The phenomenon of ghosting has become all too familiar, leaving job seekers and recruiters grappling with its frustrating consequences.
In a recent article, we delved into this issue from the candidates' perspective. Job applicants don’t appreciate being ghosted, so why are they ghosting recruiters back? Are they damaging their reputation and future remote work opportunities by doing so?
We reached out to experienced recruiters who discussed the reasons behind ghosting, practical strategies to address it, and the long-term implications it carries for both parties involved.
What are the main takeaways that we learned from our recruiters?
- Recruiters should adopt a proactive approach when dealing with ghosting. They should follow up with candidates through multiple channels, be flexible in their communication, and give candidates the benefit of the doubt before assuming the worst.
- Candidates may ghost recruiters for various reasons, such as lack of confidence, perceived irrelevance of certain assessments, or personal circumstances. Recruiters should strive to understand the candidate's perspective and extend grace by assuming good intent before labeling it as ghosting.
- Communication is key to addressing ghosting. Candidates should send a courtesy email if they choose to withdraw or accept another offer, while recruiters should establish systems to streamline communication throughout the recruitment process.
- Ghosting can have consequences, such as damaging a candidate's reputation and reducing their chances of being considered for future positions. Recruiters may also view ghosting as a red flag, indicating potential communication issues and a lack of commitment.
Understanding Why Ghosting Happens
You never know what's going on with someone, and you'd want that grace extended to you. I always make a phone call and send an email asking if now is still a good time to connect or if we need to reschedule. Maybe the person got caught up in a meeting with their boss, had a last-minute emergency, or missed the calendar invite. Over-communicate to make sure you are correctly assuming that you've been ghosted versus a missed message. Contact that person via two different methods (text, email, call) and give them a few days before categorizing it as a ghost.
Monika Dmochowska, Talent Acquisition Leader at Tidio, explained that the best tactic when a candidate ghosts a recruiter “is hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Obviously, prevention is better than cure; however, once you have been ghosted, there are ways to revert the situation. Follow up on the candidate a couple of times through different channels, show that you are open to negotiations (even if it’s not the offer stage yet), and be flexible and transparent with your communication. The ghosting might turn out to be anything from your email getting into spam to a personal emergency, so it’s important not to give up on the candidate immediately.”
Sean, a recruiter from GemPool, had some interesting thoughts concerning competitive tech roles: “Most of the time, ghosting happens after the first round interview coming up to the tech test. The candidate may not always want to follow through and showcase their skills due to a lack of confidence, personal reasons, time constraints, and a number of other reasons. One common reason for candidate drop-off during the tech test stage is the perceived lack of relevance to the job they're interviewing for. Senior candidates may feel frustrated being tested on skills they have years of experience in, while others may find the test unrelated to the role they're applying for.”
Send That Email
Joshua Host, founder of Thrivelab, highlighted the importance of contacting the recruiter.
It takes minimal effort to send a courtesy email. If a candidate 'ghosted' our team in the middle of an interview process for non-emergency reasons, I wouldn't consider them a second time. This phenomenon may stem from recruiters and HR professionals known to ghost candidates. HR professionals must set the standard so candidates have more trust and respect in the interview process.
“My advice for both candidates and recruiters,” says Mark Damsgaard, founder and Head of Client Advisory at Global Residence Index, “is to be proactive in communication. Candidates must inform their employers whether they wish to withdraw their applications or if anything happens to them while they’re in the middle of the hiring process. The same goes for recruiters. I understand this is challenging, especially when they have to deal with dozens of applications. But putting in place a system, like automating email updates at different stages of the recruitment process, can help streamline the process. That helps prevent candidates from thinking they weren’t shortlisted if they don’t hear from the recruiter for more than a week.”
Sean from GemPool tries to contact an unresponsive candidate through all available channels, such as email, phone, and LinkedIn: "It can be very frustrating, especially if it is a really strong candidate, but in the long run, you do not want to have unresponsive candidates in your pipeline. If you have covered all angles and you are still not getting any response, it is important to let the candidate know that they are being pulled out of the process. Even though there’s a lack of communication from their end, you need to ensure you’re doing right by your candidates."
Emily from Almanac explains that for candidates, "it's tempting to think the process is over once you've made a decision on which job to take (or to stop your search altogether). Please remember that letting other companies know you are off the market is a critical step. A simple email notifying the hiring manager or recruiter that you've decided to move forward with another opportunity is sufficient and only takes a couple of minutes! You'd want to be notified if the company had moved on."
The Consequences of Ghosting
Jenn Oswald, Head of People Strategy at GoodTime, was clear about the consequences of ghosting for her and her team: "We would not consider a candidate again if they applied to the same or another position in the company. Because I'm sure people have a good reason for dropping off the face of the earth, but if you cannot communicate with your recruiter, we will not consider you again. Because we look at it as the fact that if you can't communicate with your recruiter, you're probably not going to be able to communicate well with your team leader, either."
Tania Doshko, Content Creator and Content Manager at WikiJob, has similar views to Jenn:
We suspect that many candidates who apply for the positions and then vanish away are incapable of saying no properly and are afraid to ruin the relationship if they change their minds. However, the damage is already enormous. We regard this as a red flag. If candidates cannot express their thoughts clearly, their decision shows poor communication skills. Thus, there is no point in considering such candidates again. The second time is a charm only when the talent pool is narrow, and some specific skills required for the position are heavily prioritized over soft skills.
Maris Tepers, founder and CEO of IT recruitment agency MateHR, says it's better to look at each situation separately: "There may have been a serious reason behind the candidate's disappearance, which might not be typical for this person. It's not a given for any candidate, but we tend to give a second chance."
Emily from Almanac would consider the candidate again, especially if they were a passive candidate that she reached out to initially:
Making a career move is all about timing, and someone may be more motivated to make a change down the road. If I never heard from them after we set up a call, I will have it documented, so I will bring it up to see if they were aware of this. Their response is indicative of whether it's a data point worth being concerned over or not. If someone ghosts further in the process, it's harder to consider that person again because the act in itself is a red flag for sticking to their word and seeing things through.
In closing, we’d like to share some sage recommendations from Maris from MateHR:
My main advice for both candidates and recruiters is always to be transparent and remember that behind the email address, there is always a real person with problems, anxieties, fears, hopes, and expectations. Ghosting on either end shouldn’t be normalized. However, open and honest communication should be. Companies should prioritize having enough resources to get back to every candidate and facilitate trust from the start of the recruitment process. This way, ghosting can be avoided, benefiting both sides.