Ghosting by Employers: Insights for Job Seekers After an Interview

Are you among the many job seekers who have experienced ghosting by the companies you were eager to join?

You, as a job seeker, are continually appalled at the lack of follow-through on the part of potential employers after you have interviewed a few times. You cannot help but wonder what happens when HR does not call you back after what you thought was a great interview.

You are reasonable in that you do not expect to experience ghosting or a “no thanks” response when sending a resume through an impersonal job posting. However, after going through several rounds of interviews only to receive an eerie silence with no subsequent follow-up, I imagine it leaves you feeling outraged and frustrated. I can’t say I blame you.

You’re not alone. An astounding 77% of job seekers say they were ghosted by prospective employers since early 2020, according to an Indeed survey released in 2021. In the same survey, only 27% of employers say they haven’t ghosted a potential employee.

As a former third party search firm recruiter for 13 years, I can tell you that it always makes me sad to hear that job candidates are treated this way. I have first-hand experience. Sometimes I would have candidates going through the process and then the corporate recruiter would go silent. I want to shed some light on what really is happening behind the scenes when a recruiter drops the ball throughout the recruitment and interview process. While it has become a daunting task for employers to manage the communication process, that isn’t an excuse to resort to ghosting or to fail to keep a candidate in progress informed.

None of these explanations are to say this behavior is OK…please know that is not my intent. But if you can have an inkling as to what goes on inside these processes, you can realize it is not personal and recruiters are not being sneaky. In most cases, it is just human nature, incompetence, being overwhelmed or lack of information that trigger a lack of response. Knowing it is not personal can ease the frustration.

Through my recruiting experience, this is what I came to realize:

Corporate HR people and search firm recruiters are middlemen (I know since I was one of them).

Most are well-intentioned and want to move candidates through the process to get the open job off their desk. To keep the candidate hopeful, the recruiter says things like “I will let you know by Friday” or “I am expecting the manager to get back to ASAP” with full intent on making that happen but being unable to do so. Then the manager does not get back to the recruiter, leaving the recruiter in an awkward and frustrated position.

Some recruiters (corporate and search firm recruiters) can simply manage the process poorly.

They tend to react to what job process is moving forward and forget about the ones that are stagnant. These recruiters tend to hold all the reigns of communication and, as indicated in the earlier point, set up unrealistic expectations that they will get back with everyone with updates. Many recruiters do not have systems to ensure communication is consistent.

The bottom line is most middlemen have little to no control in the process and often make promises they cannot keep. I dealt with this by saying to my candidates when it was applicable, “I hope to hear by Friday, but you have to know I have no control over when they will tell me. If you have not heard from me by Monday or Tuesday the latest, please feel free to check in with me. But know that if I hear anything, I will let you know.” I was honest about what I had control over and did not have control over. Not a perfect solution, I know, but I tried my best. I hated candidates not knowing what was going on.

Hiring managers (or line managers) that are responsible for pulling the trigger typically have no idea that a communication deadline was made to the candidate by a recruiter.

And there are hiring managers that know this, but just frankly do not care. They often do not get back to the corporate recruiters or the third-party recruiter that might be in between in a timely fashion.

Lastly, but certainly not least, I have come to learn many people have a hard time:

  1. Giving bad news (“The manager chose someone else.”)
  2. Saying they were wrong (“I am sorry that I said I would have an answer for you by tomorrow. Now that tomorrow is here and I do not have an answer.”)
  3. Saying they have no clue what is going on (“I must admit the manager said this was a priority, so that is why I communicated urgency to you. I have no idea why they are now not responding on the next step.”)

As a result, I find, with any of these scenarios, many people choose to just avoid it and never make the phone call or send the email and focus on other priority jobs.

I always suggest to my job search clients to avoid holding on to the results of actions others take. Just move forward during this job search transition (send emails, do follow-up, go to interviews, apply for the job, network, etc.). We get frustrated when we tie expectations to results that don’t play out the way we prefer.In my business and in my personal life, I avoid connecting my hopes to how others choose to respond.  

It is not easy and some days I am not very successful at it. But I find that when I can let go of expectations, I am not often disappointed. That way, I leave myself open for other wonderful things to come into my life that I did not even imagine could happen. In any aspect of life, dwell on what’s next, not the rude forms of ghosting by employers or others.

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