How to Avoid Getting Ghosted By Job Candidates

Person dressed as a ghost holding up a lantern

Whether it’s the wronged spirits of the undead or the eponymously named “Ghostface” terrorizing Drew Barrymore as she just tried to make some Jiffy Pop in the opening of the cult-classic Scream, ghosts have always scared us. But the “ghosting” that’s been terrorizing the world of work isn’t limited to Halloween scares. Year-round, professionals are asking themselves, “how can we avoid being ghosted?”

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What is Ghosting?

The term “ghosting” originated in the world of online dating. Urban Dictionary defines ghosting as “when a person cuts off all communication with their friends or the person they’re dating, with zero warning or notice beforehand.”  

In the world of work, “ghosting” happens when one party cuts off all communication with zero warning during the interview process or employment. 

A friendly ghost wears a hat and glasses.

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The Types of Professional Ghosting

How Job Seekers Ghost

On the job-seeker side, ghosting includes disappearing with no warning or explanation from the job interview process.

Ghosting could also entail not showing up for a job interview. It could mean stopping communication after extensive back and forth with a recruiter. An Indeed survey found that since the pandemic began, 76% of employers have been ghosted by candidates, and 57% believe the trend is growing. 28% of job seekers admitted ghosting would-be employers, up ten percentage points from Indeed’s 2018 ghosting survey. 

Ghosting can also entail accepting a job offer and not showing up on the first day of work or metaphorically vanishing without a trace sometime during your first week. In 2018, Indeed found that 1 in 5 new hires ghosted their first planned day of work. Their 2021 survey found first-day ghosting is also on the rise. 1 in 4 employers reported new hires ghosting their first day of work.

Politely emailing a recruiter and telling them you no longer are interested in pursuing a position for one reason or another isn’t ghosting…that’s both polite and warranted.

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The Cost of Ghosting

Ghosting costs employers time and money! According to SHRM, the average cost-per-hire is $4,129, and 42 days—first-day ghosting incidents not only incur those costs but put employers right back at square one.

In case you were wondering, ghosting isn’t specific to one kind of work. USA Today found the chance of job candidates ghosting is 20-50% across all industries.

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How Employers Ghost

Job seekers aren’t the only ones ghosting, though. Employers are unfortunately doing it too.

  • When LinkedIn Job Search & Careers Senior Editor Andrew Seaman posted a survey asking who’d been ghosted, he had more than 2,500 votes in three days. 93% said a potential employer had ghosted them after an initial interview or contact from said employer. 
  • Indeed’s 2021 ghosting survey found a staggering 77% of job seekers say prospective employers ghosted them during the pandemic—apparently, employers think it’s ok to not communicate with potential hires that they’re no longer being considered for a position. 
  • 10% of job seekers say that employers have ghosted them after receiving a verbal job offer. Only 27% of employers who participated in the Indeed survey report not ghosting job candidates in the last year—that’s scary! 

An applicant tracking system (ATS), like HiringThing, can ensure that all job candidates, whether they move forward in the interview process or not, receive meaningful, professional feedback communicating where they stand in the process.

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Why Do Job Candidates Ghost?

A ghost walks through a cornfield with a lantern.

It’s always helpful to understand the “why” when tackling a challenge. A few of the most common reasons job candidates ghost include:

  • The candidate experienced too slow a recruitment process due to gaps in communication or bottlenecks caused by slow background checks. Applicants may take themselves out of consideration for a position if the hiring process takes too long.

HiringThing Pro Tip: Automate and streamline your hiring practices to increase your time-to-hire.

  • The candidate may be close to, or have already received an offer from another organization.

HiringThing Pro Tip: Move fast if you want to extend an offer—today’s top candidates are snatched up quickly in today’s competitive market.

The HiringThing ATS allows users to send offer letters, conduct background checks, and complete onboarding paperwork all on the platform.

  • The candidate doesn’t feel particularly engaged in the interview process.

HiringThing Pro Tip: Ask candidates about their goals, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Don’t just ask them about the role.

  • The candidate has a straight-up negative experience finding the process or individuals interviewing them cumbersome, cold, or untrustworthy.

HiringThing Pro Tip: Self audit your hiring process and ask for feedback. If you’re able to identify the negative factors, you can address them.

  • The candidate experiences a stronger interview experience with another organization.

HiringThing Pro Tip: Provide your candidates with the strongest interview experience possible. What do candidates want? We have some insights.

  • Job candidates who ghost on the first day or week may have felt the interview process wasn’t transparent or found a discrepancy between the realities of the job they took versus what was advertised.

HiringThing Pro Tip: Be as transparent as possible.

Need more HiringThing Pro Tips? The HiringThing Guide to Increasing Your Applicant Traffic is full of actionable suggestions for revamping your recruiting.

Why didn’t the ghost eat his lunch? He didn’t have the stomach for it! And hiring professionals don’t have the stomach for abandoned job applications!

Editor’s note: We sincerely apologize for the bad joke…it was just too easy.

Abandoning a job application isn’t considered ghosting, but it is still a problem haunting recruiters, employers, and hiring professionals. 40% of job applicants will quit an application if it appears too lengthy or complicated. The HiringThing ATS comes with customized Form Builder and workflows so that hiring professionals can ensure their applications are succinct and respectful of candidates’ time.

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Tips to Prevent Being Ghosted by Job Candidates

Quit Ghosting Candidates

Two costumed ghosts make funny faces at each other while wearing sunglasses.

One of the top things organizations can do to get candidates to stop ghosting them is to stop ghosting job candidates. The hiring process has been grossly unbalanced for a while, with companies holding the bulk of the power. However, things have shifted. It’s currently firmly a job seeker’s market, and a bit of a comeuppance may be happening. As Allison Rogers, who runs the popular Ask a Manager blog, wrote, “It’s rude when employers do it, and it’s rude when candidates do it. But in a lot of ways, employers set up these ground rules themselves when they treated candidates so cavalierly when the market made it easy for them to do that.”

We spoke with J.T. O’Donnell, CEO and Job Coach at WorkItDaily, who has more than two million LinkedIn followers due to her career insights. “I think the most important thing employers need to understand right now is the relationship between employee and employer has changed,” O’Donnell said. “Job seekers are job shoppers. They don’t see themselves as employees, they see themselves as businesses of one who sell their services. They’re looking for a business partner. The more respect they are given in the hiring process and the better they are treated in the hiring process, the less likely they are to ghost you.” Respect means not ghosting them and not adding to the employer culture that sets ghosting as an acceptable precedent. 

Many experts advocate treating job candidates more like customers. After all, companies go above and beyond to ensure customers don’t ghost them! Check out the HiringThing resources we have available for reimagining job candidates as customers.

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Create a Great Candidate Experience

Leadership Coach and Business Advisor Dr. Larry Cornett suggests creating a great candidate experience for job seekers. “Develop a reputation in the industry for being a company that delivers a great candidate experience and an even better employee experience,” he says. “Why would someone ghost a company like that?”

Cornett makes two valid points here. Candidate experience is increasingly important when attracting and retaining top talent. Do candidates feel valued? That their time is used wisely? They’re being sufficiently challenged? Would they recommend the experience to their network? 

And speaking of networks, creating a referral program is a great way to decrease your chances of being ghosted. Statistically, referral programs result in faster hires and better retention. Common sense tells us that someone interviewing for a position an acquaintance helped them garner is less likely to ghost since their friend put their neck out.  

You could write an entire e-book on candidate experience, and it just so happens we did! Download the HiringThing Guide to Increasing Your Applicant Traffic to find additional resources for reimagining your hiring process to be candidate-centric.

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Personalize the Process

Cornett advises strengthening the candidate experience even more by personalizing it. “Build a personal relationship with candidates and show that you care about helping them succeed and land a great offer.” Job candidates are far less likely to ghost with no explanation if they feel a personal connection with those interviewing them.

How can hiring professionals personalize the recruiting process? 

  • Incorporate candidates’ career goals and professional development into the interview process, even for hourly positions—job candidates, specifically Millennial and Gen Z candidates, place a high value on professional development. 
  • Let candidates know you’re excited to have them! Do this authentically, though. Inauthentic excitement is see-through and could be even worse than outright coldness. 
  • Take the time to introduce yourself, even if you’re just the HR contact. Once again, individuals are less liable to ghost if they feel they’ve made connections.
  • Have candidates meet with more than one person. People are even less likely to ghost if they feel they’ve made connections with multiple people at an organization. 

Job candidates value being treated as potentially valued employees, not just warm bodies or numbers in an applicant pool. Taking the extra steps to personalize your recruiting might be what prevents you from having to give the Ghost Busters a call. 

For hourly positions, consider holding initial group interviews. This way, if some candidates ghost you, it’s not entirely a waste of time. We have additional resources available that can help franchisors and hospitality industry professionals prevent ghosting.

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Be Transparent

Transparent isn’t just what ghosts are. It should be a crucial part of your hiring strategy. Today’s employees value transparency and are turned off when it isn’t present. For example, 48% of job candidates feel frustrated by hiring processes that don’t keep them updated on where they stand. This is an easy fix. Let job candidates know how long the hiring process will take, when they can expect to hear back (whether it’s good or bad news), what the hiring process steps are, and be sure to deliver on anything you communicate! 

Hiring transparency also includes:

  • Detailed, accurate job descriptions in your job posting. 
  • Open and honest conversation during the interview process. 
  • Being upfront about salary (job seekers agree that including the salary in a job description is the number one thing that helps them decide whether to apply or not). 

Transparency is an integral part of the culture here at HiringThing that extends to our hiring strategy. “Transparency is one of our core values,” HiringThing COO Jess Tejani told us. “Especially when it comes to hiring new team members. It benefits the company and potential employees when we present our authentic selves and a role’s actual responsibilities during interviews—it does no one any good to pull a bait and switch with a job candidate. Our highest achieving employees exit the interview process and start their tenure here excited about the realities of working at HiringThing. Transparency during and after hiring is what has allowed us to build our rockstar team!”

Indeed graphic showing "94% of job seekers who ghost say they experience little to no consequences".

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Provide Autonomy

Autonomy is the amount of discretion and independence an employer gives employees. It’s a highly sought-after job perk. Research shows that autonomy in the workplace positively affects well-being, job satisfaction and is more important to job seekers than salary. According to a 2017 CNBC report, 76% of millennials would take a pay cut of at least 3% for a more autonomous working environment! You can give candidates an autonomous candidate experience by:

  • Highlighting your flexible work schedule (if that’s something you offer). 
  • Asking them what working environments make them most successful.
  • Using their preferred methods of communication (email, texting, calls).
  • Providing flexible interview schedules. 
  • Asking for feedback on the interview process. 
  • Discuss how candidates’ professional goals align with company goals. 
  • Have candidates set their onboarding goals as part of the interview process. 

Showing your job candidates examples of an autonomous workplace sends the message that’s what they can expect with employment at your organization. Who’s going to ghost on that?

Even if a job candidate doesn’t get a position, a good experience makes them eager to share their good feelings with others, helping build your reputation, which makes candidates keen to apply and see the process all the way through.

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Two tiny ghosts wander through the forest.

Related Resources

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About HiringThing

HiringThing is a modern recruiting platform as a service that creates seamless hiring experiences. Our private label applicant tracking system and open API enable technology and service providers to embed hiring capabilities from sourcing to onboarding. Approachable and adaptable, the platform empowers anyone, anywhere, to hire their dream team.

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