Understanding And Overcoming Ghosting In Your Job Search

The dating world is scary enough as is, and that’s before considering the potential ‘ghosting’ that can occur. Ghosting, a phenomenon where a prospective partner ceases all communication, is common in dating. Another, more promising option will come along, some circumstances will take up a person’s time, or the person may simply resolve its better to disappear than have a difficult conversation.

While frustrating enough in the dating world, thanks to the sheer amount of potential applicants and the ease of using technology over face-to-face communication, ghosting has become extremely common in the hiring stratosphere as well. You may have a phone screening or even an interview and never hear from the company again. Recruiters may find a promising candidate, help them along their hiring process, and then get left on read.

We’ll examine the data behind ghosting, look at why ghosting happens, and provide job seekers will some ghostbusting strategies.

The data of ghosting

Both employers and job seekers are guilty of ghosting during the ‘courting’ process. A 2019 Indeed study found that 83% of employers had been ghosted by a candidate, and 18% of job seekers admitted to ghosting an employer.

The trend has become even more pronounced since the pandemic, especially for job seekers. Indeed did another study in 2021 that found that 77% of job seekers have been ghosted by a prospective employer. 28% of job seekers admitted to ghosting an employer, a 10% increase in just two years.

SHRM believes that ghosting is most common early in the interview process, though it isn’t out of the question for it to occur even very late in the hiring process.

Note that while you may apply for a job and never get any sort of response, this is not ghosting. With the sheer amount of applicants, especially on job boards and for entry-level jobs, companies simply can’t follow up with everyone. Just like in dating, ghosting occurs where there’s been some dialogue between both parties.

“It’s important to be clear about exactly what ghosting is. Some job seekers might feel that they’ve been ghosted when they send in their resumes and never receive any response. But ghosting is really when an employer severs all contact with a candidate after there has been some kind of real interaction.” –J.T. O’Donnell, founder of WorkItDaily

Why does ghosting happen

Very rarely is a workplace ghosting a reflection on the job seeker. From an employer’s side, ghosting is largely a combination of two factors: a large workload and a communication breakdown.

Job board postings, especially for entry-level jobs, can get hundreds of applications. Even if you’ve heard from the employer, your name may simply be lost with other applicants by the second stage. The lack of communication could be completely unintentional, or an employer may choose to only focus on those moving forward. The company may hire internally and subsequently cut all communication with outside candidates or may close the position altogether, reminds Indeed.

Kimberly Reeves of A Better Way Consulting believes many hiring managers are simply afraid of having that tough conversation of telling a candidate why they weren’t selected. People don’t know how to talk to each other, especially for difficult conversations, so they avoid them altogether.

“When employers can’t give candidates closure, candidates may feel like they are being told that they aren’t even worth a conversation. “Are people important or are people not important? In the staffing business, people are your bread and butter. They’re your client, and they’re also your product.” -Kimberly Reeves

Some companies even fear the backlash that could occur and even believe there could be a legal consequence by outright rejecting someone.

What to do when you’re ghosted

Knowing ghosting is a frequently occurring problem and understanding why companies ghost you doesn’t exactly make up for the frustration of being ghosted. Luckily, if you’ve been ghosted, you have some ghostbusting tools at your disposal.

Before the interview ends, ask your interviewer what sort of timeline to expect a decision, writes Forbes contributor Caroline Castrillon. You can even ask whom to contact if you don’t hear anything back in that timeframe, setting you up for success before a ghosting can occur. Who ya gonna call? That contact!

Castrillon and many others believe in the importance of following up after this interview. This is a good practice in general, writes LinkedIn’s Bob McIntosh. Following up after an interview shows initiative and politeness, and, most importantly to this conversation, keeps your name in the interviewer’s memory.

Business Insider’s Stephen Jones reminds us to be patient with subsequent follow-ups. Waiting an extra day before your make another inquiry is wise, as you don’t know what occurred in their office that could have slowed down your communication. Being ghosted is never fun, but you can’t be pushy with your inquiries.

You can also try another form of contact if you aren’t getting through. If your email isn’t getting traction, try a phone call. But at some point, you’ll have to come to terms with the fact you didn’t get the job. From there, you can try connecting with other individuals in the company to try to get an informational interview, says O’Donnell. You’re past the point of getting the previous job, but it may prepare you for other opportunities.

Wrap up

Being ghosted as a job seeker is becoming unfortunately common, especially since the start of the pandemic. Remember that the factors that led to you being ghosted are mostly out of your control. Understanding the data behind ghosting and the primary reasons organizations engage in ghosting should provide clarity. Armed with this knowledge, you can craft effective follow-up attempts, but learn to recognize when it’s time to move on to other opportunities.

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