Featured Guests:

  • Stefanie Hill – Career Coach, UCF College of Business Office of Professional Development
  • Lina Pabon – Campus Talent Acquisition Business Partner, ADP
  • “Ellen” – Student
  • “Casper” – Student
  • Vera – Robot Interviewer

Episode Transcription:


Paul Jarley:                         Russian hackers aren’t just messing with our elections, they’re disrupting the job application process, too. Companies like IKEA and Pepsi are hoping artificial intelligence will help cut hiring costs, but all this new technology may just be leading to more incivility in the job market. Prepare to be ghosted, my friends.

Paul Jarley:                         This show is all about separating hype from fundamental change. I’m Paul Jarley, dean of the College of Business here at UCF. I’ve got lots of questions. To get answers, I’m talking to people with interesting insights into the future of business. Have you ever wondered, “Is this really a thing?” On to our show.

Paul Jarley:                         To a graduating senior, the job market can be a scary place. If you think a 4% unemployment rate has eased these concerns, think again. Just pray that this horror story doesn’t happen to you.

“Ellen”:                                I got three interviews. I did all of them and I got called back for one from a local firm. I went to the second interview. They told me that, it was maybe on a Monday, and they told me they would reach out to me again by Friday. They even gave me the employment paperwork, and then they never reached out to me ever again.

Paul Jarley:                         Let’s just call her “Ellen.” But an incident like this?

“Ellen”:                                Nothing. Just completely ghosted me.

Paul Jarley:                         It’s a bit of shock to the ego.

“Ellen”:                                I figured that if they didn’t want me, they would at least tell me they didn’t want me.

Paul Jarley:                         What has that experience done to you?

“Ellen”:                                It was really frustrating because I put a lot into preparing for it. I was really excited about it. It’s discouraging.

Paul Jarley:                         Discouraging, but hardly new.

Stefanie Hill:                     I think with technology, there are so many platforms now and, depending on the business, you’re not paying for every single platform.

Paul Jarley:                         That’s Stefanie Hill, a Career Coach in our Office of Professional Development. She’s explaining how greater use of technology in the applicant screening process is leading to more ghosting by employers.

Stefanie Hill:                     An applicant tracking system is what employers use to track all of the applicants that come through and apply on their website. If you’re using that ATS, that’s great, but you have to drive traffic to you website, which a lot of employers don’t pay for extra marketing to do that. You’re gonna go on CareerBuilder, you’re gonna go on Indeed. If your organization doesn’t shell out thousands of dollars to pay for these different platforms, then they’re not communicating with your ATS. In that instance, you’re going on three different platforms. You would have to send rejection letters to all three different platforms, depending on who applied on which, and a lot of times with all of those applicants it’s hard for employers and recruiters, especially, to keep track of all of that

Paul Jarley:                         It’s just too much work to contact everybody.

Stefanie Hill:                     I believe so. I also think it depends on the means of how you’re communicating with somebody.

Paul Jarley:                         Sometimes when the employer calls, no one’s home. Given the pressures of time, the employer just moves on.

Stefanie Hill:                     If you’re doing that through a phone call or voicemail, nobody really checks their voicemail. They don’t clear their inbox for their voicemail. You can’t leave a voicemail. Why spend multiple times trying one person when five other people answered your first phone call? I also think that has to do with it, is really the timing around that. If you’re a recruiter, you need to meet numbers. If you’re not doing that quick enough, that’s a problem.

Paul Jarley:                         Laziness, rudeness, and time pressures do have their costs, though.

Lina Pabon:                        Never ever again. That tells me something.

Paul Jarley:                         That’s Lina Pabon, a Recruiter with ADP.

Lina Pabon:                        We’re one of the largest human capital management companies in the United States.

Paul Jarley:                         She would never work for a company that ghosts applicants.

Lina Pabon:                        I would never. Even if I had a friend who was interviewing or something, I would even be like, “Well, that was my experience with them?” Just as an FYI. It’s definitely a negative thing, especially at the level I was at. You’re telling me I’m moving to a second round, and then I never hear back. That’s not professional on their end.

Paul Jarley:                         But it’s not just the initial screening process that’s becoming automated. Meet Vera.

Vera:                                     Hello. My name is Vera. Thanks for your time.

Paul Jarley:                         She’s a robo-interviewer developed by a Russian company who works for both IKEA and Pepsi. I sat down for an interview with her.

Vera:                                     Are you ready?

Paul Jarley:                         Yes.

Vera:                                     Alright. For a start, tell me how do you grow the net promoter score of your accounts.

Paul Jarley:                         I hire smart people like Josh Miranda, who does these things for me.

Vera:                                     And by the way, what was the best customer service you have ever received?

Paul Jarley:                         I had a tailor who once measured me one day in my hotel room and delivered me three suits the next day.

Vera:                                     Hm. Me, too. Now, please, define the word “leadership” in one sentence, just without using the word “lead.”

Paul Jarley:                         It’s the ability to articulate a vision that motivates other people.

Vera:                                     Hm. Brilliant. I enjoyed our talk. I will get in touch with you by email by the end of this week. Have a prosperous day ahead.

Paul Jarley:                         Vera winked at me twice during the interview, but I don’t think we made a deep personal connection. I honestly don’t think she’s calling me back. Perhaps that lack of a personal touch leads to things like this.

“Casper”:                            My first urge is to ghost.

Paul Jarley:                         That’s another UCF student. Let’s call him “Casper.” In Casper’s experience, impersonal recruiting practices have led to cyber stalking and make some companies seem illegitimate.

“Casper”:                            On LinkedIn, you get just the most bizarre messages. You don’t have a very private account ’cause you’re trying to get that exposure. You get the startups and the questionable ventures that are like, “Oh, yeah, we’d love to have you!”

Paul Jarley:                         “Hi, we’re a pyramid scheme, would you like to join us?”

“Casper”:                            Yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly. I had a recruiter contact me saying, “Entrepreneur is looking for me to report to the CEO.” I mean, I’m flattered, but I just graduated with my accounting degree. Those things don’t add up. I’m suspicious. Whenever you just know it’s not really worth your time, it’s easy to just pass up on it.

Paul Jarley:                         How about a more reputable …

“Casper”:                            More reputable ones. My first urge, a lot of times- For example, on my LinkedIn, on my header it says, “I’m looking for public accounting in this market. I graduated here.” I would get offers on LinkedIn like, “Hey, we want to interview for this management training role in Orlando starting summer.” You just got all three of the things in my header wrong, so I had the urge to just ghost them because you’re not really paying attention to who you’re reaching out to.

Paul Jarley:                         Have you ever ghosted someone after they actually called you for an interview?

“Casper”:                            Just that recruiter for the one where they want me to be a controller. It wasn’t really worth my time. I mean, I had asked a couple more followup questions and the answers were not as through and through as I would have liked. I just kind of let it go.

Paul Jarley:                         Pay attention, employers. As Stefanie notes, Casper’s story is hardly unique.

Stefanie Hill:                     Applicants ghost for the purpose of, “I’m applying to a ton of jobs and you’re getting phone calls and you’re not answering those phone calls for whatever reason.” Definitely in the initial process when a company reaches out through phone screen, we’ve also seen seVeral students that my have gotten hired with a company. They’re expected to be in training or they’re currently in the organization and all of a sudden, they fall off the face of the Earth.

Paul Jarley:                         I’d really like to revoke their degrees.

Stefanie Hill:                     I think a big thing with that and why students are doing that, not necessarily students but just about everybody is doing that, is not only the competition, you may have just taken a job for the sake of taking it, but you like something better.

Paul Jarley:                         Casper adds:

“Casper”:                            You’re not sure if you wanna be that confrontational with somebody.

Paul Jarley:                         Ah, difficult conversation.

“Casper”:                            Yeah, exactly. A lot of times, my peers, they’ll have offers from not their first choice and they don’t want to decline it in case something happens, but they don’t wanna accept it, either.

Paul Jarley:                         A delay strategy.

“Casper”:                            A delay strategy, exactly. It’s easier to sit on it a little bit, keep it on the back burner.

Paul Jarley:                         Okay, let’s do some ghostbusting. Who you gonna call? Why, Stefanie Hill, of course. She says if you’re a job applicant:

Stefanie Hill:                     Really focus on your top five companies and try to get in with those companies. Follow up through email if you don’t hear back from them after a week of putting your resume in. Also, after your talks on the phone, after your interviews, respond back to that employer. Court them whenever they’re on campus. Anytime they come, the College of Business, we have employers everywhere. Really trying to court and follow up as much as possible is my biggest advice there.

Paul Jarley:                         If you’re an applicant thinking of ghosting an employer, Stefanie warns:

Stefanie Hill:                     It’s a small world and if you burn a bridge with one person, especially if you’re trying to stay within a certain industry, you’ll probably burn bridges with everybody in that industry because people talk.

Paul Jarley:                         As Lina notes, unthoughtful behavior like this tends to come back to haunt you later in your career.

Lina Pabon:                        If you didn’t get back, if you were unprofessional, people can remember that and it could potentially affect a future opportunity. You just never want to do that. You never want to hurt your future opportunities. All we need is an email. Not even a phone call. I appreciate it as an employer when a candidate does take the time to send me a quick email to thank me, just, “Thank you for considering me. I have accepted another opportunity.” I’m like, “Great, I wish you the best of luck.”

Paul Jarley:                         There’s no downside to class and civility.

Lina Pabon:                        Exactly.

Paul Jarley:                         Speaking of class, one last tip. If you don’t get the job, send them a thank you note anyway. You never know what might happen next.

Lina Pabon:                        To your point, you never know when that person’s gonna back out and you were the second or third or what have you. But you took the time to send out a thank you note, hopefully reiterate your interest, why you’re a good fit for the role, and they might think, “Well, this person, they were interested and they took the time. Let’s revisit that. Let’s see if they’re still available.”

Paul Jarley:                         Casper may be a ghost, but he’s got some advice for employers who don’t want people like him floating away to the competition.

“Casper”:                            Some of the online and automated systems won’t even respond, even whenever you submit. You don’t even get confirmations of it.

Paul Jarley:                         You don’t know if you submitted it properly.

“Casper”:                            Exactly, exactly. A lot of times, they just scan your LinkedIn or scan your PDF and upload a lot of it normally or automated. You’re not sure if it even incorporated correctly. You’re left wondering.

Paul Jarley:                         Because if you feel like you’ve been ghosted, well, you’re more likely to ghost them.

“Casper”:                            While I don’t take it personally, it makes me less inclined to want to respond to somebody else. They’re ghosting, why don’t I ghost, too? I feel almost as if I’m flogging myself by trying to write this really personal, “I’m sorry, but” email.

Paul Jarley:                         Lina points out in today’s world, getting a reputation as a ghoster, well, that’s gonna get you burned.

Lina Pabon:                        Nowadays with social media and Indeed and things like that, that’s gonna get out there and that’s gonna affect your branding. We have a best practice where we do try to get back with all of the candidates within three to five business days, whether that’s positive or negative.

Paul Jarley:                         Even if it’s automated, right?

Lina Pabon:                        Right, exactly. That’s what I was going to say. With automation now, it’s so easy to just send out an automated email saying, “You know, unfortunately, we’re not moving forward.”

Paul Jarley:                         To Lina, it’s all about the personal touch.

Lina Pabon:                        Having that personable touchpoint with them during the phone screen where I try to create that relationship so that I don’t get ghosted.

Paul Jarley:                         “Ghostbusters” puts it nicely.

Janine:                                  Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyants, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness Monster, and the theory of Atlantis?

Winston:                              If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.

Paul Jarley:                         But it’s not 1984, and in today’s market, as Stefanie and I discuss:

Paul Jarley:                         Do students expect to be dated by employers today?

Stefanie Hill:                     Oh, for sure.

Paul Jarley:                         When you show up for that date:

Stefanie Hill:                     I think millennials are extremely focused on culture. I think that’s one thing that employers sometimes fail to focus on.

Paul Jarley:                         For a lot of applicants, they just won’t consider small companies. They’ll be thinking this.

Stefanie Hill:                     I’m not gonna call them back. That’s not a good opportunity.

Paul Jarley:                         One way companies could maybe reduce the likelihood of being ghosted by a UCF College of Business student would be to spend some time on campus, get students to know them, and the opportunities that they have because they’re not, say, Amazon.

Stefanie Hill:                     They want the employer to sell them because it’s so competitive.

Paul Jarley:                         Casper underscores the importance of a human showing up.

“Casper”:                            I would say be personable, mention their name, make it as unique as possible while not going over the top because the student wants to feel recognized and like they’re not wasting their time. I mean, not to cater to individuality too much, but mainly just show that you are a person on the other side. You’re not a company, you are a recruiter working for a company. You’re an individual and the more personable you make it, I think the more assume I realize, “Hey, I should be courteous to this person rather than blow off a company.”

Paul Jarley:                         Time to get to the bottom line. Is ghosting a thing? From our victim Ellen:

“Ellen”:                                I don’t think it’s in my nature to ghost. I just find it so incredibly rude.

Paul Jarley:                         From ghostbuster Stefanie Hill:

Stefanie Hill:                     Yes, definitely a thing.

Paul Jarley:                         From Lina Pabon:

Lina Pabon:                        Yes. Actually, on both ends.

Paul Jarley:                         From that ghost, Casper:

“Casper”:                            Ghosting, in general, is a real thing.

Paul Jarley:                         It’s my podcast, so I get to go last. Recruiting new employees is time-consuming and costly. It’s easy to understand why companies are looking to new technologies to help keep these costs in check, but it’s a seller’s market right now. People might put up with Vera in the application process when they’re desperate to find work.

Vera:                                     I could not hear your answer. Do you want to continue the dialogue?

Paul Jarley:                         But in an economy with a 4% unemployment rate, that personal touch might be the difference between landing your candidate or waiting by the phone for somebody to call back. Ghosting might be a thing, but it’s not inevitable. Be your own ghostbuster. Spend the time to engage and get to know people because it almost always pays off. What’s your take?

Paul Jarley:                         Check us out online and share your thoughts at business.ucf.edu/podcast. You can also find extended interviews with our guests and notes from the show. Special thanks to my producer, Josh Miranda, and the whole team at the Office of Outreach & Engagement here at the UCF College of Business, and thank you for listening. Until next time, charge on.