Talent Ghosting & the Remedies with Blitz Media

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Ty Abernethy:

Hello everybody, we’ve come together today to talk about the topic of candidate ghosting – specifically how to eliminate it. So let’s dig in and get started.

I’ve got a couple folks with me today I’m very excited to be talking with. I’ve done a webinar with both Scott and Craig recently, and every time I chat with them I learn something new. Scott and Craig are a Father-Son Duo that run a company called Blitz Media. They work in a very particular niche inside of healthcare to help improve the recruiting processes for their clients.

Gentlemen, say hello, would love to have you talk for just a moment about what you do.


Scott de Fasselle:

Sure, thanks for having us here Ty. Hi everyone, I’m Scott de Fasselle. As Ty mentioned, Craig and I together run a company called Blitz.

And we are focused on helping organizations that serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We help them attract and retain more of the amazing employees that they so desperately need right now.

Ghosting is something that candidly wasn’t on our radar, but then a couple years back it became the number one question we’d get during Q&A sessions.

So we’ve developed training to focus exclusively on that.


Craig de Fasselle:

Very often the people we serve feel like it’s just them being ghosted. You are not alone, you should not feel that it’s just on you. Sadly, this is a big problem across industries.


Ty Abernethy:

Perfect, thank you gentlemen. My name is Ty Abernethy. I’m the Co-Founder and CEO of Grayscale. We are a texting and automation platform designed to integrate with your ATS and streamline the hiring process through SMS.

Gentlemen, why don’t we dive in and start talking about the problem of ghosting. So, how big of an issue is candidate ghosting?


Craig de Fasselle:

Indeed did a survey about ghosting, and 83% of companies reported that ghosting was a problem. And quite frankly, I think the other 17% either didn’t understand the question, or weren’t being truthful. I can’t imagine any industry where ghosting isn’t an issue right now.


Scott de Fasselle:

Yeah, there were numerous articles in the past couple of years on candidates even ghosting on jobs that pay them six figures a year. So it’s not purely about money. When you’re in a competitive field and there are lots of open positions, you’re competing for people. If they have lots of opportunities, they can feel that freedom and confidence that if something doesn’t feel right and doesn’t fit, I can go somewhere else.

So, don’t think that money is the sole driver.


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah, we’re seeing something very similar. What started as a small subset of companies interested in working with Grayscale, now it’s the number one thing we hear. That leaky bucket dynamic that can often happen in your hiring funnel can be catastrophic, so let’s drill into the ‘why’ behind this.

Why is candidate ghosting happening? Scott, I’d love to get your perspective on the ‘why’ behind this.


Scott de Fasselle:

Sure thing. It’s easiest to step back, look at the hiring process big-picture to see why it’s going on, and look at things through the eyes of the candidate themselves.

They’re looking for jobs, it’s just a web search away. They can go to Indeed, there are plenty of jobs listed there, and they are playing a numbers game. I’m sure you’re seeing this, because some of you undoubtedly see the same person apply three times, four times, six times, 10 times.

And you’re like, ‘my gosh, why does this person keep on applying?’ It’s cause they don’t remember, because they’re playing a numbers game.

Unfortunately, they’re playing the numbers game because they are being ghosted by other companies. Other companies are taking two weeks, four weeks, three months, six months to respond to legitimate candidates.

They just know that they need a job. They’re gonna have to put a lot of applications out there, and see who responds. That’s a big factor in driving their ghosting, they don’t remember you. How can you remember when you applied 50 places yesterday?


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah, it’s like the blessing and the curse of the ‘easy apply’ button, right? Over the years, it’s been a big push to simplify the application process, which is a very good thing. But a negative byproduct of that is someone can go into Indeed, pull a search and just apply.

This dynamic can start to play out, and it also results in a lot of noise for recruiters. They’re getting bombarded with candidates that might be, quite frankly, not very interested in the opportunity, just given that they’re going down the list and hitting apply.

It makes total sense. Going a bit further, let’s talk about the hiring process and where some of this kind of breaks down.


Scott de Fasselle:

Yeah, absolutely. They’ve played the numbers game, and you’re one of the lucky people out of 50 that they’ve applied that given day. And obviously you’re focused on your process, cause it’s your job. You’ve been through it hundreds, if not thousands of times. Get them from the application, set up a phone screen. Then if that goes well, move them onto the in-person interview, background check, and then onto hire.

And obviously there are more steps in many of your processes. Those events are what you are focused on. But what we wanna pay attention to, those arrows in between are the points where ghosting is happening. It’s happening because time is passing in between. Like we said, other companies are ghosting on them.

I’ve seen instances where, because of how things are set up, it takes one to three weeks just to get from that online application to the phone screen. Because it’s gotta go through so many different levels of the organization, and people are juggling multiple responsibilities.

The more time that passes, the more likely they are to disappear. You’re gonna lose them.


Ty Abernethy:

As there’s gaps in the process, it’s more likely the candidates are gonna drop off, right? It feels nearly impossible to be able to speed up the hiring process.

There’s definitely some forces at play that if you’re not very intentional about addressing, can really slow down the process and create these gaps.

One of the things we’re gonna try to unpack here is how to be aware of those forces at play, and how to start tightening up your process to make sure that you’re maximizing conversion at each and every stage.


Scott de Fasselle:

We realize it’s tough, because you’re at the mercy of other people. Regional hiring managers in some cases, the background check is often out of your hands, but there are things that you can do, even if you can’t shorten the time in every instance.


Ty Abernethy:

We’ll drill into that as we go here. But let’s talk for a little bit about the first step in solving this problem. I would love to hear you gentlemen talk a little bit about this mindset shift that needs to occur, as you’re looking to address the problem of ghosting.


Craig de Fasselle:

I think a big part of it is, we’re almost trained that, we’re the potential employer, we’re in the position of power. The truth is, in this day and age, the power is with the applicant. They have so many choices. The other thing is we become self-defeating. With the steps in between delays, that’s where the car’s breaking down, the child is sick, they’re dealing with homeschooling right now.

Maybe they’re starting to have second thoughts about the job they applied for, they’re beginning to wonder ‘is this the right fit for me?’
When somebody ghosts us, we assume that they’re being rude, or they wouldn’t have been a good fit anyway. Maybe they took another job.

We’re not looking at the possibility of, maybe something embarrassing happened in their personal life, or maybe their child is sick, or they’re having to take care of a loved one.

We shouldn’t just be telling ourselves that they’re rude. There are some people who ghost no matter what, there’s some who will always show up, but there’s that third category of people who applied for the job with good intentions, but something has happened during the delays that is causing them to not respond as quickly as you expect. So by changing your mindset, you can be proactive and turn a lot of those people who ghost you into new hires.


Ty Abernethy:

Interesting observation there, Craig. When I get ghosted by a candidate, it’s my knee jerk to be like ‘ they’re just not interested’. So if you ghost, we’re gonna keep moving. That’s a sign that it’s not a great candidate, they’re flaky, whatever. What’s interesting is, that is not always the case. Some percentage fall into that category, but certainly a healthy percentage deserve the benefit of the doubt.

We all have a million plates that are spinning, between family and work and all these things.

With the goal of eliminating ghosting, we see leveraging a channel like SMS as the most effective way to relay those types of messages. To coordinate details for that background check, to answer questions that someone may have, opening up a channel via SMS makes such a huge difference.

Just looking at some basic stats here, what we see is about a hundred percent of all text messages are opened. 37% of candidates are replying, and they’re replying within the first six minutes.

Leveraging SMS, even if you’re doing it poorly, it’s going to give you a lift and help to tighten up the process overall.

But there’s a right and wrong way to use any kind of channel, and you really want to start a dialogue with the candidate and create a personalized, tailored experience.


Scott de Fasselle:

Yeah definitely, and obviously if you’re texting, you’ve taken the great first step. Candidly, especially if you’re in the healthcare field, you’re looking for people that are warm, engaging, generally care about interacting and caring for individuals.

We’re after that person, but what do we do? We hit ’em with a cold, and impersonal message. This feels like it was approved by a team of lawyers before it was sent through an automated system.

We get it, you have a schedule, but there’s a way we can convey that same message with a little more compassion, and not so standoffish.


Craig de Fasselle:

Sometimes we hear from our clients ‘I don’t want to text, cause it’s unprofessional. I’m too old to text’, which always amuses me. I’m almost always the oldest person in the room during our workshops, and I text.

You get a phone call from somebody, you don’t recognize the number, you don’t answer. Emails can be picked off by spam folders. We get texts, we get that little bubble that pops up on our phone, you at least look at it.


Scott de Fasselle:

Yeah. And when you see your phone light up with that type of message, your instant reaction may be, ‘Who is this – what is this about? This seems very formal, is this real?’ And again, they’re applying for tons of jobs, so they don’t recognize the number.

Maybe your company name doesn’t pass through to their phone, so it this isn’t a great start to the relationship and interaction with them.


Ty Abernethy:

You used the word relationship, and I do think that these touch points all build relationships with you, with your brand. How you communicate matters.

These little things actually add up, and I know it seems insignificant, but that’s so important. Even leveraging a channel like SMS, if you do it in a cold, mechanical robotic fashion, it’s not gonna deliver the same results as if you are communicating in a personalized, high touch manner.

More on that here in a second, as we segue into some tips and tricks for combating ghosting. Why don’t we dig in? We’ve got a couple tips that are going to be very actionable straightaway, so I want to dive into some of these.

One, sending not just notification style messages, but sending personalized messages. And we see sending reminder messages for upcoming interviews being a big step and in addressing candidate ghosting.

Scott, I would love to hear your perspective on what you’re seeing with some of your customers implementing something like this.


Scott de Fasselle:

So the story that comes to mind to best illustrate this, we were doing a workshop series and there was one woman talking about, ‘I don’t wanna text, I’ve got my flip phone. I love my flip phone, it’s not easy to text on it.’

Then in the last part of the workshop series, she stood up in front of everyone. ‘ Guys, can I just interrupt you? I want to tell you something.’ I had no idea what was coming, and she held up her new smartphone and she said, ‘Guess what? I’ve got a new phone! My carrier told me they would no longer support my flip phone, so I had to get a smartphone. I decided when I got it, I might as well give what these guys are talking about a try.’

So she’s been texting candidates, she’s been adding her personality into it, using her warmth to connect and start those relationships with candidates.

She said she has a new employee that commented to her, ‘Hey Deb I just gotta tell you, when I was going through the hiring process, I was hanging out with my mom. My mom saw my phone light up with one of your notifications and read the text message, saw the personality, saw the emojis, and it caught her eye.

And she said I don’t know who these people are, but you’re talking to them, right? You really should look at them because this seems different’. They got a great new employee from that, so she was so enthused that she took the leap.


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah, that makes total sense. And again, the bar is pretty low here. You look at what most employers are doing, they’re sending out notification style communication via email.

To send a personalized text to someone is still an uncommon thing. Uncommon in the sense that it stands out. The more rapport you build, the less likely they’re gonna be to just ghost somebody.

We all are much more prone to ghost someone that we have not interacted with, right? Think about how easy it is to have road rage where you’re driving, and don’t interact with anybody else.

But when you’re in line for something and you bump into someone, it’s like ‘oh excuse me’.

Everyone’s friendly as they could possibly be. Texting is the digital equivalent of being in person with someone, versus being in the car with the your knuckles white, angry cause some guy cut you off. And there’s some great technology out there to allow you to automate some of this personalization as well. So for our customers, they’ll plug Grayscale into their ATS, and then put a template in place that will personalize these messages in mass.

You can build rapport in a scalable way. That’s something we see being really effective, starting to automate some of this communication, but not automate to the point where you’re putting a wall up and it’s impersonal.


Craig de Fasselle:

You can also, add some real helpful function to these personalized messages. If they’re coming in for an in-person interview, put the address in, the smartphone is gonna turn that into a link to their mapping app.

Or, ‘which door do I go in?’ You can text ’em a picture. There’s so many things you can do to make it easy, and the easier you make it, the more likely they are to follow through.


Ty Abernethy:

Exactly, it’s eliminating friction in the process. In the sales world, that’s the goal. Eliminate all friction, cause friction kills all deals, and it’s the same with hiring.

But let’s jump into to tip number two. If a candidate ghosts, lead with compassion. I’d love to have you speak to it.


Scott de Fasselle:

Sure, so we learned this from the people that we work with. A number of the organizations we work with talk about understanding the people that are applying for your job, the challenges they’re up against in their personal life, and that there are very legitimate reasons why at times they ghost.

You have all this compassion, use it, reach out with compassion. Yes, it is frustrating and I totally get that, ‘oh man, I can’t believe Sarah ghosted me for the interview today. All right, she’s disqualified. She’s not a good fit. She can’t even be bothered to show up.’

If we push beyond that reaction, there’s likely a reason. Maybe it’s a good reason, maybe it’s not.

We don’t know that story, as Craig talked about earlier. So just start real simple, and reach out with compassion. Ty, as you said a moment ago, this is uncommon in a good way. Nobody else is going to be doing this. Maybe you find out the rest of the story, and they’re very apologetic.

‘Hey, something came up, my mom’s sick and I had to take her to her doctor’s appointment unexpectedly.’

You’ll never know if you never reach out. This is just two sentences. It doesn’t take any extra time out of your day, and it could get you a great employee, so it’s worth it.


Craig de Fasselle:

We had one situation where somebody in the first week of work, who was looking like he was gonna be a great employee, stop coming. His supervisor just would not let it rest.

He reached out and found out this young man’s mother had died unexpectedly. The guy just said ‘I didn’t bother calling cause I know I don’t have any accrued time off or anything. I probably shouldn’t even applied for the job or something.

His supervisor said, ‘We’ll give you some unpaid leave, but we’ll welcome you back.’


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah, that’s great. When you’re dealing in high volume recruiting, it’s very easy to jump to those conclusions. But that’s not the right posture to have. I think this is a clear example of leading with compassion.

I think that’s a good segue into the third tip, making a final attempt. As you gentlemen call ‘closing the loop’. And I’d love to hear you speak to the value of this message as well.


Scott de Fasselle:

You don’t know the full story, it’s like a cliffhanger in a TV series. You don’t know why they’ve ghosted, but our mind is really good at trying make up a story, and that’s not productive.

But here’s something productive we can do from a couple standpoints. This is a last ditch effort, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done everything you possibly can when you’ve reached this point. Close the loop with them and just say something very simple. ‘Hey Sarah, I haven’t heard from you, so I’m going to assume you’ve taken another job. Best of luck.’

What you’re doing is telling them ‘ Goodbye, I’m not chasing you anymore.’ When you do that, a percentage of people are gonna come back to life instantly and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry Ty. This came up, I’m still interested, I promise. Can we reschedule?’

Suddenly they’re pursuing you, they’re apologetic, and you’re back in touch with them. Things might work out.


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah and each vertical represented on this call, there are certain types of roles that are tremendously difficult to hire, particularly in volume.

Whether it be RNs or software engineers, or that customer care professional, whatever. I think it is giving these candidates the benefit of the doubt, and understanding how difficult it is to engage them in the first place.

Having these one to two additional follow ups, we call them nudges at Grayscale, that are just there to be perceived as the employer of choice, and to create a high touch experience.

Regardless of what technology you’re using, there’s simple ways that you can start to automate some of these nudges that will go out, only if candidates don’t take certain actions. So they work for you in the background.

However you do it, whether it’s picking up your smartphone or whatever else to message the candidate, take these follow up steps, particularly for your highest value roles.

This will work, you will see impact here. And with that in mind, I’d love to briefly touch on some of the results we’re seeing for some of these things.

These are not nominal figures here. As customers start to implement the combination of these tactics and technology, you see a boost in interview sit rate by 50%, reduction in time to fill of just over 20%. Then you’re seeing like meaningful hours being saved, because you’re creating a tighter process.

It’s moving faster with less drop off. It allows you to speed things up, and eliminate a lot of that rework that happens when you’re scrambling to fill that backlog with promising candidates.

All these things add up to something pretty meaningful in a hiring process, to really combat ghosting.

Now I wanna talk about some common issues and how to address them. So Scott, I’d love to talk about these bottlenecks in the process that slow things down.

What is an acceptable turnaround time to get back to candidates? Talk to me about how quickly you should get back to candidates at various different stages in the process.


Scott de Fasselle:

Sure, so somebody’s applied online, and you’re trying to set up that initial step, most likely a phone screen. The organizations that we see having far less trouble with ghosting are getting back to that candidate within 24 hours, or 48 hours at the most.

And then we see a big jump. We’ll see organizations where it takes a week or more to get back to people, where there are lots of different people involved.

Candidates have to go to hiring managers, and that hiring manager is also in charge of a whole bunch of other things. Hiring is just one small part of their job. They let candidates build up for a week, forget to check the pool of candidates and get back to them. By that time, those candidates are dead ends, unfortunately.


Ty Abernethy:

Got it, so to put a fine point on it, we’re looking to get back within 24 hours whenever possible, but not letting that slide more than 48 hours.


Scott de Fasselle:

And obviously that’s not possible in certain situations, especially with background checks. We totally get that. What you can control is your communication with them during that time. You can apply the concepts we’ve talked about, come alongside them use your compassion, use your empathy, and just let them know, ‘Hey, I have not forgotten you. We’re still waiting on the results from the background check company.’

It’s a great opportunity to get some more of your personality out there.


Craig de Fasselle:

We’ve actually helped clients where we will draft messages for them to text at each one of those steps.

Obviously you can probably get back to somebody pretty quickly after they apply for that initial screening. But our people in particular, very often they have no control over how fast those background checks come back.

So there’s the opportunity where you’re gonna wanna reach out more often. Make ’em think ‘I want that job.’


Ty Abernethy:

That’s exactly right, trying to keep these tight turnaround times. This is what we see as being one of the most challenging things in combating ghosting, having a way to consistently reach back out in that 24 to 48 hour window to make that connection.

For those of you where that feels daunting, look for ways to streamline things. If you’re using an ATS, look for ways to trigger communication off of a stage change.

With customers we work with, we’ll help them set up their process to where a candidate applies, they’ll get a text. ‘Thanks for reaching out, we’ll be in touch.’ Followed by ‘ We’ve reviewed your information, would love to move forward with you. How’s your availability look for next week?’ Followed by an interview reminder, and all the recruiter is having to do is just advance the candidate step-to-step, and all this is happening on your behalf.

I know ‘automation’ is a little bit of a dirty word, right? It feels more robotic and impersonal, but a human-centric process with the right level of automation woven-in is the secret sauce.

Automation can compliment what you do, and make you feel more human, far more so than if you’re trying to brute force everything on your own. So, leverage technology when you can.

Grab a whiteboard and map out what the process needs to look like. Where are our biggest gaps right now? Where can we layer in technology and automation to help ensure we hit these SLAs? That’s how it begins, you start with the basics.

I see questions rolling in, so we’re going to jump to Q&A. One question that’s come in is about onboarding. And it’s interesting, we see ghosting also happening post-hire.

The post-hire ghosting is probably even more frustrating, cause everything’s in place, and then they don’t show up for day one. Or they show up for day one, and they don’t show up again. Whatever it may be, that can be so discouraging.

What we see working well is the continuation of what we talked about before. Map out your onboarding journey, from hire to start date and beyond.

What are the touch points that we need to give to the candidate? Use the same channel you’ve been using throughout the hiring process for onboarding, leverage SMS, layer in some automation, so they’re getting that communication, personalized at the right points in time.

Asking for feedback, ‘How’d your first day go?’ Surface things before they become problems. I’d love to hear from both of you on the onboarding dynamic.


Scott de Fasselle:

A hundred percent, what you said. It’s a missed opportunity, and it doesn’t take much. I’m a fan of adding a little bit to it, ‘Hey, how’s your first day? Rate it on a scale of one to 10.’ Because if you ask people how they’re doing, you’re gonna get a lot of autopilot responses. I’m good, not too bad, things like that where people are just polite.

But if you ask ‘How was your first day, on a scale of one to 10?’ It causes them to pause, think about it, and gives you an opportunity to start a conversation and that’s gonna overcome a lot of ghosting. People are ghosting cause it doesn’t feel like a fit, it feels like they made a mistake.

They’re nervous about the job. It’s information overload for them in the early stages. So there are plenty of doubts, plenty of new people to meet, they’re overwhelmed. And it’s all too easy to go search for another job.


Craig de Fasselle:

If your onboarding is a multi-day process, you can help set the expectations. Here’s what you can expect tomorrow.


Ty Abernethy:

That’s exactly right, I think the expectation setting is a big part of it.

So the next question we have here is about getting stakeholder buy-in. We’ve got a recruiter who is bought in to implementing some of these tactics and technology.

What happens, where do you go from there? How do you get buy-in for some of these things?


Scott de Fasselle:

This is where we often hear, ‘It’s not professional to text.’ You mentioned the dentist and doctor’s office texting you reminders. I don’t think at any point you’ve ever gotten one of those text messages and gone, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe they texted me, they’re so unprofessional.’

Getting people to show up is professional. Just letting the status quo keep on happening is not professional.


Ty Abernethy:

Craig and Scott, thanks so much for taking time with us today, really appreciate it. We’ve really enjoyed our chat. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if we can answer any follow up questions for you.