Why Candidates Are Ghosting You & What To Do About It

It's not me, it's you. Ghosting can be a tough pill to swallow for any hiring manager. However, often times this form of communication (or lack-there-of) is really a candidate trying to tell you something. Let's discuss what we can learn from candidate ghosting, and how it can help us make better hiring decisions that benefit all parties involved.

Ghosting has become increasingly frequent. According to a recent Forbes case study conducted in October 2021: "Nearly 30% of professionals who participated in the study said that they “skipped a job interview” or “stopped communicating with a company during the interview process.”, and this number has only increased over the last few months.

What is "ghosting"?

Ghosting is defined by Oxford Languages as: "the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication." Aka, a true nightmare for hiring managers and recruiters, especially if you're at the end of the interview process.

But what does it really mean to get ghosted? 

Sometimes it's the absence of words that speaks the loudest - meaning if a candidate ghosts you or stops talking to you, they're really leaving you a very clear message: this is not for me. 

It's not all bad news:

Oftentimes individuals get frustrated when a candidate ghosts them; however, sometimes the message the candidate has delivered is the most honest thing they've said thus far. As professionals, no matter the industry, we build the foundations for our teams on integrity and honest communication... no matter the form it comes in. 

Shifting your mindset on ghosting will help prevent burnout. Additionally, this change of thought will help you have better quality conversations - honest ones, which focus on asking transparent questions. 

Why are you getting ghosted?

The simple answer: you're not communicating effectively.

A college professor once described communication to me as not simply sending a message, but ensuring it's understood. In a world where we spend as much time with our colleagues as our families, isn't it worth it to put the energy into communicating effectively so that both parties are aware of what they're committing to?

This is how your candidate most likely feels. It's easy for us to forget as hiring managers that it's not all about our needs. We need to read between the lines and 

How do I stop getting ghosted?

Unfortunately, there's no sure way to stop ghosting from happening, but there are steps you can take that will decrease your "no-response rate". 

Listen

A key part of communicating effectively is active listening. As hiring managers/recruiters, we sometimes become too focused on our own needs or filling the role as quickly as possible. This prevents us from being active listeners, as we really aren't focusing on what the candidates saying they're looking for. Often times a candidate who ghosts has given you some sort of prior indication that this role wasn't exactly what they were looking for. If we can train ourselves to listen to these cues, we're able to ask the qualifying questions before the ghosting happens. 

Qualify to Disqualify

By now, it's pretty safe to say that ghosting is the act of a candidate disqualifying themselves from the hiring process. If you've been actively listening to your candidate, then you have all the tools you need to qualify/disqualify them. It's important that if someone is not a fit, you let them know. 

Unfortunately, ghosting goes both ways, and we as hiring managers/staffing professionals are not innocent. 

Streamline Your Process by Using Proactive Dialogue

According to a recent article published by Robert Half: "More than one-third (35%) of employers surveyed by Robert Half who said they’d missed out on a potential hire in the last year pointed to taking too long to make an offer as the reason for the failure."

Streamlining your process can be difficult, especially if your organization is understaffed as it is. However, in a market where candidates have a lot of options, if you snooze, you WILL lose. Interview your top candidates first, and be strict about following up with them. In fact, provide them with a date that you anticipate to have feedback, and ask them what their schedule looks like then - just in case you do have an answer by then.

This does two things: it shows you respect both parties' time, and it quite literally tells you their schedule, so if you don't hear back from them, you can (politely) hold them accountable. 

Negotiate and Be Flexible

Many candidates remove themselves from the hiring process because they feel that the organization they've been communicating with isn't willing to negotiate. While on the other-side, many organizations lose candidates because before being open to negotiating, they want to see if there's someone else out there who's willing to accept the role as it. 

I once had a manager tell me: "you buy cheap you buy twice." Typically more qualified candidates have more preferences because they have more tenure in the market place. They know their value, and they know what they bring to the table. Organizations should be looking to accommodate these people, as confidence and the ability to sell oneself and ideas are both crucial skills for any team. Even more important than that is the opportunity cost of your time. Chances are if you're looking for someone to do a job, someone else in your organization is A. forfeiting their time to cover these responsibilities and probably not doing the job as well, or B. it's not getting done at all. If time is money, your organization has most likely lost 2 to 3 times this person's salary not having the role filled. 

And you can bet a good candidate will know that. 

Make Sure All Decision-Makers are On-Board

Ghosting usually happens toward the end of the hiring process, and we've determined that almost 40% of the time, it's due to an organization's inability to make a prompt decision.

If you are in charge of the hiring at your organization, make sure that all of the key decision-makers involved in the hiring process are ready to take action and help make this happen. Too often candidates get lost in "waiting-for-feedback purgatory", and... well you can't blame them.

No one wants to go to prom with the person who waited until the day before to ask them.

Are you ghosting?

The unfortunate truth is: ghosting is something that candidates learned from us.

Yes, that's right.

For a long time it was hiring managers who had thousands of options and not enough time or not enough demand to bother following up. Now, it's a candidates market. However, it should not be a change in market demand that encourages us to communicate better. 

We'd recommend designating 1-hour of your day to following up with candidates - not just with the ones you'd like to extend and offer to. Treating candidates with respect is not just the right thing to do, it will help you establish a professional reputation centered around transparent dialogue (something every candidate is looking for after having rugs pulled out from them 2 years ago).

If your organization simply does not have the time or resources, don't worry! You're not alone. That's why we exist. For more information on how we can help streamline your hiring process: click here.