Rural wireless players say they're getting ghosted by job applicants

It can be a challenge just to get prospective employees to travel to Union Wireless, a service provider in the remote town of Mountain View, Wyoming, with a population of about 1,042.

But now they’re having to grapple with ghosting, too.

“We’re dealing with ghosting now, where we think we’ve hired somebody and they don’t show up for their first day of work,” said Megan Neal, director of Human Resources at Union Wireless. Or, “they don’t show up for the interview, so that relationship with that candidate is so critically important.”

Neal was talking about the challenges of recruiting talent in rural areas as part of a session at the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) annual convention in Portland, Oregon, last week.

Ghosting usually is associated with personal relationships, but it’s extending to all forms of communications nowadays, especially since Covid.

In some cases, a job offer is made and accepted, but that doesn't mean they're going to show up for work. Applicants are still talking to other prospective employers and don't always feel obligated to tell someone they've found work elsewhere. 

In order to prevent “ghosting,” Neal advised attendees to find a way to continue interacting with them in the hopes they get to know you well enough that they don’t just disappear – and if they do decide not to take a job, they’ll let you know.  

Covid and the last couple of years have taken away a lot of personal accountability, she said. “People forgot to have conversations with one another,” she said.

Mark Walker, president of at Global Technology Associates (GTA), which provides telecom engineering and deployment for legacy, 5G and private networks, previously was a network VP with Sprint and T-Mobile.

He said the practice of ghosting is happening at a dramatic pace, and these aren’t $15/hour jobs they’re talking about. It’s happening with senior level engineers and “it’s a real problem,” he said, reiterating that frequent communications with the applicant is essential.

“Find a reason to talk to them” and keep the channels of communications going, he suggested.  

The job seeker’s perspective

Afsheen Saatchi has been a recruiting manager in Customer Experience at T-Mobile for about three years and previously was a staffing program manager at Starbucks.

He’s no advocate for ghosting but suggested a candidate might have very good reasons for dropping communications. For example, a candidate may have just gone through the ringer, first applying and then taking an assessment test and maybe interviewing face-to-face with three or four different people. That’s before they even start negotiating terms of employment.

“At the end of the day, that whole process that they went through is a glimpse into the chaos of your organization,” he said. The more a company can streamline the process, the better it’s going to be for everyone.  

“I certainly don’t advocate for ghosting,” he said, but from a candidate’s perspective, if they have to go through a months-long process, they might not be interested in looping back after somebody else has offered a better deal.

Recruiting in small towns

In 2021, T-Mobile announced a commitment to bring 5G to rural America, which included hiring 7,500 new employees in small towns and rural communities. It’s also providing grant money for community development projects across the country.

In approaching some of these communities, especially as a corporation as large as T-Mobile, it’s critical to build trust and authenticity, Saatchi said.

“We’re not just showing up and hiring from that community and we’re like, ‘here, buy a phone plan from us.’ We’re moving there and we’re investing in those communities and through those investments, we’re achieving mutually beneficial outcomes, not just from a sales perspective” but also a talent perspective, he said.

Not every company has a dedicated social responsibility initiative, but even volunteering in a community will have a positive impact on a business and its ability to attract talent, he said.

“It’s something that we really invested heavily in because we see the benefits of going out there and engaging with the community with that people-first mindset, with the goal to build a brand in some of these rural areas that may not be as familiar with a large company like T-Mobile coming from Seattle,” he said.