Admit it: Is ghosting employers on your list of job search sins? It is for most job seekers. In fact, 84% say they’ve ghosted a potential employer in the last 18 months. We’ve said it before: Ghosting employers—going dark on communication and disappearing after an employer has shown interest—is a bad idea. There are less damaging ways to cut ties during the job search process.
Let’s discuss why and how you should avoid ghosting employers, plus how to handle it when a recruiter or employer ghosts you.
What’s Going On?
First off, the facts. People analytics firm Visier found that roughly one in five job seekers has ghosted an employer lately. The phenomenon is even more common among office workers than frontline workers, and the worst offenders are executives (99% of senior vice president job candidates admit to ghosting employers). It’s happening in Texas, for sure. About 46% of Dallas employers and 49% of Houston employers admit that job candidate and even employee ghosting has noticeably increased.
Why is this happening? Visier’s survey IDed the top reasons jobs candidates ghost employers as:
- The salary was too low (29%)
- They got a more attractive job offer (28%)
- The job role seemed inaccurate (27%)
- The employer had a poor reputation/online reviews (26%)
- They disliked the perceived work culture (22%)
“Every one of those reasons is a poor excuse to ghost,” says Dave Benjamin, Practice Director of The HT Group Professional Services. “Unless the recruiter or employer went out of their way to deceive you or the job itself is a scam, it can help you, the employer, and the candidates who come after you to break things off definitively.”
How to Break the News
If you’re like 70% of job seekers, you would love feedback after an interview. Reputable employers deserve this, too. But we know it’s hard to do. In our past research, we found that many job seekers just can’t handle delivering bad news or negotiating terms. Some resort to sending a “breakup text,” if they do it at all.
Oftentimes, you don’t need to offer a long, drawn-out explanation. Instead, if the salary is too low, that’s exactly what you can tell them. For more sensitive reasons, “it doesn’t feel like a good fit” can be a great catch-all explanation. We offer related tips here. You can elaborate, but don’t feel obligated to do so with one potential caveat: your recruiter.
“Your recruiter is your advocate. Be honest with them. If you’re unsure how to move forward with a job offer or you want to hold out for another offer you think is coming, your recruiter can help you weigh your options and also help communicate to the employer on your behalf,” we previously wrote.
Benjamin is particularly baffled by how often executives will ghost recruiters and employers.
“Burning bridges as an executive headhunting candidate is especially dangerous,” he says. “The opportunities available to you are narrow—particularly if you’re tied to Austin or a niche industry or role. So burning one bridge can lead to other bridges being destroyed, too.”
What If You’re Ghosted?
And what if you’re the one being ghosted? First, consider how far along in the process it happens. If you’re ghosted after being contacted by a recruiter on LinkedIn or after submitting your application to a job site, it’s likely due to the sheer volume of candidates who responded. Feel free to check with the recruiter again. Or if it’s you who took the first step and applied to a job listing, check your spam folder for an automated response that may have come from an applicant tracking system (ATS). Following these tips on how to ace ATS screenings can also help.
If you’re further along in the process—say you’ve already interviewed—ghosting by the employer is rare, but it can happen. (Indeed even found that 10% of job seekers were ghosted by an employer even after the company made a verbal job offer!)
In such a case, you should first be sure that you have, indeed, been ghosted. A week or two since your last communication could seem like an eternity, but many employers move notoriously slowly through their hiring processes. The Balance reports that while some offers are received within 24-48 hours of interviewing, the typical hiring process can take two or three weeks. A high-level executive hiring process can take months.
Feel free to check back in with your point of contact and ask about the timeline. If there’s still no word after at least one week, try a different channel (call or send a LinkedIn message, for instance) or respectfully reach out to someone else at the organization. If there’s still radio silence, respectfully reach out to someone else at the organization and investigate the company and the recruiting firm online to see a) What others have said about their interview experiences and b) Whether something big is happening to the employer (like an acquisition or hiring freeze).
In an ideal world, ghosting employers (and employers ghosting you) would never happen. But it does. The good news is that you can rise above and not be a part of the problem. You can also choose to work with reputable recruiters who are responsive and helpful.