice of Ghosting as organizations spend considerable amount of money both on the interview process as well as training and on-boarding and hence, they do tend to lose monetarily when employees Ghost.

Moreover, losing key talent whether during the interview process or after selection hurts the competitiveness of organizations and hence, it is more than ever important for HR Managers to come up with strategies on both how to prevent Ghosting and how to manage in such cases where employees simply disappear.


While it sounds baffling that in this Digital Age, employees can simply vanish without a trace, it is also the fact that such employees often deliberately do not respond to the calls, emails, text messages, and pings on social media and hence, there is a need for industry wide coordination and cooperation on such practices.

Having said that, it is also the case that rival firms gain from Ghosting and hence, such solutions are not possible. Of course, an independent agency can maintain databases of employees who Ghost and since, professional references are often needed from past employers, this can act as a deterrent to Ghosting.

To conclude, while it is too early to say that Ghosting has returned full time, anyone who worked during the Dotcom Boom would surely know how it affects all the stakeholders and that there are some lessons to be learnt from them.

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Human Resource Management