Relationships With Ghosts

halloween-1743272_1280 (1)Imagine applying for a job, getting hired for the job, and then not showing up for the job. 

I can only imagine because, you know, I’m a decent(-ish) human being. But apparently, that’s exactly what 20 to 50 percent of applicants are doing, according to a USA Today article. The story explains:

In the hottest job market in decades, workers are holding all the cards. And they’re starting to play dirty. A growing number are ‘ghosting’ their jobs: blowing off scheduled job interviews, accepting offers but not showing up the first day and even vanishing from existing positions — all without giving notice.

The Copper Rule

Some speculate that such crappy behavior simply mirrors the equally crappy behavior of many recruiters. “I learned it by watching you!”

Basically, it’s the Copper Rule, the original golden sheen of which was corroded by incivility: Be as rude to others as they are to you. 

Over at Fistful of Talent, John Hollon writes:

If there’s a lot of ‘ghosting” of employers going on, there’s a simple reason for it, and it’s because candidates have figured out that if recruiters and hiring managers can blow off/fail to respond/ignore job seekers, well, the job seekers can damn well do it too.

That candidates wouldn’t pee on recruiters to save them from burning alive is nothing new. Google “recruiters are” for proof.

Nevermind, I did it for you:

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 3.21.01 PM (1) (1) (1).png

Still, if people are screwing over employers more these days, it’s not because they learned unprofessionalism from them. It’s because they never learned the value of professionalism in the first place.


We live in a world that increasingly devalues commitment. Your friend who made plans to see a movie with you this Sunday probably double-booked to meet other peeps for brunch. Actually, your pal is triple-booking right now for something that might yield more exciting Instagram photos.  

Candidates are doing the same, especially in such a tight labor market. They keep searching for greener grass.

The difference is that when you mistreat your friend, you’ve got to be ready for uncomfortable repercussions. But blow off a company with which you have no deep relationship yet? Eh, whatever.

Except, it’s not whatever. It’s unfortunate that candidates who ghost businesses are too dumb, lazy, myopic, or callous to realize that they are acting against their interests. Same goes for recruiters.

(I can think of only one time when a chosen candidate should’ve not shown up for work. Unfortunately, he did. Now we’re stuck with him until at least January 2021.)

My Sophie’s Choice

All this reminds me of when I was interviewing for jobs last year. I was worried that Company A would offer me a job before Company B, which was where I really wanted to work. I also didn’t think I could stall Company A long enough to inevitably turn them down once Company B came through.

You guys! I agonized over this decision! And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t occur to me to accept Company A’s offer with the intention to later tell them, “Sorry, I know I’m a jerk, but I can get better Insta pics elsewhere.”

(But never — ever! — did it occur to me to just not show up.)

I knew the right thing to do. I also knew that my reputation was more important than a job. Consequently, I resolved to turn down Company A and roll the dice for Company B.

Ultimately, I never rejected either employer because they both rejected me. Figures, right? Sort of reminds me of a poem I once read:

Better never trouble Trouble,
Until Trouble troubles you,
For you only make your Trouble,
Double-trouble when you do.

I’d Rather Be a Human Than a Ghost

There’s a postscript to this story. Both businesses gave me excellent candidate experiences — until Company A didn’t by ghosting me at the end of the process. Eventually, they’d sent an automated rejection email. This after I interviewed with six people (some in-person)!

Nonetheless, I don’t think all recruiters are scum. Just some. Like in any profession. Like in every profession.

Also, I am still in touch with the hiring managers and other peers at both organizations. I remain in contact not out of some ulterior desire to work for them one day but because I respect and like these people personally and professionally.

The point is that work — and life — is about relationships. You can’t form meaningful ones by ignoring people.

Bottom line: Be a human. Don’t be a ghost.

2 thoughts on “Relationships With Ghosts

  1. Great article Vadim! Especially the part about our culture devaluing commitment, unfortunate, but seems to be true!


    1. Hi Amanda! Thanks for reading and chiming in! Civility is eroding, but kindness, empathy, and respect will always be the truest hallmarks of professionalism. And humanism!


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