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Core Values: The cure for workplace ghosting

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

I just read an article published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) about how ‘ghosting’ is confusing HR pros and managers. The writer gives examples of job seekers and even newly hired employees who simply disappear. It is a growing problem.

It is a thoughtful article and the author rightly points out that companies have been ghosting candidates for years. Nearly everyone I know has sent a resume into a corporate black hole.

The primary solution the article offers is to “hire for job fit”. Job fit is an expansive term. There’s a key piece of job fit that goes unstated — and, most of the time, unnoticed.


Ghosting isn’t just about job fit

Ghosting is a character problem.

It is about getting the right person into the right seat.

It is about core values — the attitudes and beliefs that drive a person’s behavior.

Most people would say integrity is important to them. “I want people to be honest with me.” But many of those same people turn right around and bend the truth here and there. Why is it newsworthy when some kids in Colorado return a wallet to the owner — with all $700 still inside?

Because, integrity — as a core value — isn’t as common as we all really want it to be.

You can say you’re a person who values integrity but if you’re willing to bend the truth here and there to get what you want, integrity doesn’t live in the marrow of the bones that make up your personality.


An experiment to help reduce ghosting

If you’re having trouble with candidates ghosting you for follow-up interviews or new hires ghosting you in the first few days of employment, experiment with this approach.

During the very first interview:

  1. Ask the candidate to tell you their core values.

  2. Ask for two specific examples of when those values were tested.

  3. Find out how they solved the problem in a way that worked for everyone without compromising their core values.

Don’t tell the candidate ahead of time that you’re going to ask this.

It’s too easy for someone to make up something they think you’re going to want to hear. A person who knows their core values is usually passionate about them. They can answer the questions without any real preparation.

These are the people you want to hire.

And, don’t forget to be reasonable.

Everybody knows interviews can be stressful. Just like any other question, allow a candidate to collect their thoughts before answering.


Core values are the key to organizational fit

Core values are a leading indicator of whether or not a person is an organizational fit.

You’d never hire someone who didn’t have the ability to demonstrate their technical capability. Why would you treat their ethics and approach to work differently?

There’s something important to remember before you run the experiment:

People — not companies — have core values.

A group of people who gather together around a mutual purpose share a set of cultural expectations. Seth Godin refers to this as “people like us do things like this”. When the people who lead companies agree on the shared set of values, they become the company’s core values.

They’re the things for which you’d fire someone if they intentionally and repeatedly violated them.

They’re just as much performance related as making sales numbers or meeting quality control targets. The shared core values are the heartbeat of the company.

Your company or team must have a clear picture of the core values they expect each person to demonstrate.

If I were to walk into your team and ask any person “what are the team’s core values”, would they all answer the same way? If not, you might need to revisit this foundation.

Once you know the core values, the team shares and communicates them, and you have them tied into every aspect of what you do (including hiring), candidates and employees who disappear will become ghosts of the past.



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