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How automation can end the ghosting of candidates

Phil Moore - British Medical Association

In my role as Head of Human Resources Operations at the British Medical Association, I see it as my responsibility to support the well-being of our recruitment team, hiring managers and candidates. To manage recruitment better, we recently set ourselves up with talent acquisition software. So I was pleased to see our supplier, Tripepad, launch its End Ghosting campaign to draw attention to the growing issue of applicants hearing nothing back during the recruitment process. Their research on ghosting has shown that “65% of applicants have been ghosted by a prospective employer part way through the recruitment process”. To show support for the campaign I’d like to share my own experiences and views of ghosting from both sides of the recruitment fence.

A couple of years ago I was between roles and a lot of my applications were via LinkedIn and similar job boards where you could ‘one click apply’. After applying for these positions through this method, I started to lose faith in the appeal of ‘one click apply’ as I wouldn’t hear anything back from the company. Not even a confirmation email to say that they had received my application. I wanted to check that I had applied; so I used another email address to apply again, to no avail. 

I have even applied for roles at supermarket chains and big online retailers as delivery drivers, I applied and heard nothing for weeks and weeks. The other day I received an email from one of the supermarket chains saying that they had had my details on file for over 12 months, and for GDPR reasons, asked if I was ok with them continuing to hold my data. I thought it ridiculous to not have had an automated response when I applied, and not even when I was unsuccessful, yet they managed to comply with automated GDPR emails.

These experiences have impacted me, and some enough to think twice about whether I want to shop with certain suppliers or retailers. According to Tribepad’s report “94% of ghosted applicants retain negative thoughts or feelings towards the employer’s brand”. I would bet that if we were to sit down with these companies, they would hate to think that it’s a reflection of the recruiters personally, or the organisation. No-one wants to be responsible for this terrible effect. 

At the BMA we configured Tribepad’s software to get into the minute details of what the applicant’s experience looks like. We didn’t just want to see the applicant that was successfully taken to be onboarded, we wanted to make sure there were automated emails set up for candidates that made it through to interviews, as well as empathetic automated emails for those rejected at that first killer question. We’d check that the content of the automated email was appropriate, and that the language was positive. The marketplace twists and turns and although we’re a recognisable brand, not all positions are inundated with applications, so we have to take care of these people. Everyone can see your scores online on websites such as Glassdoor and it does have an impact on the marketplace; we have to be careful.

In my opinion, I feel that there’s a “corporate arrogance” type of culture in certain organisations. I’ve been involved in companies in the past where there seems to be such a strong belief in the brand that there’s a sense of a diminished collective responsibility or appreciation for staff or candidates. The belief in the brand is so strong that they are always going to get good applicants, so if they disappoint a percentage of candidates it’s just collateral damage to them. We see the space race of senior leaders going to fly a rocket to the moon, which appears more important to them than the wellbeing of their employees. Of course it’s not that black and white, but you can’t help but see that brand power arrogance is commonplace.

At BMA, there have been certain positions where we’ve chosen not to pre-screen 80 candidates for one position, which is quite a lot by BMA standards. The lack of automated killer questions meant the line manager was having to go through all 80 CV’s. I offered support but they wanted to do it themselves. After they went through those, they shortlisted to six, interviewed them and it turned out that none of them were quite good enough for the role. In a rerun of the process, we used the killer questions and it worked. The first level of automated screening cut out all of the unrealistic hopefuls.

We can automate and use technology to support recruiting teams. Otherwise we risk recruiters becoming inundated and overwhelmed, which is when things start to fall through the cracks. We’ve got to prioritise and triage their workload, so how much of the benefit do they really feel if they are going to be rejecting or stringing an applicant along, rather than actually getting on with supporting the interview process and onboarding successful candidates?

I had another experience as a candidate that led to my beliefs. I was looking to change roles at a sizable technology company and got through to the third stage. When I got to the final step, it took an inordinate amount of time to go through the process. It had been about three or four months since the third interview. I felt sorry for the recruiter because they were in the middle but found myself pestering for updates. In the end they took on an in-house consultant who was filling the gap. They strung me along for months with no real updates to my application. It’s not specifically “ghosting”, but it’s on one end of the spectrum where I wasn’t involved in the appropriate conversation. It definitely left me feeling angry towards the organisation and wouldn’t want to apply for future positions.

I’ve read the End Ghosting report, and it’s clear ghosting is happening everywhere. It’s not just “is this really happening?”. We’re now measuring how much it impacts people and brands. We’re not asking if it happens, we know that it happens but we’re asking how it has impacted people’s emotional wellbeing and appreciation of the recruitment process.

I believe that there’s no excuse for ghosting anymore. Using talent acquisition software, like Tribepad, is a cost-efficient way to manage applications and making these changes to the recruiting process has an impact on the company’s brand.

We’re looking to bring in in-house support to the recruitment process, because we want to reduce agency spends, as most companies do. We’re looking to replicate that support, someone will be able to manage the platform, so that it takes that onus away from our hiring managers. Managers will always tell me their day job is to manage targets and sales incentives; it’s not about closing candidates properly in the system. The less of that they need to do, the more that we can automate and make the process better for everybody.

I am calling out to all in-house recruiters to support the #EndGhosting campaign, as it’s not only to benefit future candidates, but also the wellbeing of recruiters; being able to manage their workloads effectively and efficiently. 

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