According to the Urban Dictionary, ghosting is the act of suddenly ceasing all communications with someone after establishing an initial relationship. Often used in the context of dating, a person who is “ghosted” suddenly realizes that the person they were seeing no longer responds to messages. There is no explanation, and the ghosted person is left wondering what happened.
In the job search, this tends to happen to job seekers after an initial phone screen or first interview. A candidate believes the interview went well, only to never hear from the Recruiter again. And it happens more than you might think. While the best strategy as a job seeker is to ask the company when you can expect to hear about next steps before you end an interview, you may forget or not get a clear answer.
As a former corporate Recruiter, I find the practice of ghosting to be insensitive, unprofessional and bad for the reputation of the business. While the Hirer might rationalize that silence is kinder than direct rejection, it’s really just a terrible tactic to avoid being in an uncomfortable conversation. Ghosting leaves candidates’ minds spinning, wondering what they did wrong, yet still hopeful, thinking they still might have a shot at the role.
If you’re a job seeker who is being ghosted, here are some things to consider:
- First, determine if you’re actually being ghosted. Recruiting speed moves at a glacial pace. Managers have a primary job, and it isn’t hiring, so even if replacing their Finance Analyst is on their to-do list, it likely isn’t at the very top. One to two weeks isn’t unusual to wait for a reply.
- If you’re at the two week mark and haven’t heard anything, send a brief email reiterating your interest in the role and inquiring about next steps. If you’ve still not heard after another 7 – 10 days, try once more. If it’s a Recruiter/HR that isn’t responding, reach out to the Hiring Manager. While it’s likely they aren’t interested in hiring you at this point, an effort on your part to close the loop on a gracious note is wise. It’s quite possible the company liked you and would consider you for a future opening.
- It feels personal (and it should!), but it isn’t. Recognize that it’s a negative reflection on the company, not you. The best thing you can do in a job search is to pursue multiple roles at a variety of employers so that you don’t get hung up waiting on one. Even if it seemed the interview went swimmingly, there are too many factors beyond your control that can halt the process (e.g., a hiring freeze, an internal candidate). The more balls you have in the air, the less frustrated you’ll get if you’re ghosted.
A final word for Hirers – it may be uncomfortable to deliver bad news to an applicant, but it’s definitely kinder than leaving them hoping (oh, and the same for daters by the way!).