Why candidates ghost employers—and what you can do about it

HireHive Team
HireHive Team

At HireHive, some customers tell us that their biggest recruitment headaches come from bad candidates with poor etiquette—candidates who suddenly stop replying to emails, don’t show up for interviews, and even new hires who accept an offer, yet fail to show up to their first day of work (a whopping 22% of job seekers in one Indeed survey).

This behavior, often referred to as ‘professional ghosting,’ isn’t new, but historically, the roles have been reversed. Employers have been critiqued for their lack of follow up, not the other way around.

This behavior is strongly affected by the unemployment rate, job market, and corresponding balance of power. When the unemployment rate is relatively low—most recently, 3.6% in the U.S. and 6.5% in the EU—job seekers hold more power than employers. In a stronger economy, when the unemployment rate is closer to the average rate of 5.8% in the U.S. and 8.75% in the EU, employers tend to hold more power than job seekers. Whoever holds more power, has less to lose, and therefore, ghosts more often.

Since this balance of power (and empowerment) will always fluctuate, how should organizations deal with bad candidates?

Figure Out Why Candidates Ghost Your Organization

There’s a wide range of reasons why a candidate may ghost an employer. Although none of these reasons make it excusable, it’s helpful to understand why candidates may behave this way. Here are a few reasons:

  1. Your hiring process is too long.
  2. Your communication is ineffective.
  3. Your organization is different than the candidate expected it to be (i.e. You don’t walk the talk).
  4. The candidate received a better offer from another organization, or is waiting to receive one shortly.

Regardless of the specifics, there’s one fundamental reason why candidates ghost you: You’re not their top choice.

Fortunately, you can prevent many of these issues from happening by creating a good candidate experience. To minimize your chances of being ghosted, make sure your hiring process is efficient, tighten up your recruitment communications, and ensure your organization exemplifies its core values. As we’ve written about before, “By giving candidates a clear indication of timelines and what to expect, at the beginning of the process, you can manage expectations more effectively and provide a good candidate experience.”

Additionally, to form stronger relationships with candidates, improve the quality of your communications. You want candidates to feel a sense of obligation to you. For instance, if a candidate considers ignoring an email, or being a no-show on day one, you want them to understand that their decision lets a real person down and likely, an entire team. You’re not a faceless hiring manager, recruiter, or agency; demonstrate your humanness throughout the process.

What to Do When a Candidate Ghosts You

While there’s value in a proactive approach to minimize ghosting, it still happens. If a candidate ghosts your organization, what should you do?

1) Write messages that require a response. If you’re still interested in pursuing the candidate and they haven’t replied to your initial message, send an email or leave a voicemail that requires a response: “Our next step is to schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss your offer. Does Tuesday at 2:00 PM work for you?” 

2) Cut your losses. If you send messages that require a response and the candidate still does not reply, it’s probably best to cut your losses. Forgoing extenuating circumstances, if a candidate chooses to ignore your messages, that shows their true character. They’re likely a bad hire and it’s better to move on.

3) Keep a record of ghosters and no-shows. Depending on the size of your organization and your turnover rate, you may want to create a list of folks who ghost the organization to save yourself time, frustration, and money in the future.

4) Check on your team’s morale. Lastly, look inward—beyond improving your hiring process. When a new hire doesn’t show up for the first day of work, the rest of your team can feel the impact, especially if the position has been open for several months. Find ways to boost your team’s morale and lessen the blow.

Ghosting works both ways, and no one likes it. Not employers. Not job seekers. If ghosting is a common occurrence at your organization, figure out what you can do better. Ensure that your process is efficient, send effective communications, and establish strong relationships with candidates. Empathy begets empathy. If a candidate needs to remove themselves from the search, or turn down your offer, an empathetic candidate will do so respectfully.

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