Job Ghosting: Why Do Job Candidates Quit Responding?

By TERRA Staffing Group

Posted on February 15, 2022

An increasing number of employers are seeing their job candidates stop responding. Some applicants stop responding after one email, while others stop deeper into the hiring process, even abandoning their job after their first day. This phenomenon has become common enough to earn a modern nickname: “job ghosting.”

According to a 2021 Indeed survey, job ghosting is on the rise. 28% of job-seekers surveyed had ghosted an employer in 2021, up from 18% in 2019. Conversely, 76% of employers reported they had been ghosted in 2021. 57% of employers said job ghosting is more popular than ever before. What is causing the increase in job ghosting? And what can employers and recruiters do to keep job-seekers engaged?

What is Job Ghosting?

Job ghosting is when a job applicant stops responding. It can occur over different time frames and for different reasons, but ghosting always has the same end result—a prospective employee disappears without closure. But ghosting goes both ways.  The inverse of job ghosting is job-seeker ghosting, where an employer stops responding during the application process. According to the 2021 Indeed survey, 77% of job-seekers report being ghosted by at least one employer. 

Job ghosting can be a major frustration for employers, especially when they have invested time and resources into vetting and interviewing the prospective employee. To reduce this waste, employers need to understand the different types of job ghosting, why applicants disappear, and strategies to keep job candidates engaged.

Intentional Ghosting

Intentional ghosting occurs when candidates stop responding to an employer after learning something about the employer they do not like. Often, this has to do with compensation, the job’s location, or job descriptions that do not match the actual role. According to data from Landed, the top reasons job-seekers abandon the application process are:

  • Mismatched job descriptions and roles
  • Poor communication from employers
  • Mistreatment from interviewers
  • Invasive questions
  • Lack of organization in scheduling interviews

Another reason job candidates might disappear is bad press, or a poor online reputation. If your organization has any of the following, you may experience higher intentional ghosting:

  • Recent public relations disasters
  • 1-Star online reviews (Glassdoor, Google Reviews, Yelp, etc.)
  • Low rating from the Better Business Bureau

Online reputation management (ORM) may be necessary if any of these aspects are affecting your job ghosting rates.

Unintentional Ghosting

Unintentional ghosting occurs when job-seekers ghost the job by mistake. This can occur for several reasons, and the prospect may be salvaged if the communication is rekindled. Some reasons for unintentional ghosting include:

  • Missed emails or messages
  • Interviews scheduled long after the first meeting
  • Poor communication from employers

Unintentional ghosting can be avoided with consistent communication from employers. This can be as simple as checking in via email. If the candidate does not respond to the email, try different means of communication, like calling, texting, messaging on LinkedIn, or through the job-seeking site they used (if applicable).

Why Do Job Candidates Ghost Employers?

Job candidates are ghosting employers for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s a lack of professional courtesy, technology-related dynamics, or avoiding a negative situation, applicants are finding it easier to ghost than ever before.

Here are some of the main reasons job candidates are ghosting.

No Investment in the Relationship

Many applicants feel like they are submitting applications into a void. MarketWatch reports three out of four job applicants have experienced not hearing back from an employer after applying. After several applications with no follow-up, job-seekers may feel that job application is a “numbers game,” and feel no investment in the organizations they are applying to.

Today’s applicants are used to multi-step interview processes that result in a boilerplate rejection letter, at best. Employers and job-seekers alike have conditioned one another to expect little from one another, and invest little in kind.

Time-Consuming Application Process

According to data from the Human Capital Institute, 60% of job-seekers ghost employers because the process is overly complicated or time-intensive. A poor candidate experience can lead to frustration and lost prospects, so ensure your organization has streamlined the application process to keep job applicants engaged.

Avoiding Disappointment & Conflict Avoidance

Nobody likes disappointing others, or to be the bearer of bad news. Many job applicants avoid the professional courtesy of letting employers know they’ve taken another job, or that their current employer made a counter offer. Sometimes, choosing between two jobs can get competitive and candidates would prefer to avoid a stressful situation.

Ease of Application

Applying to jobs has become easier, but it is also easier to abandon the job application process. Before applications could be submitted online, paper resumes, cover letters, and in-person meetings required a bigger investment. Today’s job sites often feature one-click applications, and a job-seeker might submit dozens of applications in the time it once took to apply the old-fashioned way. 

How Employers Can Prevent Job Candidates from Ghosting:

There is no sure-fire way to keep job candidates from ghosting, but there are ways to reduce its frequency. The biggest causes of job ghosting result from poor communication, lack of engagement, unmanaged expectations, and disorganization. Here are some ways to prevent job candidates from ghosting:

Improve the Candidate Experience

Job application is a two-way street, and employers need to invest in the relationship if they want engaged candidates. Employers should audit the full candidate experience at their organizations, starting with the initial outreach to the first day of employment. Are there long gaps of radio silence? How many days, weeks, or months does the entire application process take? Does the job application process show your organization in its best light?

Job candidates should be treated like the valuable assets that they are, and employers should take steps to improve the candidate experience any way they can.

Make it Clear You Can Handle Bad News

Open communication is crucial at every phase of the hiring process. Often, job candidates have been conditioned to tell employers only what they want to hear, and going against this instinct may prove to be difficult. Make it clear that your organization can handle bad news, and they will be less likely to ghost the process if and when they find another opportunity.

Communication keeps employers and job-seekers from wasting each other’s time. Make it easy for job-seekers to opt out, since bad news beats no news at all when it comes to hiring.

Look for the Warning Signs

Part of not being surprised by job ghosting is looking for the warning signs that the applicant isn’t that interested in the role. Some warning signs a candidate might ghost your organization include:

  • Dwindling enthusiasm
  • Change in communication cadence 
  • Taking a long time to accept an offer
  • Not returning onboarding paperwork

Recognizing and addressing these warning signs opens the door to new dialogue opportunities. If you sense a candidate is losing interest, reach out with an email that says something like, “It doesn’t seem like you’re as excited about this opportunity as when we last talked about it. Has something changed?”

This may present opportunities to rekindle the conversation or address concerns they may have about the role.

Stay in Touch All the Way Across the Finish Line

The hiring process doesn’t stop when the employee accepts your offer. According to Gartner, 40% of Generation Z employees regret accepting a job offer. Additionally, job-seekers are likely to apply and interview for more than one job at a time. This means other offers could arrive after they have accepted yours. 

Keep the time between the job offer and the candidate’s first day as short as reasonably possible. Maintain communication during this time and issue their on-boarding materials before they start. If employers stay proactive, organized, responsive, and consistent all the way to and through orientation, rates of job ghosting can be minimized.

Need Help with Staffing?

There is no one-size-fits-all staffing solution, and navigating the dynamics of hiring can be a monumental task. If you’re looking for staffing solutions to fit your organization, we’re here to help. Contact TERRA Staffing Group today to get started.

Categories: Staffing Tips & Recruiting Trends


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