A survival guide to ghosting and catfishing (Hint: Not in the dating world)

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Have you been ghosted? Or catfished? As the title indicates, I am not talking about the dating scene – I am referring to our hiring processes! In case you aren’t familiar with these terms, ghosting is a lack of response after an attempt at communication – you can view the Oxford definition here. Catfishing is pretending to be something that you are not, and here’s the definition for that term. At my own clinic, I have noticed that a large percentage of candidates who schedule interviews are no-shows, and of those that do show, many seem to have a penchant for inflating their skill sets. I am being both ghosted and catfished, and this can and does happen at any point in the hiring process.

What’s the root cause of candidate ghosting and catfishing?

Why are job applicants ghosting? Is the job market so hot that candidates have multiple opportunities? Can we attribute this behavior to a shortage of technicians? Is clinic reputation a factor? And why is catfishing so prevalent? In my job posting, I always emphasize that I am willing to train the right individual – so why are candidates not being honest about their skills?

The truth is that these behaviors aren’t really new to the hiring process in any industry – in the past it was often the employer that did not follow up on received applications or send out letters of regret. So, what has changed? The reality is that candidates now have the upper hand in our industry (and many others), especially when they have experience on their side. My co-manager and I used to worry when someone didn’t show up for an interview and were concerned that they may have gotten into a car accident or that they were ill. Now, we are often taking bets on whether an applicant will actually arrive for their scheduled interview.

Is it because the human touch is missing in the hiring process?

My gut instinct tells me that these new trends have more to do with the anonymity of digital communication and hiring processes than with any of the potential reasons listed above. Before Monster, Indeed, Craigslist and other internet-based job boards existed, we used to receive applications in person. We would call applicants on the phone to invite them in for an interview or even speak to them when they dropped their application off at our practice. Now it is so easy for jobseekers to apply for a position with a click of a button and a preloaded resume, that there is often little thought that goes into whether they actually want the position they just applied for. In many cases they’re not taking the time to properly evaluate the opportunity, and failing to ask themselves basic questions like: Is the clinic nearby? Is the commute worth the pay? What type of clinic is it? Small Animal? Exotic? Specialty?

Candidate ghosting and catfishing likely has more to do with the anonymity of digital communication and hiring processes than the fact that it’s a candidate’s market. Click To Tweet

These days, when we receive an electronic application we typically respond electronically. Most of the time, we are offering an interview without a phone call, without the personal contact that was previously part of our hiring process.

The same goes for catfishing – in the past many clinics offered working interviews, but as those have faded away due to changes in labor laws we often find ourselves hiring candidates before truly knowing their skillsets.

So, what can we do to combat ghosting and catfishing?

Here are some recommendations based on what we’ve experienced in my clinic:

  • Personalize the hiring process by calling each candidate.
  • Conduct a short telephone phone interview prior to offering an in-person interview.
  • Define your brand in your job advertisement– make your ad stand apart from the others and be memorable right from the start.
  • Keep your communication professional yet personable and individualized – stop using those canned Indeed responses!
  • Remember to always check references to verify skills and experience.
To find and keep the best candidates, personalize your communication during the hiring process and avoid using canned responses! Click To Tweet

Although it is impossible to prevent catfishing and ghosting in its entirety, I do believe that making the hiring process more human and showcasing your culture right from that initial phone call can help decrease the occurrences of these undesirable behaviors. In a market where people are more aware than ever of the importance of workplace culture, take a moment to make sure that yours shines! When interviewing, whether over the phone or in person, remember that the tables haven’t so much turned as they have become equal. Your interviewees are interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them, and they want respect right from the start. So, make sure you stand out from the crowd with a winning hiring process that highlights what makes you an exceptional employer!


Wendy Jureski, CCFE has worked in veterinary medicine for more than 20 years. She is the business manager at a small veterinary practice in Jacksonville, FL. She is also a Social Media Manager for a website design firm that supports clients in the veterinary industry. You can reach Wendy at wjureski@gmail.com.