Ghosting is an unpleasant phenomenon in the dating world. Someone you are dating decides to fade away, ignoring your messages and calls, rather than have an honest conversation about why they no longer want to keep seeing you.
The term ghosting can also be applied to the working world. Employers have been known to “ghost” potential recruits following an interview, instead of sending a polite email letting the person know they were unsuccessful.
Unfortunately, this unprofessional practice is pretty common. More than one-third of job seekers (36%) said the last company that rejected them did not respond at all, according to recent research by career data firm Clutch. When candidates did receive a response, only 13% got a personalised rejection email.
More than three-quarters of people say not hearing back from an employer is more frustrating than not hearing back from someone after a first date, according to a survey by recruiting software company iCIMS.
This isn’t surprising, considering the lengthy recruitment process many candidates go through before actually getting to the interview stage. For many, applying for a job is far more work than simply sending a CV and cover letter — there are tests, online forms, and even essay questions. Candidates can end up spending hours on an application before stepping foot into the office.
Ghosting interview candidates is likely a result of employers failing to see their potential recruits as humans with feelings and goals — and when a recruiter disappears, it can have a serious impact on your confidence. But the practice is also damaging to the firm.
“Ghosting interview candidates is incredibly damaging for companies from an employer branding perspective,” according to Evelyn Cotter, founder of SEVEN Career Coaching.
“Top talent have plenty of options and they're savvy and discerning, so if a company really wants to attract the best, they need to invest in values-led interviewing and see those interactions as as much of a branding exercise as anything else the company does,” Cotter said.
Every interaction you have with talent, even internally, should communicate your employer brand values and be consistent across the board, she added.
Ghosting potential candidates can also damage a company’s reputation. “Many companies have Glassdoor listings and interview candidates are one of the most common types of contributors now,” Cotter said. “We encourage all of our clients to do online research into how companies interview and the impression that gives can either attract top talent or defer top talent, who have a lot of options.
“So how you treat any candidate will go against your profile whether online, through the grapevine, and, ultimately, you never know who you're dealing with, who they're connected to, and how their experience could impact your brand and business relationships.”
Importantly, how you are treated as an interview candidate or potential recruit can be an insight into how a company may treat you as an employee. If a company doesn’t have time to send a brief rejection email, or doesn’t see it as important, it’s unlikely they will have concerns for staff welfare.
“When I've heard the horror stories, I've always pointed out to clients that they were saved having probably an even more negative employee experience and should count themselves lucky,” Cotter said.
Ghosting can also lead to a drop in internal referrals, which can otherwise be a great source of new talent for a business. If a staff member recommends a friend for a job who is then ghosted, they’re unlikely to do it again. People don’t stay at any job forever and need to maintain their reputation for future employment. It looks bad on them if the person they recommended is treated badly.
While you might not be able to avoid being ghosted by an employer, you can take steps to encourage a company to keep you in the loop about your application. During your interview, make sure to ask when you will hear back from them. If you don’t get a response by then, send a polite email reminder, thanking them for their time and stating you’re hoping for an update.
“Keep objective in your interview processes and like dating, always be in a few interview processes at the same time to ensure you are wide awake and able to compare and contrast,” Cotter said.
“You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you, after all. You may be there for 18 months to three years, so it's a pretty big relationship to get into that you want to get right,” she said. “Notice how you're being communicated with, treated, are they consistent in what they're promising, are they fair. If you get ghosted, don't take it personally, see it as a lucky escape and use it to learn.”