By Tom Rollert, Vice President, Wray Executive Search
At this point just about everyone has experienced candidate ghosting. You’ve either experienced it directly or through the retained search firm you are working with. Simply defined, “ghosting” is when a candidate who interviewed well and displayed great enthusiasm for the position disappears without a trace; doesn’t respond to voice mail, emails or texts. Ghosting can occur at any stage of a search, from first phone interview to onboarding day and it occurs at all levels, even to the C suite. Candidate ghosting is a fact of recruiting life and we’re dealing with it, but there is a new and more insidious kind of ghosting that has appeared: CLIENT GHOSTING.
Imagine the following scenario. A client clearly defines the position to be filled, impresses the search firm with the urgency of the search, signs the search agreement and pays the retainer only to turn communication into a nightmare after just two or three weeks into the search. Both contractually and ethically, the search firm continues to build a slate of applicable candidates and presents them to the client only to face the sound of crickets when attempting to follow up and arrange client interviews. Out of desperation, the search firm invoices the client for the agreed progress payment reasoning that not only has it been earned, but the client may start communicating after such a substantial investment. Lo and behold the payment is made, but still no communication.
You might say, “Why should the search firm worry. The firm received two-thirds of the fee without achieving a result, just move on.” It’s just not that simple! First of all: What about the candidates?
Let’s assume that you are a candidate for a position that you know will be a great fit. You have held discussions with the recruiter. You have provided a professionally executed resume. You have complied with further requests for information and references and through all this you have envisioned making a great impression when you interview with the company. In short you have made a solid professional effort to achieve a desired goal. Let’s also assume the recruiter is keeping you posted on possible next steps and is honest enough to let you know that the client has not responded to your candidacy. How much do you want that job now? How much do you want to hear from that recruiter again? How will you respond, a month or two from now when the recruiter contacts you again and gives you the great news that the client wants to consider you for the position?
Secondly, the client hired the firm to do a defined piece of work and that work is not complete. Not only is it not satisfying, it is not professionally acceptable. The search firm has expended considerable effort to build relationships both with the client and the candidates to the end that the future will hold profitable discussions for both sides. When the client ghosts, not only does its reputation suffer, but so does the reputation of the search firm and the work of building relationships has turned into a solid negative.
The solution to client ghosting isn’t easy, but it is very simple. Search firms will be doing a more thorough job of vetting new clients. The search firm must make it clear that there are certain norms it expects the client to follow, the most important of which are wide open decision making and communication. It seems counterintuitive to be tough with a prospective client, but it is necessary, in order to maximize the possibility of building the lasting relationships that are the beneficial to all concerned. As a search firm, our job is to provide value to our clients by putting our relationships to work. The client’s job is to treat the search as a priority project and clear the decks to get that position filled with a great hire. Let’s get the job done together!
All the best,
Tom Rollert | VP | Culture Integration
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