“You can do better.”
“There are other fish in the sea.”
“They were just the right person at the wrong time.”
You can tell yourself as many clichés as you want, but the fact remains: Being ghosted after interviews feels terrible, whether you’re a candidate or an employer.
However, it’s depressingly common, perhaps more than ever before. According to reports, 76% of employers reported being ghosted in 2020, and over half believed the problem was escalating.
Whether you’re being ghosted by applicants who seemed highly motivated a second ago or you’re the one doing the ghosting, ghosting after an interview is a symptom of a broken hiring process. It’s driving up recruitment costs and tarnishing your reputation.
In this blog, we explore why applicants ghosting potential employers is so common (and vice versa), the recruitment best practices that prevent it, and how to respond to candidates ghosting you.
The term “ghosting” originated in the online dating world and refers to when someone abruptly stops responding to messages after a period of contact. It works similarly in recruiting: They don’t call, they don’t text, and they don’t respond to emails.
Ghosting is more common earlier in the hiring process, but it can also happen later, after one or more rounds of interviews, and even after an offer has been accepted.
Ghosting can also happen in two main ways:
Applicants ghosting employers
Employers ghosting applicants
Ghosting from either party can come out of the blue, but there are a few tell-tale signs it’s on the horizon:
They reject your proposed date for the next job interview and didn’t offer an alternative
There’s a long delay before their responses
They miss deadlines
They stop asking questions or showing interest in further interviews
And, of course, they stop responding altogether
With these factors in mind, it’s essential for businesses to consider two key questions:
What motivates each party to ghost the other, and how do they both do damage to your hiring process?
Every candidate is different, and their reasons for ghosting employers vary widely. But broadly speaking, most instances of candidate ghosting happen for one of three reasons.
Most hiring managers know that reducing time-to-hire is key for keeping down costs when recruiting, but it’s also key to keeping candidates interested.
This factor applies primarily to the application process itself. Any application forms should be as short as possible because more than 70% of job seekers said they would not complete a job application if it takes more than 15 minutes.
However, it also applies to your response time. 62% of professionals said they lose interest in a job if they don’t hear back within 10 business days, and this figure jumps to 77% after three weeks.
Another reason that a candidate might resort to ghosting after interviews is that the interview process itself made them realize they’re not a good fit for your organization.
There are several factors that can lead applicants to this conclusion.
For example, Robert Half’s research found that a third of candidates ghosted after an interview because the interview process itself was poor, while 23% said the job was not what they expected it to be.
Another 16% ghosted because the company enacted a return-to-office policy during the application process (more on this later).
Ghosting can also stem from lackluster pre-employment screening practices, with employers relying too heavily on outdated screening tools like resumes to shortlist candidates.
Eventually, applicants may take themselves out of the running when they see they’re not a match.
It may also be that in your efforts to “sell” a role, you misrepresent it. When candidates realize it’s not what they signed up for, they withdraw.
Finally, many candidates stop responding when they receive another job offer, which accounts for 29% of ghosting cases.
This is somewhat to be expected. Most candidates who are applying to your company are doing so as part of an overall effort to change their careers rather than from a specific focus on your organization.
You were looking at other options – why shouldn’t they? It’s essential to remember that candidates are likely looking for multiple job opportunities at once. They’re also likely to snatch up a quality position as soon as they can, especially if it’s their dream job.
If you’re lucky, they’ll ghost you after only the first round of interviews and before you get too invested.
If you’re less fortunate, they might ghost you at the end of the process, when an offer of employment has been extended, and they have provisionally accepted it.
This is called the “bait and switch”: When candidates ask for a salary, and you comply, at which point they ask for more money. If you don’t agree to that higher salary, they walk away – sometimes without explicitly rejecting your offer.
As a hiring manager, you’re probably most aware of the phenomenon of applicants ghosting employers because most of us have been burned by it at one time or another.
However, Glassdoor research suggests that mentions of ghosting in interview reviews have tripled since before the pandemic, with jobseekers who apply through recruiters at the most risk of being ghosted.
So, why do recruiters ghost candidates?
Particularly when you’re hiring for a vital or challenging role, getting an offer accepted by a great candidate can be cause for celebration.
But in the euphoria of making a great hire, other candidates can get left behind.
This is especially common if you choose the wrong recruiting partner to source or head-hunt candidates.
Because they are paid on commission, some recruiters wash their hands of candidates once it becomes clear that the organization is going in another direction with the role, and this reflects poorly on both of you.
Another common reason companies ghost applicants is that something has changed internally that you are not at liberty to discuss with them.
Whatever it is, instead of communicating the difficulty of the situation, you leave the candidate in the dark. You might forget about it, but they’ll certainly remember.
Although we’d like to believe that we’re all well-intentioned and well-organized, we can’t get away from the fact that employers ghosting applicants often happens out of forgetfulness.
You might be more likely to forget to follow up with a candidate if:
You’re hiring for many roles at once
Your hiring team is short-staffed
The recruiter responsible for the role goes away on vacation
The point of contact for that candidate leaves the organization, and they are missed in the handover
Why candidates ghost employers
Why employers ghost candidates
Your hiring process is too long-winded; They realize after the interview they’re not right for the job; They’ve already accepted another role
You’ve offered the role to someone else; Something’s changed internally, but you can’t announce it yet; You simply forgot
Employers ghosting applicants and applicants ghosting employers are two sides of the same coin.
The former creates a bad candidate experience; the latter is a reaction to it – and a bad candidate experience has severe effects on your hiring process.
Routinely creating a bad candidate experience can be catastrophic for your employer brand, which in turn makes it tough to attract competitive candidates. Around half of all workers say they wouldn’t join a business with a bad reputation, even if they were offered more money.
A positive candidate experience, on the other hand, can set you apart from your competition, since nearly 60% of job seekers have suffered a poor candidate experience in the past.
Refraining from ghosting candidates has a clear role to play here, even if you don’t end up hiring them.
For example, candidates are four times more likely to consider your company for a future opportunity if you give them constructive feedback after a rejection. You can’t do this if you forget to email them back at all.
You need to reduce ghosting on both sides of the hiring process, and we can show you how.
Clearly, ghosting is rife in recruiting, and although being ghosted after interviews by candidates is rough, ghosting interview candidates can also do damage to your organization.
We’ve compiled a list of best practices to help you reduce both types of ghosting and make better hires to boot.
Suffering from an epidemic of candidates ghosting? Here’s a quick summary of our tips.
Tips to reduce ghosting after interview
Write better job descriptions
Include the salary range in the job ad
Set a time frame for recruitment, and be transparent about it
Include a timeline for recruitment in the job ad
Use skills-based hiring to streamline screening and interview the right candidates
Use “culture add” and motivation tests to make sure applicants are aligned with your values
Establish clear communication guidelines for recruiters
Provide recruiters with templates for handling rejections
Offer legitimate flexible working policies
Be honest about your flexible working policies – don’t exaggerate
Spend time showcasing your company culture
Use employee testimonials to demonstrate that you’re an organization that cares about your employees
Review your compensation and benefits packages
Explore other incentives you could offer employees and candidates
The first step to reducing ghosting after interviews is to write better job descriptions. They have a powerful role to play in setting candidates’ expectations.
For example, almost 80% of candidates state that they wouldn’t apply for a job if it didn’t specify a salary. So quality job descriptions should include a salary range, along with other key information about the role.
You should also ensure that they are clear and precise about the skills required. When creating a job ad template, make sure to include:
Three to 10 core competencies for the role
The realistic working conditions, including how much a candidate can work from home
The company benefits and key requirements to access them
Once you create your job ad, include a clear timeline for recruitment that covers:
When shortlisted applicants will hear about interviews
The time range in which each stage of interviews will take place
When candidates will hear back about the final decision
When the successful applicant would start employment
This provides a positive candidate experience even to those who aren’t shortlisted because they know they haven’t been successful without you having to reach out to them.
That said, you should also consider using automated rejection emails even to unsuccessful candidates. You can even include a well-crafted thank-you note stating your appreciation for the candidate’s interest in your company.
You should then re-confirm this timeline as candidates progress throughout the hiring process, always signing off with a note about when they will next hear from you.
Once you use an accurate job ad to attract candidates and set their expectations, the next step is to ensure that you only invite the best ones to interview. The best way to do this is with pre-employment skills testing.
Unlike using resumes to screen candidates, skills testing enables you to observe candidates’ proficiency in core competency areas directly.
You can even use personality, “culture add” and motivation tests to find the perfect match for your company culture and values.
We’ve seen first-hand how it improves candidate experience. Just ask Bain and Company, who switched to TestGorilla to extend their positive candidate experience from recruitment events into the assessment process.
As well as making for happier hires, skills testing also makes for more accurate ones. Over 80% of Fortune 500 companies already use psychometric tests for hiring, and 81% of them say it produces better hires.
Recruiters need clear guidelines for how to communicate with candidates after contacting them to arrange an interview.
The general intention should be to keep candidates updated about their progress early and often, from their first application right up to onboarding successful applicants.
This creates a better candidate experience and, when these communications are appropriately personalized, establishes a bond between the candidate and the recruiter. This bond makes it less likely that a candidate disappears without a trace.
You don’t even have to do it all manually: You can use automatic follow-up emails to keep candidates in the loop and invite them to reach out to you for more information.
Make sure your communication guidelines include templates for handling internal changes that might disrupt hiring – like a hiring freeze – and when rejecting candidates for a job.
Nobody wants to be ghosted after an interview, especially when they’re unsuccessful. But thankfully, the right communications can soften the blow:
71% of candidates want to be notified as soon as possible
48% want to be considered for other jobs
37% want to receive the results from a hiring test or assessment
One of the big mistakes that organizations make that causes candidates to ghost them is that they exaggerate the extent of their flexible working policy.
You know the drill.
Companies tell candidates that they offer fully remote working. Then, at the last moment, they reveal that this is only after employees work for one year in the office or that they need to be back at the corporate headquarters once a month.
But in a climate where 72% of all knowledge workers prefer hybrid working, this simply isn’t good enough.
A real flexible work offering for all employees can do wonders for reducing candidate drop-off. As mentioned above, 16% of candidates ghosted after a job interview because a mandatory return-to-office policy was implemented during the hiring process.
It’s worth remembering that the hiring process isn’t just about the candidate selling you on their skills; it’s also about you selling them on your workplace culture.
Jobseekers rank company culture highly when deciding to take a role, with 86% saying it is somewhat or very important. If you pride yourself on having a cohesive culture, this is an opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition.
The first step is not just to describe your company culture, but to show it to your candidates. For example, you could use employee testimonials to demonstrate that your organization cares about its employees and their well-being.
You might even use “reverse reference checks” for late-stage interviewees: when managers introduce candidates to their past direct reports.
This tactic usually involves including one person who has since left the company in a meeting with the candidate and encouraging them to ask questions about the team and management style.
You need to be realistic here. If company culture isn’t your strong suit, don’t try to pretend it is during the hiring process.
If candidates don’t realize it during interviews (and ghost you afterward), they’re sure to figure it out once they’re hired and leave as soon as possible.
If you’re following all of the best practices above and still not seeing a dent in the number of job candidates ghosting you after interviews, it’s time to consider whether your compensation and benefits packages just aren’t cutting it.
Are you asking for too much and offering too little?
Analyze the roles that have prompted the most candidate ghosting and compare the salary to industry benchmarks. Explore additional incentives you could offer employees, or even consider providing candidates with incentives while they’re still in the hiring process.
For instance, you could allow candidates access to learning materials during the hiring process that could help them pick up new skills, with the promise that there’s more to come once they’re hired.
This tactic is also highly recommended by business leaders to add value to the recruitment process and reduce attrition.
Indeed, a recent McKinsey report found that one of the biggest factors driving attrition was a lack of career advancement and development. As such, demonstrating a commitment to this during hiring can help you stand out as a potential employer.
We’ll level with you here:
Being ghosted after an interview can still happen even if you follow all of the best practices listed above. Sometimes they truly are the right person at the wrong time, and there are other fish in the sea!
So, hiring managers and recruiters need to be ready to deal with being ghosted after an interview smoothly and efficiently.
Here are our top tips:
When giving an offer, agree on a set timeline for the person to review it. Send them a follow-up message when the deadline is closing in, but don’t take them back once they’ve missed it.
Follow up once or twice on an unanswered email to give job candidates the benefit of the doubt. Things happen, and life gets in the way. If a candidate is embarrassed about ghosting your original message, a small, non-judgmental prompt could put them back in the running.
Give candidates an “out” in your follow-up messages. Let them know that if they’ve found another role or have changed their minds, you totally understand and would be open to any feedback they have. This makes you look fair-minded and invested in their progress.
Send them a polite “breakup” communication. If you still don’t hear from your candidate after some gentle nudging, wish them the best in their job hunt. Definitely don’t berate them for wasting your time, however frustrated you might be by their silence.
Record the ghosting incident. Once you decide once and for all that the applicant ghosted you, log this somewhere, whether in dedicated hiring software or a simple Excel sheet. Note the stage at which the candidate dropped out and if they had accepted an offer. This helps you catch any potential issues in your process, or with a specific recruiting partner.
Last but not least: Move on quickly. As we said, there are plenty more fish in the sea, and you have a role to fill. Don’t keep engaged candidates waiting.
Now you know why ghosting happens, the damage it can do to your business, and the best practices you can use to avert it.
We can’t promise you’ll never have your heart broken by a promising candidate again, but at least you now have a handbook for managing applicant ghosting after interviews.
The next step is to apply the strategies above. To get started with skills-based methods in your next round of hiring and ensure you invite only the best to interview, read our guide to improving your candidate selection process.
If you’re nervous about applying these tips to a remote workplace, read our advice on how to hire for remote work culture.
Or, to find a hire who won’t clam up on you, use our Communication test to hire the best of the best.
1. Threlkeld, Kristy. (February 11, 2021). “Employer Ghosting: A Troubling Workplace Trend”. Indeed for Employers. Retrieved March 08, 2023. https://www.indeed.com/lead/impact-of-covid-19-on-job-seeker-employer-ghosting
2. “What every company needs to know about hiring right now: Key learnings from the 2022 Greenhouse Candidate Experience Report”. Greenhouse. Retrieved March 08, 2023. https://www.greenhouse.com/uk/blog/key-learnings-from-the-2022-greenhouse-candidate-experience-report
3. Lybrand, Sarah A. (March 01, 2018). “What Is Employer Branding and How Can It Grow Your Business?”. LinkedIn Talent Blog. Retrieved March 08, 2023. https://www.linkedin.com/business/talent/blog/talent-acquisition/employer-branding
4. Lamont, Alex. (August 01, 2022). “5 recruitment trends from our 2022 Job Market Report”. Jobtrain. Retrieved March 08, 2023. https://hub.jobtrain.co.uk/blog/5-recruitment-trends-market-report-2022
5. Bommel, Nikky. “How Effective is Psychometric Testing?”. Big 5 Assessments. Retrieved March 08, 2023. https://www.big5assessments.com/blog/2020/02/03/how-effective-is-psychometric-testing/#\_ftn2
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