Naz Kullar believed she had a good candidate for her team at the Trotman Auto Group after a successful pre-screen conversation late last year. The human resources’ applicant was positive, enthusiastic and lived nearby. All signs pointed to a quality hire, so no sense waiting.
“You have to move fast in this kind of market,” said Ms. Kullar, director of people and culture at Trotman, which has 11 dealerships across the lower mainland outside Vancouver.
Within a couple days, she reached out by phone and then, when no one answered, she tried to set up an interview through the applicant tracking system, but never heard back.
Ms. Kullar was surprised communication ended without explanation, however, “ghosting,” a term originating from online dating, is something she is now seeing more often.
And it’s not just pre-screens. Two words Ms. Kullar is used to hearing from managers are “no show.” Candidate ghosting is frequent in all positions at Trotman, she said, estimating about one-third of interviewees vanish, while some are leaving without notice shortly after starting.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Ms. Kullar, who brought more than two decades’ experience in human resources to Trotman when she joined in early 2020.
According to Statistics Canada, the number of job vacancies for all industries in the first quarter of 2022 is 890,385. Though slightly down from the 915,545 vacancies in the previous quarter, the current figure is considerably higher than the first quarter of 2021 when the agency reported 553,480 vacancies.
Anthony Mantione, a senior economist with the Labour Market Information Council, an Ottawa-based non-profit, said Canada is experiencing one of the tightest labour markets its seen, with unemployment lower than it was before the pandemic for all age and sex groups.
Since similar data was available, he said, “The number of people who want to work, but can’t find jobs is the lowest on record.”
One way to gauge labour tightness, he said, is to compare the number of unemployed people to job openings. In March, there were 0.8 unemployed individuals for every job opening in B.C. and Quebec. Statistics Canada reported that the national average that month was 1.2 unemployed people for every vacancy.
Looking ahead, while construction is going strong, Mr. Mantione said, there is a “good deal of near-term uncertainty” for other employment areas around what pandemic impacts will be transitory. For example, it’s not yet known if people will still dine out and travel like they did before COVID-19, with the possibility of central banks increasing interest rates.
Even if a potential hiring freeze or layoffs are on the horizon, he suspects the labour supply will remain low and companies could face a skills shortage, which some businesses reported during the pandemic.
He added that if we move into a recession, there will still be the challenge of whether job seekers have the right skills for the openings.
A survey conducted by business consulting firm Robert Half of more than 800 senior managers in Canada in late 2021 found 43 per cent of respondents said ghosting is more common now than two years ago.
This is similar to the experience of managers at Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, Ont. Since reopening in August 2021, after a lengthy COVID-19-induced shutdown, Keith Simmonds, general manager and vice-president of the resort, said, on average, about 40 per cent of candidates ghost interviews. Mr. Simmonds said that number is roughly up about 35 per cent from before the pandemic.
The hotel and water park has had to hire hundreds of new employees. After being closed nearly 550 days through multiple waves, only about 500 workers returned. They’re nearing 800 staff now, with a goal of 875 employees.
“People are covering extra shifts as well as doing multiple tasks,” said Mr. Simmonds, adding that they pay particular attention to their employees’ mental and physical health to avoid burnout.
In order to address the ghosting issue, Anne Marie Malleau, Great Wolf Lodge director of human resources, said a recruiter will overbook interviews during peak hiring times, with three to four scheduled for the same half-hour time slot, knowing some candidates won’t show.
Faced with its own hiring challenges, Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, B.C. has increased its wage pool by 12 per cent in the past year. Michael J. Ballingall, senior vice-president of Big White, said the resort is down about 30 per cent from their usual summer staffing numbers, which normally hovers around 280.
Mr. Ballingall said that ghosting is becoming very common now and is a part of everyday life, “it happens all the time,” he said.
About 40 per cent of candidates are currently ghosting Big White interviews, he said. In the past they would receive 10 applications for one position to clear mountain bike trails. “Now you’re lucky if you get five applications for 10 jobs,” he said.
Making matters more difficult, he said, the company struggled through the last year with half its regular winter staff (normally about 1,200) because of a lack of temporary foreign workers as well as employees through the working holiday visa program, which draws labour from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Back at Trotman, Ms. Kullar said the company has changed things up and now posts salaries in job ads to try and ameliorate hiring. She said Trotman has about 40 positions they’re looking to fill, and that’s been the average amount of vacancies since the beginning of this year.
While some workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic might have taken the time to retrain and move into another field, economist Mr. Mantione said labour supply issues experienced by hard-hit sectors could also stem from businesses trying to ramp up faster than the market can adjust.
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