Let’s Talk About Ghosting During the Hiring Process

Starting as a slang word for a phenomenon that is often observed in modern dating, the term “ghosting” has now become common parlance — and a common occurrence — in many spheres of life, including the professional world. According to Merriam-Webster, ghosting is “the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone (such as a former romantic partner) by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc.”

As recruiters, it’s not uncommon for us to hear from our peers that they’ve experienced ghosting by candidates, and sometimes it’s easy to think of it as being a one-sided issue. However, ghosting is something that affects all parties involved in the hiring process, whether it’s as the ghoster or the ghosted. In this blog post, we will discuss why ghosting is a problem for all involved, as well as what can be done to avoid experiencing it in the future.

How widespread is ghosting during the hiring process?

We may talk about ghosting during the hiring process more these days than we have in the recent past, but it’s not quite clear if it’s actually becoming more of a problem, or if it’s simply easier to identify with such a clearly descriptive and catchy term to describe it.

Even so, the data that is available shows that it is an issue that affects a lot of people. According to a survey by Indeed, 77% of job seekers reported that they had been ghosted by an employer in 2020, and 28% admitted to having ghosted an employer themselves, up from 18% in 2019.   On the employer side, 76% say they had been ghosted by a candidate that year, and 57% believe this has become more common. At the same time, only 27% of employers said they did not ghost a job seeker in 2020. And a 2019 report by LinkedIn found that 95% of recruiters had been ghosted by job seekers after they interviewed with a client.

It is clear by these numbers that it’s not just one of the involved parties that needs to take the blame for ghosting. Ghosting is not usually done with any malicious intent, and sometimes, it’s not even a conscious choice, but that doesn’t make the possible repercussions any less damaging.

Why do people decide to ghost?

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about experiencing ghosting is just not knowing what happened. On the part of the ghosted, it’s easy to take it personally, even though it rarely is.

Candidates may be more compelled to ghost in a strong job market, where they have an abundance of choices, and don’t perceive any risk by simply disappearing from one opportunity in favor of another.

According to the survey by Indeed, the most reported reason for job seekers to ghost in 2020 was that they received another offer they preferred, with 20% reporting this. Another 15% decided it just wasn’t the right job for them, 13% were compelled due to dissatisfaction with an offered salary, and just 4% blamed difficulties presented by the pandemic.

For employers, a common reason they ghost may be that they are afraid of being accused of discrimination or more general unfairness when sharing bad news with a candidate.

Whatever the specific reason, the overall commonality that almost always leads to an eventual ghost is miscommunication or a lack of communication at some point in the hiring process.

In a world where a swipe on your phone can lead to a date or an online purchase, and the job application process has been made so detached and impersonal, ghosting has become learned behavior for some people.

Many people, especially those on the younger side, have grown accustomed to quick and informal ways of communicating, even at work. Whether it’s by instant message or short emails, today’s workforce is less likely to have opportunities to gain experience having tough conversations over the phone, face-to-face, or even via email. It can feel like a lot of pressure, so rather than take that on, they decide it’s easier to simply disappear.

But, while it might be the easier course of action in the moment, it can make things more difficult in the long run. And choosing to ghost once, may very well lead to habitual ghosting. It’s easier to break the potential habit now. In the next sections, we will discuss why ghosting is a bad choice and what to do to avoid the likelihood of being ghosted, for recruiters, employers, and job seekers.

For Recruiters and Employers:

Why is ghosting a bad idea?  

Leaving candidates hanging with no resolution is a poor reflection on recruiting companies and employers. Websites like Glassdoor and Indeed, which are easily found and widely used by job seekers, typically contain a plethora of information regarding a company’s hiring process. Ghosted candidates have every right to submit reviews regarding their experience, and even a single mention of ghosting could steer potential talent away from even wanting to apply to a company that has a history of ghosting or work with a recruiting firm that has ghosted candidates in the past.

For recruiters in particular, ghosting can also be detrimental to attracting current and future clients. Recruiters represent themselves and their companies but also represent their client companies. Any lack of professionalism, like ghosting, on the part of recruiters reflects directly onto their client, which could jeopardize that relationship.

Ghosting by recruiters and employers can also negatively impact the volume and quality of future talent pools. Candidates who are passed over for a specific role might be the perfect fit for a future role. If a recruiter or employer had ghosted them during the original hiring process, however, they will remember that and may be less likely to consider going through the process again and risk another ghosting.

Decreasing internal referrals can also be a consequence of ghosting. If candidates who were referred by current employees end up being ghosted, employees will probably be cautious about referring anyone in their network in the future.

Even if the ghosting is unintentional on the part of a recruiter or employer, a lack of communication can be perceived as ghosting, and can have many of the same consequences. If a candidate is left hanging without any updates regarding their candidacy, they’re likely to simply move on and may not feel that they need to inform the other party of this decision.

What can you do to prevent ghosting?

The key to preventing candidates from ghosting is clear and regular communication. From the first conversation, be upfront with candidates about when or how often they should expect to hear from you and by what means (phone, email, etc.). Getting these conversations scheduled in advance can help make sure everyone is on the same page and no one forgets to check-in.

Once these expectations are set, follow through on them. Even if you don’t have an update, reach out and let them know. It’s critical that candidates know you’re actively thinking of them so that they don’t give up and move on.

The first conversation with a candidate should also be used to inform them about how the hiring process will work and an estimated timeline. This conversation is also key to gathering all the relevant information that could be a determining factor in whether they will accept a position if offered. Whether it’s compensation requirements, openness to relocation, or how active their job search is, these are all important factors that could drive someone to ghost if they come up too late in the process.

Finally, showing empathy and compassion can go a long way to discourage ghosting. Understand that job searching is tough and stressful, whether the job seeker is currently employed or not. Be appreciative of the time and effort they put into the process, by reciprocating with efficient, clear, and kind communication. They will be more likely to do the same in return.

For Job Seekers:

Why is ghosting a bad idea? 

Ghosting may seem like the easy way out, and in the moment, it might be. However, it’s crucial to think of the repercussions of the decision before cutting ties with no explanation.

Ghosting is an ideal way to burn professional bridges. According to the survey by Indeed, 54% of job seekers who admitted to ghosting an employer in the past said they suffered repercussions for it.

Niche industries, like factory and industrial automation, are small worlds, and word of candidates who have ghosted one company or recruiter could spread to others, who may in turn be unwilling to pursue them in the future.

It’s common practice for employers and recruiters to keep a record of behaviors like ghosting. In fact, the Indeed survey found that 93% of employers record it in their applicant tracking systems, meaning they will be unlikely to forget it happened and may not offer ghosters another chance.

For recruiting firms, including Automationtechies, it is standard protocol to flag candidates who ghost so that they aren’t considered for future openings. The impact of this could be far-reaching since candidates are typically unaware of the full scope of a recruiting company’s client roster. That dream job you find months or years after ghosting a recruiter might just be the latest opening they’re working to fill, and even if you’re the perfect fit, a history of ghosting could automatically eliminate you as a candidate.

What can you do to prevent ghosting?

To avoid being ghosted as well as becoming a perceived ghoster, communication is paramount.

From the beginning of communicating with an employer or recruiter, be clear about your schedule and availability. Let them know if you will be unable to take calls or answer emails during work hours, for example, and inform them if you will be traveling or otherwise disconnected for a period. Some employers have an expiration date on their job offers or tight timelines to get interviews scheduled, and even if you aren’t technically ghosting, they might perceive that you are and move on if you don’t respond in time.

It’s also a good idea to practice having difficult conversations so that you feel comfortable doing so. When working with recruiters, be upfront about what you’re looking for and your thoughts during the hiring process. If you have any doubts or concerns, make it known. That way, wasted time will be minimized, and you can both move on to other potential opportunities.

Practicing saying no in a professional way can also be helpful, whether it’s via email or over the phone. If you’re prepared to respond to a disappointing offer, or just decide it’s not a great fit, that will minimize the temptation to ghost.

We can make ghosting during the hiring process disappear.

It’s clear that ghosting is something that negatively impacts everyone involved in the hiring process. Even so, people still do it, whether they mean to or not. It doesn’t have to be that way though. While it is probably impossible to completely eradicate the phenomenon, everyone can take accountability for their own actions and take steps to minimize the risk of being the victim (and the perpetrator) of ghosting. Communication and empathy are critical. By being upfront, compassionate, and professional, we can make ghosting disappear.

About the Author:

This article is written by Meghan Carty, Operations and Communications Coordinator at Automationtechies.

Connect with her on LinkedIn.