How Not To Be “Ghosted” By a Gen Z

Image credit: iStockphoto/Andrei Akushevich

Potential candidates accepting your offer only to not turn up on day one is not new. But it was also rare.

Not anymore, and it’s especially prevalent with Gen Z candidates, says Randstad. Research from the recruitment firm showed that 43% of U.S. employers had their Gen Z candidates accepting a job offer before bailing on it.

“Ghosting” is becoming a global phenomenon, and Asia is not immune. Developed countries like Singapore see more of this than their developing peers. And the reason is not one of malice.

Felix Tan, co-founder and chief executive officer of Skilio, believes he has the answer.

“This practice is becoming normalized in the digital age we live in, especially for Gen Z (those born between 1997-2012) who grew up in a digital-first society. Gen Zs being digital natives, are used to receiving a multitude of messages or connection requests through various online platforms,” says Tan, a Gen Z himself.

He also argues that other generations also practice ghosting. “But perhaps at a lower degree compared to the digital native Gen Zs.”

The clash of mindset and tech

One reason ghosting is occurring at an alarming rate is that it’s simple to do.

Employers have made it easier to apply with one-click applications. From a candidate's perspective, it allows them to apply for “100s of jobs in 5 mins.” The problem is that the same candidate is not given a job management software that tracks all the applications made on different platforms.

“Therefore, when they receive many callbacks from various recruiters, they may accidentally miss out on following up or even deliberately cutting contact if a company that got back does not align with their career goals,” says Tan.

But the more important issue is the mindset. Ghosting is already part of the usual Gen Z social norm. Not turning up on a blind date, breaking up over social media, or ‘canceling’ online shows are part of the generation lifestyle. So, it’s not far-fetched to think the same practice will spill over when job seeking — especially if it helps to avoid the pain of facing a face-to-face conflict.

Whatever the cause, it is creating immense frustration for employers. They don’t just lose a potential candidate; they also face rising costs in managing no-shows on the first day. Yet, Tan believes employers are making it worse by paying too much attention to the hiring process after someone applies.

“They should be trying to optimize for speed, accuracy, and efficiency. In addition, Gen Zs need to focus on the pre-application and application stage in their recruitment process,” says Tan.

Differing values can also drive ghosting. For Gen Zs, values matter more than other generations when looking for an employer.

“They champion diversity and equity, and will not hesitate to stand up for something. You can also see this in how Gen Zs are more expressive about their personal experiences on social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and so on,” says Tan.

If the values are not aligned, they may “vote” not to join the company. Engaging Gen Z talents at the pre-application stage to advocate the brand value and helping Gen Zs understand what your company stands for can help, but few do this.

Gen Zs want skills; companies want to fill jobs

A top factor why Gen Zs continue to ghost is because they’re unsure how their employer is looking to help them grow their skills and careers.

“One Gen Z jobseeker mentioned that, ‘job description might not be all-encompassing of what skills are really required.’ In fact, the ASEAN Youth Survey done by the World Economic Forum found that the number one reason why ASEAN youth opt for a change in job is to pick up new skills in another role,” says Tan.

While Tan admits that MNCs are now moving toward skills-based hiring by adding technical or skills assessments into the hiring process, SMEs are far behind the curve.

Surprisingly, a skills-based approach offers SMEs an opportunity to defuse some of the job recruitment pressures they face. “By taking a skills-based approach to hiring, it helps recruiters expand their talent pool of candidates, which means that there will be less competition for candidates that might be extremely popular with many companies. By being able to identify hidden gems based on skills and inviting those talents to apply to you, I believe it will definitely help reduce the issue of ghosting for recruiters,” says Tan.

Disrupting the recruitment process

Helping companies implement skills-based hiring is how Skilio came to being. Tan saw that SMEs and MNCs were struggling to identify and prioritize qualified candidates at the application stage through skills-based hiring.

“By simply adding their job descriptions, we are able to detect the basic skills required for that job position which creates a skills-based job posting that recruiters can use to pre-qualify skilled candidates,” says Tan. For potential candidates, they only need to highlight their skills, upload work samples and highlight any certifications to Skilio.

This approach worked for Pick & Go, an AI unmanned convenience store. It needed to find Gen Z interns since most of its stores are on university campuses.

“With Skilio, Pick & Go was able to source and hire interns that had the basic skills required of their various hiring positions. Alex Ng, founder and chief executive officer of Pick & Go, shared that he was able to cut down the time needed to find and pre-screen the right candidates for his role by about 20% since he was able to identify those with the skillsets early on when they submitted their application,” says Tan.

The same approach worked for Augmentus, a no-code robotics startup based in Singapore. Daryl Lim, the company’s chief operating officer, went beyond traditional indicators like academic achievements when hiring. “In fact, they even converted some of the interns recommended by Skilio into full-time employees,” adds Tan.

Essentially, Skilio is helping companies to measure what it calls “employability” of new candidates.

“We are using demonstrated skill sets as a way to signal ability in the application stage of the hiring process. By pre-qualifying for skills at the application stage, this helps companies to prioritize candidates and reduce the time-to-fill ratio for their positions,” says Tan.

The Gen Z advice for hiring Gen Zs

Tan relishes his role as a Gen Z startup leader, helping other Gen Zs get the right roles. He believes he has the inside track to how this new generation thinks and has three pieces of advice for today’s employers:

  1. Meet Gen Zs where they are. Consider which channels Gen Zs are usually on so that you can build up a presence there to share information about your company. For example, many companies are starting to leverage TikTok to share stories of their company to pique the interest of Gen Zs
  2. Understand that their action may not equate to their actual intent. Sometimes, Gen Zs are not well versed in dealing with hirers in the hiring process. Their action may not mean a certain intent; it could be purely accidental. For example, using certain lingo like “legit” or “swag” does not mean that they are rude and don’t treat the process respectfully; it could just be that they are unaware that such terms are not professional.
  3. Gen Zs crave authentic engagement. As ironic as it sounds, even though Gen Zs grew up in a digital society, they crave in-person engagement. Creating events, open houses in your office, or even just a 1-1 virtual call can help create that personal touch in the hiring process, which goes a long way in building good relationships with Gen Zs.

All three points are not rocket science, but it does shift away from the traditional HR practice of using the matrix and finding the right qualified person to fill the jobs.

“I think for me when starting Skilio, it has always been about how can we change the success narrative in society. Traditionally, a young person would go through the education system trying to get the best academic grades to land a good job. I believe that we need to shift that mindset of success away from purely academics into something more holistic and transferable like skills,” says Tan.

Winston Thomas is the editor-in-chief of CDOTrends and DigitalWorkforceTrends. He’s a singularity believer, a blockchain enthusiast, and believes we already live in a metaverse. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/Andrei Akushevich