“Ghost” by employers: when the list suddenly becomes empty

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In the United States, increasing numbers of employees have been “scaring” their employers during the pandemic, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta report. So employees disappear without notice or explanation.

However, one reason for this is that employers have been doing this to their employees for years.

Although shadows usually occur during the application process, some employees who have already been employed are affected as well.

Scott Margot did not receive the promised call. At Paul Scherwin, the director of human resources never showed up for a meeting. For Matt Murphy, the dates on his list have evaporated.

Each of the three Americans has sought jobs during the pandemic in industries beset by labor shortages — and the “ghost” of employees. Most people know the term from dating. There he describes the phenomenon that some people suddenly stop reporting despite positive signs – without prior notice or explanation.

The phenomenon is also increasing in working life in the United States: according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, employees come to work a few days before their disappearance without warning. In a 2019 survey by job portal Indeed, 83 percent of employers said they had already experienced a shadow. The number of disappearances in Germany is also on the rise, Spiegel reported last November. However, Margot, Sherwin, and Murphy believe that doing so will only make employees pay like for like.

When a place you thought was safe, you are suddenly taken without explanation

Scott Margot explains that he did everything right: at the hotel industry networking event, he spoke with the director of sales and marketing, gave a follow-up interview, and received an invitation to tour the hotel. He already had 20 years of experience in the industry and was told that the perfect job for him would open soon. “I thought everything was fine,” Margot says.

At the direction of the sales manager, wait for the job posting online and then apply immediately. A week later, he went to the site and found that his application had been rejected. When he wanted to find out why, he never reached the mailbox and received no answer. “I’m still looking for work,” Margot says. “It’s scary. This is my career, not a job to make ends meet.”

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The hiring manager does not show up for the interview

After being laid off from his managerial job last year due to Covid-19, Schwerin began delivering packages to FedEx. At the same time, apply for five to ten jobs each month. “I’ve been searching for a year now,” he says. “I have applied for too many administrative positions to be counted. I still haven’t found anything.”

In November, he completed two interviews with a company before withdrawing the offer without explanation. In another case, call patients to go to an interview. But the hiring manager didn’t show up. And two weeks ago he was told that he would have an answer within a week regarding the next interview. “I’m tired of hearing about poor companies being ghosted,” Schwerin says. “This does not fit my experience at all. I, the applicant, am the one who has been wronged.”

Shadow in the application process

There are many potential reasons why the use of shadows is more common in the application process — not least the use of algorithm-driven checks, according to research from Harvard Business School. The vast majority of employers told researchers that strict screening criteria in employment systems exclude qualified applicants for high- and medium-skilled positions. And that is before any human factors enter the recruitment process.

In Germany too, many people are likely to feel “shadowed” during the application process. A survey conducted by job portal Stepstone from 2018 showed that every second respondent received no qualified feedback from the company even 45 days after applying.

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Removed from the list without comment

But in the US, not only do applicants feel wronged, employees feel it too. Many workers in industries with irregular working hours reported that it was common practice to gradually remove someone from the calendar without explanation. That’s exactly what happened to him after contracting Covid-19, said Murphy, a restaurant worker. He stayed home sick for several days because of it. When he informed his manager that he was able to work again, he said he received no answer.

Like many jobs in the United States, restaurant jobs fall under the so-called “hire at will” rule. Employers can terminate their employees at any time and for any reason. “A lot of times, employees have their hours reduced, and then at some point they are just taken off the list,” Murphy says.

The phenomenon of ghost workers is real and causes serious problems in the labor market. But Margot, Scherwin, Murphy, and many others see this as a reflection of what HR departments have been doing for years.

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This article was translated from English by Steffen Bosse. You can find the original here.

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