Getting Ghosted by Candidates? Here’s What to Do

There was a recent Instagram reels trend in which salespeople showed text that said “When you say you’re all in but won’t put down your credit card to buy” while a song played that said If you’re wondering if I hate you, I do. HR representatives likely feel the same way about candidates who “ghost” them.

Source: FangXiaNuo / E+ / Getty

Ghosting is a phenomenon whereby applicants send over a job application or express interest in a position only to completely disappear with no explanation. It could look like:

  • Not responding to an interview offer
  • Simply not showing up for the interview in question
  • Ignoring follow-up e-mails
  • Not appearing for their first day of employment or training

As the job market continues to weigh heavily in applicants’ favor, ghosting is on the rise. Because there are so many open job positions out there fighting over applicants, applicants know they hold the power in the relationship. If they feel a conversation is going to be awkward, like turning down a job offer for more pay, they’re much more likely to avoid the conversation altogether. It becomes easy for them to delete an e-mail, ignore a phone call, or just not show up to a planned meeting.

It’s hard for HR professionals when they put time into seeking out the right candidates and then have no contact with them. When an applicant doesn’t even have the decency to respond to an e-mail, he or she is probably not the kind of candidate you want on your team anyway. But in today’s job market, when applicants have more choices than ever, it’s tricky to get a commitment from a qualified applicant. You want to do everything in your power to get a “yes,” and that means keeping the conversation moving forward.

There is a way to fight ghosting. If you find yourself constantly frustrated at a lack of response or professionalism from your applicants, here are a few things you can do to lower your chances of getting ghosted and close more employment leads.

Give Important Details Early

By giving the hard-and-fast details of a job early, you’ll help candidates decide more quickly if it’s the right position for them. The factors that usually send candidates running for the hills—low pay, not enough vacation, a lack of parental leave, etc.—should be communicated as early as possible in the hiring process. Craft a pamphlet that gives these details, and allow candidates to view it before they come into an interview. Don’t assume that just because you posted this information in the job description that it’s been read; many applicants have been applying to multiple jobs and are probably skimming your description or getting it mixed up with other ones.

Why waste your time speaking with applicants who have unrealistic expectations about the position’s compensation? And why waste their time continuing down a path toward a job that isn’t going to meet their needs? Communication is key to an effective hiring process. If people are going to vanish on you, you want them to do that earlier in the process, not after you’ve poured hours into speaking with them and evaluating what they bring to the table.

Inject Personality into the Process

The more you can really get to know someone, the less likely the person is to ghost you because he or she will feel as if you have some type of relationship. Try to avoid things like form e-mails, or if you do need to utilize them due to the sheer number of applications you receive, add at least a note or two at the bottom that points out something personal about the applicant in question.

If someone comes to an interview, you’ll obviously try to make a great impression. But remember that in today’s job market, the candidate is interviewing you just as much as the other way around. Think of how you can be as memorable as possible. You don’t need to wear silly clothing or crack jokes the entire time! But be a human being—don’t be afraid to share what you’re up to that weekend, give the interview candidate a tour of the office, or send a follow-up thank-you e-mail. What you’re trying to do is avoid being just another face in the crowd of interviewers.

Move Quickly

The more nimble you are, the less likely you are to lose applicants. Job applicants likely don’t feel any loyalty to your company yet; if someone else swoops in with a great offer, they’ll take it! By being decisive with your hiring, you’ll get people to put more skin in the game. It’s much more likely for someone to ghost by not responding to an interview request than to literally not show up for the first day (although that certainly does happen). Move the process along by being quick with your decisions and not letting a ton of time lapse between the interview and the onboarding.

If you feel like you don’t have the time to dedicate a week or 2 of focused recruitment, then you don’t have time to fill the open position. A good rule of thumb is to not let 48 hours go by between steps (the application being received, the rejection or invitation to interview, and the job offer or decline).

Follow Up on No-Shows

Ghosting will happen. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a fact of HR. At the end of the day, sometimes the best you can do is try and figure out why the applicant abandoned the hiring process.

After a few months have passed, shoot the applicant an e-mail, and ask for his or her feedback. Make sure to be clear that there are no hard feelings but that you’re just truly interested in what you could have done to make the hiring process smoother. Of course, some people will just ignore the e-mail—they’ve already ghosted you once, after all. But you may be surprised at how willing people are to share feedback if you’re willing to listen!

Claire Swinarski is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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