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“Ghost-busting” Candidates by Engaging Them in the Process

The latest “craze” (for lack of an accurate term) by potential candidates when job searching is the act of “ghosting”. What is “ghosting”? It is the practice of quietly cutting off all communication with an employer despite there being an initial investment of time, effort, and communication between both parties. Why does “ghosting” occur and what can you do to prevent it from happening to your hiring team? This article, the finale of our “How to Outplay the Talent Game” series, will help to answer that question and present you some tools to prevent the “ghosts” from fleeing.

Why Are Candidates Ghosting?

Among the literature out there on this topic, there are three prevailing theories as to why candidates are ghosting more than ever before:

  1. It is a very hot job market for candidates where they basically have their pick of where they wish to work next and do not need to wait to slog through the hiring process of any one company

  2. It was brought on and popularized by millennials and their digital-first communication methods and decreasing dependence on face-to-face interaction

  3. Companies are getting a taste of their own medicine from when they ghosted candidates in the past with their “black hole” application portals and over-reliance on automated ATS (applicant tracking systems)

Justin Bariso of explains further:

“For one thing, the unemployment rate is lower than it has been in almost two decades. With more open jobs than unemployed persons, workers have a newfound advantage: If they don't like a job situation, or if they find something better, it's easier than ever to go find something else.

Another factor has to do with the effects technology have had on the communication style of younger generations. Social media and messaging apps have helped persons establish relationships quicker, but a lack of face-to-face conversation and personal contact often make for relationships that lack depth.

Simply put, many feel no need to have an awkward conversation with a recruiter or manager if they can take the easy way out and ghost them.” (Bariso,, 2018)

When it comes to companies getting a taste of their own ghosting medicine, Peter Cappelli of Barron’s says:

“The internet changed hiring practices in the tight labor market of the late 1990s by making it easier for candidates to submit resumes electronically. When lots of applications started coming in, recruiters used applicant-tracking software to sort through them. With thousands of applications coming in for even simple jobs, it was difficult for employers to respond to all of them—not impossible, of course, just difficult to set up a way to do it. Most didn’t bother.

In other words, they were ghosting applicants: You never knew if the employer just wasn’t interested in you or whether your application somehow fell through the cracks...Today, unsuccessful job candidates simply have no expectation of getting any response to their résumés. Even candidates who have been through several rounds of interviews tell me that they’ve had prospective recruiters simply stop returning their calls.

Is it really so surprising that we would now hear about the opposite problem?” (Cappelli,, 2019)

There is not just one explanation for ghosting; it appears it has risen from a perfect storm of market conditions, generational changes in attitude and communication, and an unleashing of deep-seeded indifference caused by years of silence from employers.

Keeping Candidates Alive in the Process

Retention is the name of the game in hiring right now, whether it’s for retaining current employees or retaining top-quality candidates so that they eventually hire on. There are a few ways to keep candidates engaged in your hiring process to prevent them from ghosting away:

1. Be respectful - Remember that respect begets respect. When companies and recruiters treat people like people, and not like commodities that are a begrudging yet necessary expense, they can create an environment where people are more likely to respond in kind.

2. Be transparent - Technology has made the need for direct and transparent communication more important than ever. Work hard to maintain consistent and honest communication with the people you're dealing with. Don't mislead them with false promises or unrealistic hopes. In other words, keep it real.

3. Cut your losses - Like it or not, ghosting has become the new normal. Companies must learn to adapt, or they will continue to suffer heavy losses. For example, companies might consider streamlining onboarding procedures to get new employees going more quickly, which will also accommodate for new employees who never show up.” (Bariso,, 2018)

Being clear, up-front, and honest with candidates will go a long way in keeping candidates interested in your company and help to keep their eyes from looking around for a better and quicker opportunity.

Emily Moore of Glassdoor has a five-stage process that can also be of help to employers when hiring:

Stage #1: Awareness - Before a candidate can apply to your open positions, they need to have some basic awareness of your company and the fact that you’re hiring as well as your unique employee value proposition.

Stage #2: Consideration - After a candidate has discovered your brand, they’ll be thinking about whether or not they should apply to your company. Make the decision a no-brainer for them by highlighting all of the reasons it’s great to work for your company.

Stage #3: Interest - By this stage, you’ve got candidates on the hook — now, you just need to reel them in. As they move down the funnel, they’ll go beyond passively glancing at your Glassdoor ratings and social media posts and begin to look more closely at job descriptions to evaluate whether or not they’re a match.

Stage #4: Evaluation - Now that you’ve got the candidate in your application ecosystem, it’s time to identify whether or not they’re a good match for your organization. While you want to be thorough, you also don’t want to turn candidates off of your job opportunities due to a lengthy, redundant interview process.

Stage #5: Closing the Candidate - So you’ve already convinced the candidate to apply, identified that they’re a good fit for your company and extended an offer — great! But keep in mind, even after a candidate accepts a job offer, your work isn’t done. If you want your new employee to hit the ground running, you need to set them up for success, and that means beginning the onboarding process as soon as possible.” (Moore,, 2018)

What it comes down to is quick, efficient consideration and communication with your candidates whether they’re potentially a good fit or not. If you utilize an ATS or automated online application system, don’t just have a system-generated generic email kick back to a candidate. Set up a more “personal” email to kick back to an applicant that is coming from real hiring managers or recruiters in your company so at least the email feels genuine and the candidate has a name to refer to in the future. Also let candidates know what the hiring timeframe is up front and reach back out with any changes to let them know that the gears are moving and their candidacy is in motion, despite it not being near a decision just yet. If the timeline is going to be lengthy and you’ve already informed the candidate it will be lengthy, keep their interest piqued in the meantime with marketing materials (videos, social media, flyers) that highlights how interesting/fun/cool your company is. Those materials could help install FOMO (fear of missing out) in them and keep them locked in to your company should other opportunities present themselves.


Ghosting is on the rise among job seekers because of an intensely hot job market for candidates with bountiful opportunities, increased digital (therefore shallow) communication between candidates and employers due to changes in generations and their tendencies, and a rubber-band effect from employers ghosting candidates first in the ‘90s and ‘00s with their “black hole” application portals and overuse of ATS. It is up to employers now to keep candidates constantly engaged in the hiring process with clear and honest expectations and very streamlined processes so that the overall hiring cycle length shortens, and quality candidates are onboarded as soon as possible.

Read More

What Is Employee 'Ghosting'? How Companies Created Their Own Worst Nightmare, Justin Bariso,, 2018 -

What Job Applicant ‘Ghosting’ Says About the Current Workplace, Peter Cappelli, Barron’s, 2019 -

5 Ways to Engage Candidates at Every Stage of the Recruiting Process, Emily Moore, Jobvite, 2018 -

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