Being ‘ghosted’ is a new and unpleasant way of ending a relationship in the digital age. It happens when someone stops responding to your communications. And, painful though it is on a personal level, it’s also happening regularly in the professional world. Both on the part of businesses and candidates.
The term ghosting doesn’t apply to situations where you send in an application for a job, and don’t hear back. While disappointing, this is an all-too common scenario that happens on a daily basis.
Ghosting applies to situations where you have every reason to expect a reply. For example, when you’ve taken part in face-to face, or, as is the case in today’s environment, online meetings in a bid to secure a job.
When you don’t hear back from the recruiter, and they don’t reply to your messages - you’ve been ‘ghosted’.
In difficult market conditions, it’s difficult enough getting to the interview stage - and devastating when you realize your efforts have been for nothing. And the worst thing about a ghosting experience is that you don’t know what went wrong.
Being ‘ghosted’ is usually not your fault
It may help you to know that you’re not alone. In fact, there are more and more reports of ‘ghosting’ post-interview going on.This applies to candidates having a face-to-face meeting as well as those who have a video call online.
Ghosting is the most common reason job seekers report having a negative experience. According to a recent report, a staggering 65% of people said they didn’t hear back from a position they applied for.
And the chances are there was nothing these candidates could have done to change things.
In most cases, a company has - without letting you know - changed their priorities. It could be that
- They decided they didn’t actually need to hire for that position
- They were overwhelmed with applications
- They filled the position internally
- The person interviewing you may have left the company
- They’re just bad recruiters
If you as a candidate were to blame - are you guilty of the following?
- Did you fail to follow-up post interview? Without even realising it this could be putting you out of the picture; even if you ‘aced’ the interview. The managing editor of Business Insider revealed that she would not hire applicants who didn’t send a thank-you note after an interview.
- Did you show enough initiative? Maybe you didn’t come across with as much enthusiasm as you assumed in the interview. Have you replied promptly to emails from a recruiter post-interview?
Whatever the reason a recruiter stops responding to you, there are steps you can take to minimize the chances of it happening again.
1. Make well-thought-out follow-ups a priority
After the interview, don’t rush off before grabbing a business card or asking for the interviewer’s details. If someone screened you on the phone pre-interview, then get their mail too. If you have time, you might even get the details of the receptionist you signed in with.
This is the one key thing that will help your candidacy stay top of mind.
After the interview send out a thank you email or note - within a day. A short message saying how much you enjoyed meeting people should be standard practice. And you don’t have to be an expert at copywriting - because there are many templates that can help.
If you receive a reply telling you the recruiter will get back to you in a day or two and they don’t - send a follow-up, to check-in. This is not being overbearing - it’s showing initiative. You could even use an email tracker to check if and when your messages get read.
Keep emailing the recruiter - maybe one email a week - for the next three weeks. Continue to express your interest in the company and the position, and be specific. Take note of relevant industry news. For example, if you applied for a job in online retail, check out the trends for ecommerce.
Use your knowledge to show the recruiter you’re a candidate that’s ready to take the reins in your new position.
Most recruiters will find it hard to ignore this kind of politely persistent follow-up. Even if you don’t get that job, you may get a reply and an answer as to your status. And, if it turns out you didn’t get this job, they may keep you in mind for a future position.
Follow up but don’t go overboard
It’s worth pointing out that showing interest is fine but there comes a time when you need to let things go. And don’t go overboard or use accusatory language e.g. “It’s been a long time since our interview and I’ve heard nothing back”.
Don’t call the office or send an SMS message, either, as this could come across as overly familiar. SMS is still associated with personal messages or perhaps customer support. And needless to say, don’t turn up in person uninvited.
2. Make contact via other channels
If you’re not getting a reply to your emails, try another channel. LinkedIn is a good place to start. Send a polite message along the lines of “I really enjoyed our meeting last week and would like to know what the next steps are”.
Start with one channel and don’t focus on one point of contact - if your efforts aren’t paying off, try another member of the recruitment team. If you can see that the position has been filled, it could still be worthwhile to reach out to another hiring manager.
By reaching out to another member of the HR team you may gain insights into the hiring process or learn if you should be following up in a different way.
3. What to do when you’re continually being ‘ghosted’
Everyone stands a chance of being ghosted, but if you feel this is happening to you regularly it’s time to dig down and find out why. Reflect on how you come across in interviews, and whether you have the skills and aptitudes a recruiter is looking for. Do extra research to find out whether you’re speaking the same language as interviewers.
Reflect on your interview techniques - have you adjusted these in light of remote working? These days it’s more likely you’ll meet with recruiters on the phone or via video calls.
It may seem unfair, but many recruiters have no incentive to give feedback to failed candidates. They’ve already moved on. If you feel you’re getting ghosted consistently, find a trusted person to give you honest feedback. Maybe consider doing a ‘mock’ interview with an HR mentor.
Ghosting is always an emotional experience on both a personal and professional level, but it needn’t define you. Step back and figure out why it’s happening to you, so you can make changes. Ask for professional help and get yourself back in the game.
Recruiters could be ghosting you for a multitude of reasons
Sometimes you may feel you’re being ghosted when actually, the hiring manager is on holiday. Or the recruiting company moves slowly and they don’t have effective collaboration practices in place. It could also be that managers are on the fence about who to hire or have offered the job to someone else but haven't received a confirmation.
Another reason they didn’t get back to you could even be that they feel bad about letting you down. That’s especially true if the interview process was lengthy.
According to certain sources, some companies may be afraid of being accused of discrimination, so decide to go silent instead. Unfortunately, unlike in the public sector - where employers are legally obliged to inform applicants they were not selected - no such laws surround the private sector. Recruiters only do so as a courtesy.
Time to move on
When you’ve reached out several times and asked yourself what went wrong without finding an answer, move on and pick up where you left off. Start sending out more applications - and bear in mind the previous tips around following up post-interview.
You may never find out why a particular company ghosted you. But, why would you want to work for an employer that shows so little consideration for candidates anyway?
John Allen, Director, Global SEO at RingCentral, a global UCaaS, VoIP and video conferencing solutions provider. He has over 14 years of experience and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs. He has written for websites such as Hubspot and BambooHR.
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