Think you have been ghosted by an employer? Here is the harsh truth about why it happens - and what you can do about it.
Whoever you are, and wherever you are, I hear you loud and clear.
Actively job searching takes time and energy.
Updating your resume and applying for jobs is tedious.
Attending multiple interviews is draining.
Then, just when you think ‘this is it,’ the employer pulls the plug, and you never hear from them again.
So, when I say ‘don’t get mad’, I want you to know that I realise it is very much easier said than done.
Especially if it was a role that you really wanted – and thought it was in the bag.
After all, that’s what they told you, right?
Ultimately though, as with other things in life, you have a choice about how to react to this.
I want you to ponder on the results of a recent survey so that you can put your experience into perspective.
That means most people have been unceremoniously dumped by a company without a word of explanation.
So, this is the first way you can start to handle this differently.
I want you to take on board that it most probably has nothing to do with you.
Understanding that it is not personal does help take the sting out of it.
Being ghosted by an employer is a reflection of the world we currently live in and not something lacking in you or what you have to offer.
The question is, what do you do about it? Shrug your shoulders and accept this as 'the new normal'?
Partially yes, but mostly no.
First though, we need to define whether or not you have actually been ghosted by an employer or if it is something else.
How to know if you have been ghosted by an employer
There is a big difference between being unsuccessful and being ghosted.
Applying for a job and hearing nothing back is very frustrating but also very common.
Many companies write “only shortlisted applicants will be contacted” on their application forms so it may simply be that you were not selected for interview.
This does not constitute ghosting.
Another point to note is that if you have applied online through an ATS or Applicant Tracking System, there are so many reasons why you may not get a response.
For example, your resume format may be working against you or perhaps you have not targeted your resume for a specific job and the software was unable to find enough key words, skills, and phrases it was looking for in order to short list you for an interview.
Again, this is not ghosting.
Ghosting is when there has been some positive direct engagement with a company and then they have dropped you and never spoken with you again.
This can happen after email communication, a screening interview, a first interview, or subsequent follow up interviews.
It may even happen to you after a verbal job offer.
So, why do they do this? Why are you the best candidate in the world one minute and then suddenly not even worthy of talking to the next?
5 reasons job seekers are ghosted by an employer
1 General disorganisation
In smaller companies and startups, recruitment can get passed to people who really don’t want to do it. This can be because they are not skilled in this area and lack confidence and structure, or because they feel they don’t have time to add on this unwelcome task to their other duties.
Whichever the reason, the result is the same – a poor process with no emphasis on communication.
In larger companies the sheer volume of application response is a task in itself. Yes, they may have dedicated professionals for this purpose but as candidates pass through the system between team members it is easy for candidates to fall through the gaps.
Neither is a good excuse for not responding to people, but it is, as most will have observed who work in recruitment, an unfortunate reality.
2 Initial screening by Researcher or assistant
If you have just been ghosted, think back to the very first communication you had from the company.
Who was it with and what did they say?
If it was via LinkedIn, it was very possibly a researcher and if it was direct with the company, it was probably a lower-level HR or Admin Assistant who was asked to find candidates matching certain criteria.
They may well have been enthusiastic about how you were a great fit for a role but, once a more experienced recruiter, HR professional, or Hiring Manager screened your details, they may have rejected you.
Again, not an excuse for just dropping you but it can be the reason why a company blows hot and then suddenly cold in the initial stages.
3 Internal recruiters vs actual recruiters
Internal recruiters have a finite number of jobs to fill because they are only looking to fill positions for one company.
External recruiters work for many clients and therefore have more positions to fill. This, in itself, can lead to a lot of ghosting and here is an article on this subject.
Ghosted by a recruiter? 7 reasons why it keeps happening to you
Going back to internal recruiters, the easiest way to understand their role is to think of pipelines.
The Hiring Manager instructs them to find an engineer, for example, and gives them a Job Description with the background and qualifications required.
They then go to the market and search their internal talent pools and databases, implement headhunting tactics, use their network on LinkedIn, and advertise the role on job sites.
Now the Hiring Manager will want to see say 5 candidates and then reduce that to three for an interview.
This means that you may be contacted on Monday and have a great screening interview but, if you delay sending your updated resume till Thursday, their pipeline may already be full of good candidates, and you miss out.
That’s not to say that the other candidates are better then you but more that they were submitted before the ‘cut off point.’
In addition to this, internal recruiters often have to switch their priorities quickly. For example, if their company unexpectedly loses a key member of staff then they will need to turn their efforts to finding a replacement and drop what they were previously working on.
And yes, as with the other reasons, of course they should tell you but often they don’t.
4 Change of Circumstances
So far, we have looked at reasons at the beginning of the process. But what about if you have been interviewed, or been interviewed more than once? Or even had a verbal offer and then – silence?
The most likely reason, apart from number 5, is a change of circumstance that they either can’t or don’t want to share with you.
Basically, the list is endless.
What does this tell you?
It shows that you just don’t know what is happening, so you need to keep an open mind and act accordingly.
5 They Found Something They Didn't Like!
Now this last one is about you, and not them.
When a company is seriously interested, they will dig a little deeper to find out more about the ‘real you’.
If they are thorough, this process may reveal a side of you that you didn’t intend to reveal.
For example, perhaps they found a post on LinkedIn where you have been antagonistic and unprofessional towards someone?
Or maybe they have followed up with one of your referees and didn’t like what they heard?
Such factors are key reasons why a potential employer may start off thinking you are perfect – but then drop you like a stone.
Yet again, of course they should inform you but often they feel you are not worth contacting if what they find is serious enough to put them off you.
How to avoid being ghosted by an employer
If you have already been ghosted by an employer then it may be a little late for that company but rather getting mad and frustrated or, even worse, just accepting it, do this going forwards.
Before you apply for positions
Get the basics right so you are leaving nothing to chance
Clean up your social media accounts using this guide so potential employers don’t see anything that will put them off.
Screen your referees using this guide to make sure they know what you are capable of, and they are still happy to provide an excellent reference for you.
When you apply for positions
If you take care with your applications, employers are more likely to take care to communicate back to you.
Always provide a professional but warm cover letter so that you start to build a relationship with them.
Respond promptly to their communication and requests for information so you get in the pipeline before it fills up
At the screening & interview stages
This is by far the most important thing you should do – ask questions.
Remember the list above about all the reasons why employers ghost job candidates and the key takeaway?
The truth is you don’t know what is going on behind closed doors.
Therefore, at each stage, make sure you have a clear understanding of the following.
Next – what happens after this? What is the process?
Who – which person will be coming back to you?
When – what time frame are they working on?
After each interview
Keep the relationship going.
Always send a thank you email and confirm your interest. Thank them for their time but mention that you understand the process.
For example, “I understand that Peter needs to interview others over the next two weeks but if you can keep me updated, I would really appreciate it. In return, I will let you know if anything changes on my side” ie slight introduction of FOMO but not too much!
Follow up if you feel you are being ghosted
If you don’t hear back within the expected timeframe, you may have been ghosted but then again, there may be another reason.
Don’t fire off an angry email or leave a voicemail expressing your disappointment.
What if something delayed the process and they were about to come back to you? What if your direct contact is poor but it is still a great company to work for? Don’t burn your bridges.
Send an email which says you were hoping to hear by (date) but some time has passed. Explain that you understand budgets and circumstances change but you would be grateful if they can let you know if you should be applying for alternative opportunities.
And if there is no response…
Seriously, no more follow up. Just the one.
Don’t waste your time and energy.
You acted professionally throughout and now you need to concentrate on a company that deserves you.
i feel like if the place has made you an offer and told you when you were going to start, but keeps moving the start date, you have legal right to sue the company or organization… correct?
I understand why you may feel this is reasonable but unfortunately, employers can rescind job offers for many reasons unless that reason is discriminatory, e.g., based on disability, gender, sexual orientation, race, etc.
Further, offers can be withdrawn if various ‘subject to’ criteria are not met such as, for example, suitable references, the need to pass a medical or a drug test.
However, there can be legal consequences for employers for revoking an offer. In some cases, employees may be able to sue for damages if they can prove they’ve suffered losses as a result.
If you feel this is the case, you would need to take legal advice based on your situation and geographical location as employment law varies significantly depending on which country and state you currently live in.
As a precaution, I would always advise candidates to wait until they have met all contingencies listed in a formal job offer before submitting their resignation at their current job, selling their home, signing a lease, or incurring other moving expenses.
Plus, have a backup plan because no job is truly permanent.
just about every state in the US is an “at will” employment state. this means that as long as the reason isn’t discriminatory and prohibited by federal or state law, an employer can let any employee go at any time and can even offer a job, whether verbally or even in writing, and withdraw it at any time. the exception is if both employer and employee sign a contract, depending on the terms of that contract. not to be confused with a mere offer of employment letter, which is not binding. if either of the parties breach the contract, THEN a lawsuit can be filed.
I had an interview recently and at the interview they said everything looked great and that they would wrap everything up in 3 days and refer me to a supervisor in my local area so I can start picking up clients. They were waiting on one of my references and suggested I provide another reference. I gave them the name and phone number and they said they would contact him the next morning. It’s been 5 business days now and I haven’t heard from them and I know they haven’t called my 2nd referee because I contacted him to ask. I sent an email to the company asking politely if they were able to get through to any of my references. No email, nothing. Should I call them or just leave it?
Have you spoken with the first referee to get some feedback? This might give you some clues about what is happening. Also, are you sure they provided a positive reference? Recruiters probably won’t say if a reference wasn’t good. Ask them about questions they answered to get a feel for this. Assuming that was good, I would leave it a week and then ask again and say that you are keen to progress with them but you now have another offer on the table and you are wondering what to do. If they have just been slack with reference taking or just been too busy to do it, this should motivate them to respond. If they don’t respond, move on. You are worth more than that and you should put your energy into a company that deserves you.
Great advice here, I was recently offered a role and details of the package. I supplied references, and proof of work as requested. Checked with the references and they had no issue, and had given feedback. However the hiring company had failed to send out the health questionnaire, which I followed up on several occasions. A has now month passed, in the mean time my company found out from someone at the hiring company – this was prior to me accepting or letting my current employer know.
I discreetly informed the hiring companies HR, but have had no apology or follow up.
A Subaru follow up email to HR chasing my health questionnaire and contract remains unanswered after 4 business days, as well as not getting passed the switch board via phone.
Think this one is dead in the water, but what’s annoyed me most is the GDPR breach and disregard for the situation this has put me in. Thankfully I wasn’t silly enough to resign without a contract, as they asked me to do!
I am so relieved you didn’t hand your notice in. Yes, I think it is best to move on. Be thankful they showed their true colours at the beginning so you didn’t join a company that didn’t deserve you. Notch it up as a lucky escape. You acted in a professional way throughout the process so I am sure you will have a great new role soon.
I was invited for an interview, arranged for travel (plane tickets, pto, rental car, lodging) then was “ghosted”. No idea why. Lesson learned: don’t fund your own interview. If they are interested enough they will at least buy the plane ticket.
So sorry to hear you had such a bad experience. Yes, your takeaway is absolutely right but that is disgraceful behaviour from them. Unfortunately, I have heard this before many times. Some fake companies even have a scam travel agency where candidates have to buy a plane ticket through them. They simply take their money and never get back to them. I really hope this wasn’t the case for you. Thank you for sharing your story so that others will be aware of what can happen and all the best to you for finding a new role at a great company.
Thanks there is really great advice here; if I may add some of my experiences too. I think it’s important to make sure that you’re actually being ghosted. I have two examples from my own life. The first was an interview for a role in Europe, at the end of the first discussion I was offered the job and was even told “welcome aboard” by the hiring manager. And promptly never heard from him or the organisation ever again. In another situation, I had two interviews which I thought went quite well, I was told there would be a third and final one but the days turned into weeks. Eventually after relentless chasing, I did in fact get hold of the final interviewer and indeed got the job. In the first case I think it was incompetence, in the second the guy with the final say so was very busy, and he even said that he had been given the impression I had passed on the role. Trust your gut, you’ll know if you’re being ghosted for real and for the sake of your mental health don’t get too invested in any job that you haven’t accepted an offer for. Move on quickly
Great examples of non-ghosting feeling like ghosting – incompetence and being overly busy. Neither are excuses, just reasons why we don’t always hear back. The key, as you so rightly say, is to not get too invested too soon and the best way to do that is to be proactive with multiple applications to keep the momentum going. Thanks for sharing
May I suggest one reason you didn’t include? Outright discrimination. In tech jobs particularly, age discrimination is rampant. Often a candidate will have a couple of phone interviews, which go well, then at least one face-to-face interview. It’s at that interview that hiring managers will see that the candidate is over forty, or the wrong color, or both. Since admitting that they’re passing on the candidate would open them to lawsuits, they simply drop the candidate. If this sounds like paranoia, I recommend reaching out to workers in the over-50 demographic and ask them about their experience being suddenly dropped after the first face-to-face interview.
A valid point. Yes, this can indeed be another reason for candidates being dropped and, as you point out, some sectors are worse than others. Hard to prove though so the advice is the same – keep going till you find a company that deserves you. A bitter pill to swallow though when you strongly suspect that it is not your skills that let you down but your age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.
I like the wording of this article. Very sweet and encouraging.
Thank you for your support of our work. Have a great weekend.
What about when they reviewed your criminal record pre hire time, they said all clear, then no responses after trying to engage for a hire date?
Did they carry out this check right at the beginning ie pre-interview? In that case, it may have nothing to do with the check, and perhaps another candidate proved to be a closer fit for their needs. If they did this after the interview and told you all was OK and intimated there would be an offer, it still may have nothing to do with the criminal record check. So much can happen over the course of recruiting a new hire that will not be shared with you – either because they can’t or don’t want to tell you. The bad news? You have no control over this. The good news? You have absolute control over applying for multiple jobs and keeping the momentum going. The more balls you have in the air, the less you care. Make sure you have a few opportunities on the go because it feels so much better if one company lets you down. I know this feels personal but I highly doubt it is. It’s about them, not you. Move on, stay positive, you are worth more than this.