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Have you been ghosted in a job search? Employees and employers are often getting the cold shoulder during the application process.Brainsil/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

You thought it was going so well and then all of a sudden they don’t write, call or respond to texts.

Once the purview mainly of online dating, ‘ghosting’ is increasingly common in today’s tight job market.

A couple of years ago, stories abounded about employers ghosting job candidates without explanation. Now the tables have turned.

In a recent survey of senior managers in Canada by the staffing and recruiting agency Robert Half, 43 per cent said ghosting by job candidates has worsened over the last two years.

“It’s like they disappeared with no word,” says Koula Vasilopoulos, the senior district director for Robert Half Canada. “It’s becoming more and more common.”

In a separate survey, Robert Half found 43 per cent of professionals ghosted prospective employers because the job was not what they expected; 31 per cent because the interview process was poor; 18 per cent because they received another job offer; and eight per cent because a return to the office was mandatory.

Skilled professionals have more options than ever before and many candidates are going through the process with more than one company, she says.

Employers that don’t move quickly, are unclear in their communications or don’t set expectations are at higher risk of losing candidates.

“Communicate and be very transparent and do it very promptly with all your job applicants, not just the ones that you want to hire,” Ms. Vasilopoulos says.

For candidates, it’s unprofessional and can have future consequences, she says.

“You never know who you’ll cross paths with in the future.”

Ghosting tends to occur early in the hiring process, but it’s not the worst thing, says Erika Van Noort, vice-president of candidate and employee experience at Softchoice, a Toronto-based information technology services company, which has about five per cent of its positions open at any one time. The company’s in-house recruiters may be looking to fill as many as 100 jobs right now.

“We want to find engaged people and if somebody is ghosting us, then they’re not as interested in us and we don’t want to pursue [them],” Ms. Van Noort says.

Softchoice is holding its own filling jobs in the heated hiring market but it has meant a big increase in the volume of interviews, she says.

“You used to be able to speak to [about] three to five different candidates in order to move to an offer; you’re now having to speak to probably two and three times that many people,” she says.

Technology companies, in particular, are struggling under the dual pressure of intense growth and a talent shortage. In B.C. alone the provincial government has estimated the sector will create 200,000 jobs over the next 10 years, in addition to the 250,000 tech workers in the province today, says Jill Tipping, president and CEO of BC Tech.

“Every industry is finding labour shortages to be really challenging. It’s definitely a big issue for Canada because it’s not just tech, although we’re growing really strongly,” she says. “We need to find the talent supply. It’s a tight market for us today but it’s a great problem to have.”

Remote work is an exciting option but it also means B.C. and Canadian companies are in competition with global organizations for talent, Ms. Tipping adds.

In addition to improving their recruitment and hiring processes and offering top-tier benefits, companies are embracing micro-credentials and shorter, focused upskilling courses to fill their talent pool, she says. The sector is reaching out to populations traditionally underrepresented, including people of colour, Indigenous, those in rural communities and people transitioning out of other industries, she says.

“In the global war for talent, we want to make sure that Canada is one of the contenders,” Ms. Tipping says.

Workers in the retail and hospitality industries, accounting and finance, and people with high-level administrative skills are also in demand, adds Ms. Vasilopoulos of Robert Half.

There are ways recruiters and managers can reduce the likelihood of losing candidates mid-stream, including streamlining the hiring process.

“Other employees are likely courting your applicant. You really want to be prepared to be able to move fast,” Ms. Vasilopoulos says.

In the current hiring landscape, employers need to put their best offer forward from the start and make an offer their preferred hire can’t refuse, Ms. Vasilopoulos adds.

She says the offer should include a vision of how the job fits with an employee’s long-term career goals, not just compensation but the perks and benefits that come with the job.

Employers also shouldn’t be afraid to ask what other opportunities a potential hire is entertaining and request they let you know if another offer comes to them, she says.

“There’s a little bit more work to do on the employer side,” Ms. Vasilopoulos says.