Situation: You have applied for and been offered a temporary job to start tomorrow. The money is fine and the location is pretty good, but you’ve just been offered a different job that you have also accepted. What should you do?
Answer: Whatever you do, don’t ghost your recruiter. For those of you who don’t know what ghosting is, it’s when someone you have been communicating with, often closely, suddenly stops communicating – they seem to disappear into thin air. I remember reading this case about a woman who was living with this man and one day he went off to work and never came home. Turned out he just got into his car, drove to a different city and started a new life. When the police found him (after all, she thought something terrible must have happened), the man just said that he decided he didn’t want to see her anymore and decided to start again somewhere else. Anyway, that’s what ghosting means – you just go incommunicado.
Ghosting a recruiter means you ignore calls, texts, emails and in extreme situations, physical mail.
Why do people Ghost their recruiter?
To be honest I don’t really know, after all they’re too busy ignoring our calls to tell us. But what I suspect happens, is that they have been asked to commit to one thing (the temp job) and have agreed to that commitment, and then are too embarrassed or uncomfortable to tell their recruiter that they are not going to meet that commitment.
Perhaps they think we will be angry or yell at them. And to be honest, it’s hard to NOT be frustrated with someone who has said yes they will do this one thing and then they don’t (kind of like how frustrating it is when your teenager says that they will wash the dishes and you discover them still congealing in the sink at 10.00pm).
But, let me be clear – it is much easier for us to call a hiring manager and advise them that you are not starting this morning because you were offered another role late last night and it’s your dream job, than it is for us to call the hiring manager and advise them that you are not returning calls and we don’t know where you are. After all, we have told them what a great person you are, and it makes us look pretty hopeless if we are recommending people who can’t even be bothered to answer their phone.
How to tell your recruiter you are not going to start a job
First, call them as soon as you possibly can. Don’t leave it until the last minute, because the more time you give them, the more opportunity they have to find a replacement. Secondly, be honest. Don’t make up stories about people dying, because you will forget the lies you tell and it will come back to haunt you.
Case in point: Lena had temped for me a couple of times. One assignment finished suddenly when she called to let me know her mother had passed away, and that was completely OK. She was then working for me on a great temp assignment that paid well and where the hiring manager was really pleased with the work she was doing. Then she just disappeared – didn’t show up for work. Didn’t answer her phone(s) and didn’t respond to text or email. The hiring manager was frantic, worried that something awful had happened to her on the way to work, so we ended up calling her emergency contact, who was very surprised and assured us Lena was well, but despite them telling us they would tell her to call us, she never actually did.
Then by coincidence a few weeks later, we were talking to a completely different hiring manager, when they mentioned they had a new starter in their team and innocently let it slip who it was. Lo and behold it was Lena. Clearly, we couldn’t say anything to this hiring manager, we are bound by privacy laws, so we didn’t tell them that she had ghosted from a temp job. But three months later when the recruitment consultant was talking with this hiring manager again, they had a vacancy to talk to us about. It turned out Lena had had to leave suddenly… because her mother had died.
Funnily enough when I was talking to a colleague about the situation, she told me that Lena had finished an assignment for her a couple of years ago because her, wait for it…her mother had died.
Now, I don’t think every person is a Lena who invents a parent who can die at will, but she is an excellent example of someone who tells lies to get out of meeting her commitment and finds that one day it all comes back to haunt her.
So please tell the truth, if you really cannot start or complete a temp assignment, just pick up the phone and call your recruiter. We will respect you a million times more for being honest and upfront than if you just do a Lena on us!
 Lena is not her real name, I have changed it to protect her privacy.