Why Job Ghosting Candidates is Bad for Business

Job seeker, laying on her couch staring at her phone, wondering what led to job ghosting.

First applied to digital-era dating etiquette, “ghosting” occurs when one party in a two-way communication process fails to reply to the other without warning or explanation, leaving the other party rejected, or “ghosted.”

The job market, too, has become similar to the plot of a horror movie, with applicants and employers reporting frequent job ghosting, often well in the hiring process.

Data from multiple sources indicates that ghosting is on the rise, with a majority of job seekers reporting that they have been ghosted by an employer. Ghosting is never acceptable in a professional setting, but it can be especially damaging to employers since it can affect how applicants view your brand.

What Is Job Ghosting?

So, what does ghosting during the hiring process look like? It might mean not responding to rejected applicants at the early stages of your filtering process or extending an offer and then avoiding the humiliation of rescinding it when the budget falls through—or at any stage in between.

Nearly every job seeker has a story about that time they sent out dozens of resumes, only to be ignored by most employers without even the simple courtesy of a form rejection letter. This was always unprofessional, but it is especially inexcusable now that the first few rounds of applicant correspondence can so easily be automated.

Why Job Ghosting Is Bad for Business

Your hiring process is a reflection on your company culture, and perceived discourtesy can be downright dangerous for your brand. Embracing a culture of clear communication at every stage of the hiring process can improve your rate of accepted offers and minimize the possibility of applicants complaining about being ignored on social media.

Applicants are twice as likely to become customers of a brand where they had a good experience during the recruitment process, even if they did not get the job. That’s because the hiring process is often perceived as an indicator of workplace environment, and 77 percent of applicants believe there’s a correlation between how they are treated as job applicants and how they would likely be treated on the job.

Job ghosting is especially damaging when it’s done to applicants who have been referred by employees. If word gets out that you are doing this—and why wouldn’t it?—employee referrals are likely to dry up, and your employees may feel betrayed and embarrassed by your behavior. This can hurt workplace morale and even retention. No employee wants to be associated with an employer who gains a bad reputation in the field for poor recruitment communication.

How to Keep Applicants in the Loop

If you’re too overwhelmed with first round applicants to reply to each one, you can set up an automated process using candidate relationship management (CRM) software, or research whether your applicant tracking system (ATS) has the capability to manage candidate communication during the early rounds of your search. CRMs and ATSs can, for example, send out automated rejection letters and requests for applicants to supply further information, such as completing a task or taking a skills test.

After the initial filtering phase, let your remaining candidate know what to expect by outlining the steps of your hiring process with an approximate timeframe of when they can expect to hear from you along the way. As employers continue to ask job seekers to invest increased time and effort into the application process—from skills tests to in-person interviews—it is unacceptable to fail to keep applicants informed about where they stand in the process.

At the end of an interview, let applicants know when they can expect to hear from you next. If the timeframe changes, get in touch so they know they are still under consideration, and ask if they are still free to go forward. Don’t assume they have nothing better to do and no other prospects.

Late-Stage Applicant Etiquette

When you reject candidates during the final stages of your search, reach out by phone or in personalized communication with carefully crafted feedback. If the decision was difficult, let them know how hard a choice it was, how much your team enjoyed meeting them, and encourage them to apply for similar positions in the future.

Ghosting goes both ways, but keep in mind that technical obstacles happen. If you suddenly stop hearing from a promising candidate just as you get down to the final stages of your decision-making process, don’t assume you’ve been ghosted. Your most recent email may be sitting in the candidate’s spam folder and they’re scratching their head wondering what they did wrong.

By this stage, you should have asked for several ways to reach out to your final candidates. Give them the courtesy of attempting to reach them through at least one other channel before you move ahead and never look back.

Letting the candidates who have invested in a multi-stage hiring process know when they have been eliminated from consideration so that they can place their energies toward other opportunities is the least you can do. And, if you ever need to rescind a job offer, reach out and apologize, explaining the situation in as much detail as you can.

How to Craft a Harmonious Hiring Process

As you map out your hiring process, you need to think about the candidate experience and how to make it a good one from start to finish. Job ghosting is never okay at any point, even very early on in the application process. Remember that every job applicant is also a potential customer, and a potential critic, who has the power to poison your brand with negative social media posts or warnings to other professionals in your sector that yours is not a professional operation.

The way your team presents itself during the hiring process can frame an applicant’s perception of your company and brand. Use interactions with job seekers to create a positive image of your brand. If you’re using a contracted employment agency or talent acquisition specialist, make sure that they never resort to recruiter ghosting when representing your company.

At whatever stage the candidate exits your hiring process, ask if they would be willing to provide feedback in the form of a quick survey. Not only can you use this information to improve your recruitment strategy going forward, but you’ll also be letting applicants know that you care about their interaction with your company, regardless of whether they ended up joining your staff.

Conjure Up Top Candidates for Your Job Openings

Now that you know how to make job ghosting disappear, post a job description for free and find the best qualified applicants to help grow your business. Take advantage of a free job posting and find the right fit for your organization.