Think you have been ghosted by a recruiter? Here’s the harsh truth about why it happens - and what you can do about it.
It all starts out so well doesn’t it?
The recruiter reaches out to you on LinkedIn with the job of your dreams and tells you that you are a perfect fit for their client.
With the promise of an increased salary package, a shorter commute, and a fantastic company culture plus perks, you excitedly submit your resume when you get home that night.
It continues the next day.
They call you first thing and want to get you in as soon as possible for an interview. You check your calendar and get back to them with your availability.
They come back that same afternoon and arrange an interview for the next day.
Driving back after your interview you are confident that this is the job for you. Everything went smoothly and they tell you they will be back soon as they need to fill the position.
A couple of days pass so you call the recruiter for a chat. It goes to voicemail so you leave a message and send them an email.
Another couple of days pass so you try again. And again. And again.
You call into their office and an abrupt receptionist says the recruiter is busy and will get back to you if she needs to.
Silence sets in and you never hear from them again.
What does being ‘ghosted by a recruiter’ actually mean?
I have just given you one example of ghosting but it can happen at any stage in the recruitment process.
However, there is a difference between simply being unsuccessful and being ghosted.
Applying for a job and hearing nothing back is very frustrating but also very common and just means that you have not been successful.
Ghosting is when there has been some positive direct engagement with a recruiter and then they have dropped you and never spoken with you again.
This can happen after a screening interview, a first interview, or a second interview.
So, why do they do this? Why are you the best candidate in the world one minute and then suddenly not even worthy of a quick call back the next?
7 reasons jobseekers are ghosted by a recruiter
Reason 1 - Profit before people
Successful recruiters can earn big money, and that causes a problem. It is unfortunately true that the industry can attract the wrong kind of people who are more motivated by the dollar than by treating people with the respect they deserve.
If you face one of these types of recruiters, you need to realise they will drop you as soon as they know they will not be making a commission from you, with no explanations given.
Reason 2 - Industry churn
As it is a sales based role, recruiters have targets to meet and beat to keep their own jobs. As a result, there is a very high churn rate within the industry.
So you may think you have been ghosted but, in reality, they may no longer be working for that company anymore.
Reason 3 - Researchers vs recruiters
Larger firms and corporate recruiters often employ teams of researchers to assist in the process of headhunting and candidate acquisition.
Their job is to find and complete a first screen of applicants prior to the actual recruitment consultant being involved.
Further, they will often use a recruiter’s name and email address to communicate with you.
What’s the problem with this you may be wondering?
Well the thing is, researchers typically do not have the skills and abilities of a recruiter.
You could have many interactions with them where they make you feel special but then, when a recruiter sees your resume, they say no and reject you.
Reason 4 - Something changed - but they can't tell you
The recruitment process takes a long time so things may well have changed since the recruiter originally contacted you.
- The perfect internal candidate may have applied.
- The budget for the role could be threatened and now up for discussion
- A merger could potentially be on the cards
- Or the hiring manager may have changed their mind about what they want entirely.
Recruiters can be privy to confidential information but they just can’t pass this on to you.
Reason 5 - They found something they didn't like
Good recruiters are thorough. After all, that’s what they get paid for.
When a company is seriously interested in you they will dig a little deeper.
Part of 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 ben 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 recruiters may start off thinking you are perfect – but then drop you like a stone.
Reason 6 - They don't have time to get back to you
You are probably thinking that this is not such a big deal. Everyone is busy so that is not an excuse.
In defence of recruiters though, here is a fact.
It is estimated that approximately 50% of all job applications are from jobseekers who are not qualified for the roles they are applying for.
Recruitment consultants are deadline driven and unqualified applicants take up so much of their time.
This can lead to them abruptly dropping people and moving on to the next one immediately to try to produce results in a timely manner for their clients.
Reason 7 - Because they can!
To test people’s feelings towards recruiters not communicating with them I recently ran a poll on LinkedIn.
I compared another industry known for tardiness, real estate, and this was the result.
That is pretty conclusive but what does this mean?
It shows that recruitment is unique in that it is almost accepted that you will not get a response.
In other industries, this would be totally unacceptable.
Recruiters know they can get away with it because people’s expectations are so low – and many take advantage of this.
If you are now feeling a little deflated by this long list of reasons, don’t be. Do something about it instead.
Here are 7 ways in which you can minimise the chances of being ghosted by a recruiter going forwards.
7 ways to avoid being ghosted by a recruiter
Step 1 - Be selective
Only apply for jobs that you confident you are qualified for. Ghosting is far more likely to happen to people if they are a weaker candidate for a role. You may get through the first round, but you will be dropped as the competition heats up.
Step 2 - See every interaction as an interview
Remember that every time you interact with a recruiter, they are assessing you.
Don’t save your best behaviour for interviews only. Be professional and mindful with all your calls and emails.
If a recruiter wants information from you, get it to them promptly and show enthusiasm for every step of the process.
A careless slip of the tongue or delay in getting back to them may well cost you the job.
Step 3 - Clean up your online profiles
Whether you like it or not, if you have one or more active social media accounts then you have what is known as a social resume.
This is on display 24/7 and can make or break your next career move because yes, recruiters will absolutely check you out online to see who you really are.
Use this guide to clean up your act now before your next job application.
Step 4 - Screen your referees
When did you last speak with your referees? Do they have an up to date copy of your resume? Do they really know what you are capable of? And, are they still happy to provide a reference for you?
Relationships change over time so make sure you are giving this important job to the right people who will say the right thing if a recruiter contacts them.
Use this guide to make sure your referees work for you rather than against you.
Step 5 - Ask questions - at the beginning
Don’t wait till the end and then barrage recruiters with loads of questions.
Manage your expectations by asking recruiters important questions right at the start of the process such as:
- Why is this position available?
- How long has it been open for?
- When do you need to fill it by?
- How many other candidates are you interviewing?
- Do you have any internal candidates?
- Will there be second round interviews?
Sometimes you are not actually being ghosted. It’s just that you don’t understand the process and why there a gaps of silence in between recruitment activity.
Step 6 - Follow up - the right way
If you ask the right questions you will be able to follow up the right way.
For example, if you know they have other candidates to interview next week, wait till the Friday and then send an email saying that you hope the other interviews went well and that you are still very keen to progress with the role. Is there any other information you would like from me at this stage?
Pushing a recruiter at the wrong time might irritate them
Contacting at the right time is helpful to them.
Step 7 - Know when to walk away - and how to do it
Don’t give up straight away if you don’t hear back but also don’t waste your time if you are getting no response.
I understand that by this point you want to fire off a strong email that is critical of their behaviour but don’t do it.
They may still be considering you and also the recruiter may have another position that would be perfect for you.
So instead, be polite, be professional and say that you are open to discussion should the situations change.
Have you ever been ghosted by a recruiter? Share your experience in the comments below.
Great points. I am in the middle of such an experience and agree that it’s best to keep it polished and polite…but it is hard since I don’t treat people this way. For my experience it is an INSIDE recruiter who was all “purple squirrel” on me….then two rounds with decision makers who focused on the role and my great fit. It was so positive that I actual researched them to make sure the softball experience wasn’t the beginning of some sort of new scam attempt. It wasn’t…but nonetheless, I’ve been apparently ghosted. Today marks a full week after my last interview with two follow-ups during that time by me via email/voicemail. I was promised a debrief last week.
It would be “MUCH MUCH” easier if folks would just fess up and advise that “if you don’t hear from us within a week, please understand it isn’t personal, but it means you aren’t a good fit”.
This approach (and from a 50 year old recruiter) just seems pretty immature. I’d love to know what is going on…but I doubt I ever will. Time to move on!
Thanks for your comments and sorry to hear you are currently experiencing ghosting. As a hands-on recruiter, I can speak from ‘the other side’.
I am often in a situation where I simply can’t tell a candidate what is going on. However, I do communicate with people just to say “no news yet.” I totally agree with your sentiment about treating others the way you want to be treated yourself. My candidates are people, not products.
Yes, you are right to move on but hold tight, because they may still come back. It may still be a great company to work for – they just have a poor recruiter at the front end.
Keep up the momentum of applications to keep your sanity. It will feel less frustrating when this happens going forwards if you have a number of opportunities you are exploring.
Another thing you can do is to try the direct application approach. I have clients getting great results following this method. Here’s a blog we wrote on this:
On the flip side, I have candidates ghosting me every day. I spend hours of my time getting to know them, then going through multiple interviews and getting an offer – and then crickets!
Best of luck out there in this weird world of scamming and ghosting we all find ourselves in.
Whatever the reason for the delay or the “no” answer, you can always just tell the applicant “Sorry, no” so they’re not kept hoping. Corporate secrecy aside, you can always tell an applicant when they’ve been rejected.
Hi Terrils. I totally agree that people should be told as soon as possible if they are not going to be successful. The problem is, you can’t say “sorry, no” if that isn’t the case and a decision hasn’t been made for various reasons. They may very well be the person a company wants to employ. That’s why I let people know if there is a delay.
HJ, Thanks for the comment. Amanda has responded below and that should add some further thoughts. If you want to chat to me directly reach out via our community and we can chat one on one in person. https://reallifecareeradvice.com/join-our-community/
Exactly. A professional firm should have a canned “thanks but no thanks” email to send out, and you should get it AS SOON AS they’ve filled the position.
Yes, good point. Many recruiters just move on to the next job once they fill a position and lack the basic courtesy of letting candidates know the outcome.
I was contacted by a recruiter about a job. I drove about 45 minutes to the interview. It seemed everything went well, he purposely let me know who the ememployer was. I sent thank you notes the next day to the interviewer, and sole office personnel. The next day I received an email from a different recruiter about the same job. He insisted they had the exclusive arrangement with the employer. I was asked for an explanation about employment gaps but the next day the link to submit it was deleted.
2 weeks I have heard nothing from either recruiter. I have decided to avoid 3rd party recruitment services all together
Third party recruiters go straight in the virtual trash can. They know nothing about the actual job and rarely have any inroads with the employers. They spam applicants all the time.
Yes, Terrils, you’re right many do belong there 🗑! They often employ people without the ability to understand what particular jobs require, they often have no relationship with an employer let alone permission to send candidates for open roles, and they often gain job seekers for their database simply by spamming people.
However… not all recruiters are like this. So be cautious, ask questions, do a bit of probing, but don’t dismiss all of them because you may miss out on a genuine opportunity.
Hi Sherrie. Thanks for sharing your experience. Truly, stories like this make me feel ashamed to be a recruiter. Please don’t dismiss all third-party recruiters though. There are good ones out there and they may genuinely have exclusive rights to a position that is perfect for you.
Do try the direct approach though. This way you have more control over the process and you cut the recruiters out. This means that companies can avoid paying the huge recruiter fees too which is a huge bonus for them.
This approach is explained in this blog:
Sorry to say this is the new norm! I don’t like it shows no professionalism and yes it has happened to me !
Nick, Don’t let it put you off applying though
Four times in the last few months recruiters have called me all excited and in the first two cases, said “I’ll set you up with the interview!” only to ghost me. The last two cases I got a “you’re perfect for the job, I want to set up an interview.” I call/email (both, usually) about when I’m available and … silence. I don’t care what the reason is, a simple “thank you but no thank you” email is basic courtesy when YOU are the one who reached out to the applicant. Now when recruiters contact me I no longer bother to even get a little excited about the position; I know better.
Yes, again. Unfortunately, it is so common. In the first instance, you may very well have been contacted by a bot or some AI technology. Recruiters or their assistants programme it to search for a set of criteria and then send out stock messages to get you on the hook. Once you are, the actual recruiter is informed. Oftentimes, the bot gets it wrong ie you may have some of the skills and experience but lack something vital. Then you don’t even get a follow-up.
This is not only bad for job seekers but for ethical recruiters too. I have found recently that when I make direct approaches to candidates, many don’t bother to respond. Far more than in the past. I think it is for the reason above – people just don’t trust recruiters anymore.
I’ve been getting ghosted by recruiters and “creative” hiring agencies for several years. It’s been incredibly frustrating and demoralizing, because it’s impossible to suss out what is happening with no feedback after the initial application rounds.
I want to comment on the advice to “only apply to jobs you’re confident you qualify for”: ALL of the job descriptions I’ve been seeing (even for positions with pretty modest compensation) take a kitchen sink approach and list more skillsets and applications than any single person could learn in a lifetime, often including long-depreciated programs or skills outside of what would be typical for the stated work.
I would guess that this allows companies to disqualify anyone that applies at their whim, but it also seems possible to me that whoever is putting together these job descriptions is a separate entity and doesn’t really know much about the actual job/industry other than what they get from a Google search.
Hi Staven. Yes, you are right. Often the task of creating and uploading Job Adverts is given to administrators and not recruiters. They tend to cut and paste criteria from past documents because they don’t understand the essential and desirable requirements for a position – and the crucial difference between these. Not their fault because they simply don’t have the experience a recruiter has. This can result in an impossible list of requirements.
When we talk of only applying for jobs you are qualified for we are really talking about people who apply for positions without reading the details. Again though, I understand why many do this because the rate of response is so poor that the ‘throwing mud at a wall approach is tempting.
Try the direct approach we suggest in this article which will put you in control
If you’re a recruiter and you’re getting paid to represent a company and find candidates that allow you commissions and you don’t have the common respect and unprofessionalism to write a simple email, show up in a timely manner and represent a company that has hired you and believe you can discard candidates like pieces of trash in these peoples times of disparities then it is time for you to get out and move on! Plain and simple, cut and dry FACTS! Go find some type of work that doesn’t involve you working with the public sector! It is simply no different than flight attendants that make you feel entitled. Your field has absolutely no right to question why its so tainted, you have these bad apples to blame! Enough said!
We understand your frustrations totally. Let’s hope we see improvements in this area of customer service, delivering positive to care and attention to people when they can be in difficult times. Thanks for your input Jamie
Being dropped at any point, for any non-discriminatory reason is never an issue. I’m a realist and I’ve been on the other side of the table too (as a manager looking for new staff, not specifically as a recruitment specialist). The issue is being ghosted. Particularly after you’ve made contact and agreed a next step.
I think some points in this article take a very optimistic view of recruiters’ motivations and how they should be perceived. Ghosting a candidate because they followed up at the ‘wrong time’ might make a recruiter feel like they’re an important deadline-driven go-getter but from the outside it just looks petulant.
Recruiters letting junior staff to pretend to be them so they can scope out a market might be thought of as clever and dynamic. But to job applicants it’s dishonest, timewasting, and unprofessional. Etc. etc.
Everything in this article is at best a reason, not an excuse. And they only work as reasons if you assume a lack of professionalism, empathy and reciprocity on the part of the recruiter. Is that a big deal? Probably not. It’s a rough world. But it does neatly answer the question of why applicants have got fed up with recruiters.
Thanks for your thoughtful comment. You are absolutely right when you say “Everything in this article is at best a reason, not an excuse.” Ghosting is unprofessional and quite frankly lazy. As a recruiter myself, I find it embarrassing that this practice seems today to be acceptable and even expected by my profession. However, these are the reasons it happens. We wanted to explain to people what is probably happening behind the scenes. Check out this other article of ours – https://reallifecareeradvice.com/how-to-apply-for-unadvertised-jobs/ and go direct. It is the best antidote to this issue.