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A chilling trend lurks in the shadows: ghosting. This spectral disappearance of candidates during the hiring process is a widespread phenomenon. In this seasonally spooky blog post, we'll unravel the mystery of job seeker ghosting, explore the reasons behind it, and discuss why maintaining open communication throughout the job-hunting process is not just a courtesy but a smart career move.

What is Ghosting?

Originally coined in the context of online dating, the term “ghosting” describes suddenly disappearing without warning from any sort of relationship: personal relationships, friendships, families, and business relationships too. In the world of recruitment and employment, ghosting refers to the sudden and unexplained disappearance of a job applicant during the hiring process. It can happen at any stage of the hiring process and can manifest in a variety of ways, including abruptly withdrawing from scheduled interviews, not responding after the initial interview, not showing up for a follow up, not responding to emails or calls, or even disappearing after accepting a job offer. 46% of candidates say they didn’t show up for a scheduled interview, and 48% report that they’ve ceased communications with an employer during the recruitment process. On top of that, half of all candidates have accepted a job offer, but then backed out before starting.

The trend certainly isn’t one sided. According to Greenhouse’s 2023 Candidate Experience Report, 67% of job candidates say they’ve been ghosted by employers after a job interview, and historically underrepresented candidates face a nearly 25% higher chance of being ghosted. Indeed’s research is even more alarming: 77% of job seekers saying they’ve been ghosted by an employer. It’s a frustrating experience when a candidate is ruled out during the job interview process but never hears anything back from an employer.

Reasons Behind Candidate Ghosting

Ghosting wastes time, strains resources, leads to a longer time-to-hire, and can cause confusion or ill-will. Yet both candidate and employer ghosting has become more prevalent in recent years. Why? Here are a few common reasons why job candidates disappear:

Multiple Offers & Opportunities

In a competitive job market, candidates may receive multiple job offers. Or they may not be satisfied with the offered salary or benefits. The pressure to make a quick decision or to express their dissatisfaction can lead some individuals to avoid uncomfortable conversations by simply disappearing.

Complicated or Long Interview Processes

If candidates are juggling multiple interviews and job opportunities, it’s not uncommon that they’ll pass on those with a long or complicated interview process. The job interview process has been getting longer, with multiple rounds before selection. This naturally leads to candidate frustration, disengagement, and withdrawal from the process altogether.  A speedy, transparent interview and evaluation process helps to reduce this phenomenon. 

Process Digitization and Depersonalization

Technology has made it easy to apply to jobs, and a virtual hiring process makes interviewing for jobs simpler than ever.  But without the human, face-to-face aspect of job interviews, it’s harder to build personal rapport and candidates feel less guilty when they don’t respond.  

Fear of Confrontation

Some job seekers fear the potential awkwardness or confrontation that might arise from declining an offer. Ghosting, from their perspective, seems like an easier way to avoid uncomfortable conversations.

Changing Priorities and Candidate Attitudes

Personal circumstances or priorities may shift unexpectedly, causing candidates to reconsider their job search, or candidates may decide a job is just not a good fit. Instead of communicating this, some individuals choose to vanish.

Cultural Changes & Incivility

Cancel Culture has made it increasingly popular to disengage and cut ties, and people are quick to cut off contact rather than have an uncomfortable conversation. Couple this with rising social incivility  and the fact that if you are ghosted during the job search, you’re more likely to ghost as well. This  can become a negative cycle.

Why You Shouldn't Ghost Hiring Managers

As a job candidate, it feels terrible to be ghosted during your job search, especially when an interview goes well and you’re really interested in the new role. If you haven’t heard back from a hiring manager, don’t immediately assume you’ve been ghosted. First, reach out politely to inquire about the status of your application. Don’t give up immediately. If several weeks pass without news, it may be time to move on to other opportunities. Try not to take it personally. Being ghosted is not a reflection of your worth.

Don’t allow your frustration at being ghosted cause you to ghost potential employers. Break the cycle. It’s okay to change your mind about a job and to decide an opportunity is not for you. Instead of closing a door by ghosting, accept the temporary discomfort and tell them your decision. They’ll respect you for it. Here are a few more reasons why you should avoid ghosting:

Professional Reputation

The professional world is smaller than one might think. While immediate negative consequences may not be apparent, you never know who you’ll work alongside in the future. Ghosting can harm a candidate’s reputation, especially in industries where networks are tight. According to a 2021 study, 80% of employers believe ghosting will negatively impact a candidate’s future job search or career. Nearly 93% of employers keep a record of candidates who ghost. Leaving a positive impression, even while declining an offer, is crucial for future opportunities.

Missed Learning Opportunities

By ghosting, candidates miss out on valuable feedback that could help in future job searches. Constructive criticism from a hiring manager can provide insights into areas of improvement, contributing to your professional growth.

Professionalism Matters

Professionalism is a trait that employers value highly. Even if you're not interested in a particular opportunity, demonstrating courtesy and respect by communicating your decision reflects positively on your character.

Ghosting is Scary – Don’t Do It

Ghosting may be a prevalent cultural phenomenon in today’s job market, but for the sake of your professional reputation and future job opportunities, resist the temptation. Open communication and integrity will set you up for success. Good luck with your job search!

To start searching for our dream job today, be sure to check out Orion Talent’s Jobs Database.

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