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TALENT ACQUISITION

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Getting Ghosted During the Hiring Process? You’re Not Alone

is ghosting during the job interview process common?
84% of job seekers say they’ve ghosted on a potential employer in the last 18 months

What’s worse? Being stood up on a date or never again hearing from a potential employer after a couple rounds of interviews? Or, are you the one doing the ghosting, never returning calls and not showing up? No matter which side you fall on, all of these situations are baffling, often a waste of time, and—as those who’ve been ghosted know—that feeling of being ditched without explanation is a real blow to one’s confidence. 

It may surprise you to know that ghosting is increasingly common. A new Visier survey on ghosting in the workplace in both the U.S. and the U.K. revealed an uptick in the practice—both on the part of employers and employees. An overwhelming majority of U.S. job seekers admitted to ghosting an employer or potential employer in the past 18 months with 37% saying they’ve ghosted an employer, 30% saying they’ve ghosted a potential employer, and 10% saying they’ve ghosted both—that’s a combined percentage of 84% of job-seeking employees, or candidates. 

And it’s not just employees who are doing the ghosting. Employers are also guilty of going dark on candidates as the talent acquisition process progresses, even disappearing at the point of extending an offer.   

Click to enlarge and to share infographic. (Created by: Jae Lee)


Pandemic economy leads to more ghosting

84% of job seekers admit to ghosting would-be employers during the hiring process
Eight out of 10 job candidates admit to ghosting would-be employers during the interview process

Brian Hershey, Head of Enterprise Strategy at Gloat, a talent marketplace platform, says he’s not particularly surprised by these results. “The labor market is in such a dynamic state right now that I think we’re seeing more of almost everything—more leavers, more job openings, more hiring, and so naturally, more ghosting.” Ghosting, he points out, was occurring even prior to the pandemic, but the dramatic changes in the labor market that have been triggered by the pandemic economy, he says, have increased the trend. 

“Even with great technology to manage hiring processes, at a certain point in the funnel, there is a human in the loop, and humans are only capable of handling so much scale,” Brian notes. 

This problem isn’t limited to the U.S. talent market. Over half of Brits (59%) have experienced being ghosted by an employer, or a prospective employer, and 76% of Brits admit that they themselves have ghosted an employer in the last 18 months. And yet, an overwhelming 68% responded that they are concerned about the negative consequences.

So why are candidates willing to ghost if they are aware of the potential risks?  



More options = more ghosting

The grass-is-greener mentality plays a role in ghosting. With multiple offers on the table—or multiple candidates in the pipeline—those on both side of the hiring process may use ghosting as a stall tactic until they get the best offer.

The current job market may be causing some candidates to feel “a bit more cavalier with how they interact with prospective employers,” suggests Brian. They know they’re likely in high demand and they may be dealing with a number of prospective employers while still taking care of their other day-to-day activities. “If it’s not a serious conversation or a good fit, I think employee ghosting early in the process is probably a net positive for both parties.”

desk workers are more likely to abandon the hiring process than are frontline workers
Frontline workers ghost at a lower rate (79%) than do desk workers (89%)

Michelle Prebble, manager of Talent Acquisition at Visier says there are a number of process factors that may cause candidates to drop out: the process may be moving too slowly, for one, or they may not feel connected to the company, the role, or the progression of the interviewing steps is not what they were expecting.

Unfortunately for those who’ve invested time in interviewing or being interviewed, Visier’s research indicates that job candidates are just as willing to ghost an employer during the late stages of the hiring funnel than in the early stages. In fact, 31% said they would ghost an employer after their first day on the job. 

more men than women will ghost during the job interview process
Men (90%) are more likely to ghost during the job interview process than are women (68%)

A salary below expectations (29%) was the top reason employees gave for ghosting employers, underscoring the importance of competitive pay practices. Other reasons included receiving more attractive job offers (28%), feeling the job role was presented inaccurately (27%), bad reputation (26%), and concerns about company culture (22%). 

To combat this uptick in ghosting, employers should consider changes to their hiring process to better attract and retain talent at all stages of the talent acquisition funnel, suggest Michelle. Communication and managing expectations will be key. 

4 ways to be better at hiring

  1. Make it personal. Using personalized messaging and focusing on the candidate experience from the beginning—for instance, by including culture and hiring manager videos in the job description.
  2. Be clear. Setting expectations of the interview process and providing opportunities for candidates to ask questions.
  3. Ask about timing. Understanding the candidate’s journey and where they are in the interview process. “Are they at final stages with other companies and, if so, can the company amend the process to support the candidate’s timeline?” says Michelle.
  4. Update often. Adopting strong systems that leverage automation in the appropriate parts of the recruitment processing. For instance, Michelle suggests, “text messaging to update candidates on significant stages in the interview or offer process.” 

Why employers ghost and what job candidates can do about it

47% of women surveyed said they'd rather be ghosted by a date than by an employer
47% of women surveyed said they’d rather be ghosted by a date than by an employer

It’s not uncommon for job candidates to feel frustrated when they’ve had an interview or two with a would-be employer and communication from the employer suddenly turns into a dial tone.

In fact, Visier’s research found that more than one third (37%) of all respondents would be angrier about a prospective employer ghosting them than a date. The percentage rises to 47% for women surveyed.

Michelle suggests that ghosting among hiring teams “is more of an ‘accepted practice’ even though it isn’t accepted,” she says. Brian agrees with that sentiment. “I think every talent acquisition team and hiring manager understands that ghosting is a bad thing, but I’m not surprised to hear it’s on the rise,” Brian says. Why? Because employers—and their hiring teams—can only do so much.

upper management roles like director, VP, or C-Suite tend to abandon the hiring process at very high rates
Upper management roles like Director, VP, or C-Suite tend to abandon the hiring process at very high rates

“Employers are struggling to quickly identify what the critical needs are for each role, and how to find those skills in prospective candidates,” Brian says. “And with resignations increasing exponentially, that task gets harder and harder.”


Blame ghosting on bad software

Ineffective systems can also have an impact Michelle suggests. For instance, she says: “The software the recruiters are using doesn’t always support the volume that they are expected to manage, meaning, applications can slip through the cracks.” Lack of communication or miscommunication between internal parties involved in the recruitment process can also lead to disconnects, she says. 

It’s also possible that some candidates may simply have unrealistic expectations about the communication process. Some employers, for instance, may not reach out to all candidates after a first round of phone interviews.

Michelle recommends combatting these impacts by “using the right recruitment model for your company size and growth trajectory.” For instance: companies could blend sourcing, recruiting, account management, and group interviewing based on the volume of roles and size of the company.

Leveraging data to understand what “good” looks like from a talent acquisition metrics perspective will help hiring teams stay on the right course with “systems in place that allow you to measure your data and triage bottlenecks,” she says.


Go ahead and send a follow-up email

Job candidates themselves also can play a proactive role here, Brian says. He encourages job candidates to reach out to hiring managers directly via email or LinkedIn to indicate a serious interest in a job. “Demonstrating clear intent and not being shy about checking in are good strategies,” he explains. “At the end of the day, if you are really passionate about a job, you’re likely going to be a great candidate for that job, and while it might feel like you are badgering your perspective employer with emails, you’re actually doing them a big favor and helping them prioritize engaging with the right people.” 

Ultimately, employers do need to be aware of the negative implications of ghosting candidates. It can leave them feeling discouraged, even angry. That anger can translate into negative word-of-mouth Brian says. “Word travels and even a handful of negative Glassdoor reviews can really damage the employer brand.” 

About the author: Linda Pophal

Linda Pophal, MA, PCM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the founder and owner of Strategic Communications, LLC, and a marketing and communication strategist with expertise in HR and employee relations. With a background as a business journalist, her writing has appeared in the HR Daily Advisor, Human Resource Executive, and SHRM. She is a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire.

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