Today, life is full of digital experiences. Whether you are seeking a date, a social meetup or a new job, you will likely begin by searching online. And while the term “ghosting” primarily began to describe a person who stops communicating without explanation in the context of a romantic relationship, it has infiltrated the professional world to describe recruiters and hiring managers who suddenly disappear.
Ghosting is frustrating, aggravating and, dare I say, incredibly disrespectful — especially after candidates have taken the time to complete the necessary information, attend various phone and in-person interviews and sometimes even provide feedback or sample work at no cost. I find the entire process of ghosting to be unprofessionalism at its finest; however, recruiters have informed me that there are various legitimate reasons ghosting takes place. Here are the top three reasons recruiter ghosting happens.
1. A Shift In Priorities
While the recruiter may have initially been told the position you had applied for was of top priority, the company or hiring manager may have shifted their focus to filling a different role. Though I personally feel that this should still be communicated to the applicant in a timely manner, shifting priorities sometimes happen quickly and without much warning. With numerous positions or changes happening at the same time, a recruiter or hiring manager can become overwhelmed by an influx of potential candidates and simply lose track of other candidates during the hiring process.
2. Time Off Or Employment Change
The recruiter you spoke to may be on vacation, have quit or been terminated from their post. Paid time off should again be communicated, but with a termination or unexpected resignation, candidates who are currently going through the job process may be overlooked by other team members as they navigate staffing changes.
3. They’re Just Not Good At Their Job
Sometimes there is no excuse. The person you are speaking with is bad at their job. If you do move forward with the hiring process, this may be something you can bring to an HR manager’s attention (if you feel led to and are comfortable doing so).
When my students at The Job Search School feel they are being ghosted by a recruiter or hiring manager, they typically contact me asking what they should do next. First, I inform them that they should remain mindful of the recruiter’s time, citing the three main reasons that ghosting happens, as listed above. Then, I let them know that they are not powerless. There are in fact several appropriate and thoughtful steps they can take.
If you have been ghosted, here are three things you can do. Don’t worry; a séance isn’t one of them.
1. Follow up.
There is nothing wrong in following up with a recruiter or hiring manager if it is tastefully and respectfully done. Whether the recruiter experiences a shift in priority, a change in staff, a slip of the mind or has simply scheduled a vacation, reaching out is a way for you to remain in the loop and on their radar.
If you have not heard back from anyone, I recommend following up via email exactly one week after your last communication. Rarely do I recommend contacting a potential employer by phone. For example:
It was such a pleasure meeting with you last Friday to discuss the marketing manager position. I enjoyed learning about your expectations for the role, as well as hearing about your upcoming family vacation. I’m sure you will have a great time!
You had mentioned that Mr. Marco, the marketing director, would be contacting me this week to schedule an additional interview, but I have not heard back from him. I want to be sure I remain available, if he is still interested in meeting, of course. Please let me know at your convenience. Again, I thank you for your time and hope you have a wonderful weekend.
Remember, it is never okay to be aggressive or pushy when reaching out to a recruiter or hiring manager. One email (or phone call, if you feel one is warranted) is plenty. If you do receive notice that someone was terminated or resigned unexpectedly, it is okay to follow up with their replacement, introducing yourself, stating the position you had applied for and asking where you stand.
2. Be objective.
After any interview, it is important for you to take a step back to reflect on your performance as well as the position you are interviewing for. Some questions I tell my clients to sort through are:
• What was appealing to you about this position?
• What did you think about the face of the organization (the recruiter or hiring manager you have been in communication with)? Were there any red flags?
• Do the organization’s mission and the position you are applying for align with your professional goals?
• Give yourself an unbiased review. How did the interview go, really?
The last question is probably the most difficult, but it is most important. I have been told time and time again by recruiters and hiring managers that a candidate may have started strong and then surprisingly fizzled out. Why? Often, they appeared too confident, too assertive or too passive.
One recruiter I spoke with brought his top candidate in to the hiring manager for his main interview. When asked about his experience, the candidate said (again — true story!), “Believe me, I can do your job with my eyes closed.” As you can imagine, he did not get a follow-up call.
3. Keep moving.
“Ghosting” started as a dating term, so I leave you with some dating advice: There are other fish in the sea. Your job search should continue until you have received a formal commitment from an employer.
By remaining mindful of a recruiter or hiring manager’s time, following up appropriately and continuing with your job search, you are well on your way to becoming employed.