Ghosting can be a frustrating and difficult part of the interview process

Ghosting: Why We Do It & How to Stop

Whether it’s an unanswered customer service call, a third date, or a fifth interview, there’s nothing worse than getting ghosted—2020’s preferred term for completely ceasing communication for no apparent reason. In the professional world, both employers and employees are guilty of this dirty habit of radio silence. Moreover, there’s a ghosting spectrum, from relatively benign, like a company not responding to a boilerplate cover letter application, to malicious, like a manager not showing up to open a waterpark and costing the employer thousands of dollars in lost revenue. So why do we ghost, and more importantly, how do we bust ghosting? 

Why do employers ghost? Because Recruiters are not Robots.

Why Employers Ghost Candidates

  • Change in Priorities
    Hiring managers are people, too! We often think of self-discovery as a personal process, but businesses go through the same process, except via hiring or “productivity gurus” instead of self-help books and adopting trendy houseplants. Sometimes companies post jobs before they really know what they need and find that out during the interview process, at the candidate’s expense. While this may not be a good excuse, it normally doesn’t reflect negatively on a candidate’s potential.
  • An Influx of Internal Referrals
    Sometimes a company will make a public job posting for policy or transparency reasons but effectively ignore outside inquiries, prioritizing internal referrals from other people on the team. Sometimes they cast too wide of a net and get an overwhelming response that makes it all but impossible to reply to every application.
  • You’re the Second or Third Choice
    Maybe you’re a solid candidate but not the best and they’re holding out for candidate #1 to accept their offer before resorting to you. (Sorry, this article is probably not doing wonders for your self-esteem.)
  • Recruiters Aren’t Robots
    That’s right—they’re merely flesh-and-blood humans. “Last week I had 30-40 people in various stages of the hiring process... and have 10-20 open positions at any given time,” says Candace Lee, a recruiter at Ambassador. Her situation isn’t unusual, even for smaller organizations. With so many people to follow up on, draft offers for, and coordinate with internally, mistakes are inevitable, even with HR software. 
  • Candidate Error
    Maybe an employee sent in a poorly written cover letter or aren’t qualified for the job they’re applying for. Maybe that off-color joke made during the interview wasn’t that funny, after all. Or maybe it’s as simple as not signaling interest by sending a thank you note after the interview.

Why Candidates Ghost Employers

  • Anxiety
    Confrontation is hard and many of us are out of practice. In a world characterized by often completely digital relationships, it has become commonplace to break up by texting, emailing, or ghosting altogether. Sometimes a candidate or employee is so turned off by their interview or work experience that they can’t bear the thought of letting the recruiter know they’re rescinding their application or formally quitting. Simply put, “People who ghost are primarily focused on avoiding their own emotional discomfort and they aren’t thinking about how it makes the other person feel.”
  • A Glut of Choice
    Some jobs are so in-demand that candidates can get away with less-than-courteous behavior. “If you’re an engineer, you have the pick of the lot. Everyone is hiring for engineers. They can afford to be picky. And as a recruiter, you don’t know exactly what’s important to them,” says Lee. 
  • Revenge
    Companies cultivate feelings of resentment when they disrespect their employees through impersonal layoffs, belated raises, or other broken promises. To regain a modicum of self-respect, disgruntled employees may return the favor by ghosting, a passive-aggressive way of leaving the employer in a lurch. It’s an unsurprising response to the merciless arrangement of modern at-will employment contracts.

The Simple 2-Minute Solution for Everyone—Just Write the Email

Let’s assume you’re on board with the golden rule and not trying to enact petty revenge on your employer or candidate. It takes less than two minutes to do your current or future employer or employee the courtesy of writing to let them know you are no longer interested in pursuing a working relationship together. Yes, unrequited emails have their own (upcoming!) holiday, Email Debt Forgiveness Day, but it doesn’t apply here. 

Did you have an interview? Did it go well? Thank the candidate or employer and let them know you’re interested. No longer interested? Say so! Wanna quit tomorrow? At least shoot your boss an email so they know you’re not dead. And recruiters—how hard is it to copy-paste a boilerplate “thanks for your interest, but we’re not interested” email?

Wondering the best way to respond to a ghosting? First, send a thoughtful polite follow up

How to Respond to Ghosting by an Employer

One overarching rule for a follow up? Don’t burn a bridge. What feels like ghosting may be an unexpected family emergency or a simple mistake. Keeping in mind the possibility that you’re the number one candidate, simply send a brief and polite follow up.

  • If you don’t have an established communication channel (like email), try contacting the recruiter or hiring manager via other channels, like LinkedIn (don’t overdo it—one alternative channel is fine, four alternate channels is stalking). 
  • Reach out to other people at the company, like a department head or team lead. 
  • Apply for other positions. If you get an interview and want to push things along, show your interest by sending a thank you note. Here are some very corny templates you can use as a starting point. 
  • Follow up after a week or so if you don’t hear back. If you still don’t hear back, post vindictive lies about them on social media… kidding!

How to Respond to Ghosting by a Candidate or Employee

  • Streamline your hiring process. Glassdoor says the average hiring timeline takes over three weeks. The longer it takes, the more likely a candidate will find other employment and have less reason to respond.
  • Thank them for their time and effort at every step of the way. Get an application? Thanks for applying! Finished an interview? Thanks for your time! Use software like BambooHR or Glassdoor to keep candidates from falling through the cracks.
  • Check-in with your current employees. This is management 101, but non-judgmental listening, honoring promises for raises and promotions, and generally not being a jerk goes a long way towards ensuring your team members aren’t going to check out without notice.

Whether you’re a company looking to hire corporeal freelancers or are a freelancer looking for non-phantasmic employers, Artisan makes projects and hiring on this astral plane easy. 

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