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.
2 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.