How to deal with interview ghosting

This month’s theme is a seriously hot topic at the moment, and something we’ve probably all experienced in some aspect of our lives. We’re talking about ghosting.

If you’ve been ghosted – either as an employer or as a candidate – here’s what to do about it.

Picture the scenario. Your business has grown, and you need more hands on deck. You advertise your vacancy, and you’re inundated with applicants.

You spend hours or even days sifting through CVs, eventually selecting five of the most suitable candidates, and invite them all to interview. Four confirm and one doesn’t reply. The day arrives, and of your four confirmed candidates, only one shows up.

Now let’s flip that scenario into reverse. You’re a candidate who’s been job hunting for months. You’ve honed your CV, registered for job alerts and diligently scoured jobs boards for the right role. One day, you find it – something that you’re qualified and excited to do.

So you apply. You’re thrilled to be invited to interview. You negotiate time off from your existing job, research the company and rehearse your responses. You attend; it goes well. Then you never hear a word from them again, and follow-up emails go unanswered.


The recruitment ghosting phenomenon

Ghosting in the job market is a mounting problem, both for employers and for candidates.

A study earlier this year in HR Magazine found that nearly 65% of UK adults have been ghosted during the recruitment process, negatively impacting candidate experience and employer brand. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 95% of recruiters say they’ve been ghosted by candidates.

There’s a certain train of thought that suggests candidates are only doing to employers what they’ve done for decades.

But it’s hard to believe that in the age of peak communication, we can’t find the time to send a simple email to say: ‘Thanks for your interest but the role’s now been filled’, or ‘Sorry I can’t attend the interview, I’ve decided this role isn’t right for me.’

To understand the ghosting phenomenon – and address it – we need to look at the challenges of recruitment from both perspectives.

Let’s start with a candidates’ perspective. Many employers don’t appreciate that we’re in a candidate-driven market right now. During the pandemic, work life balance became a huge theme, and savvy employers quickly realised that they’d have to go above and beyond to attract new talent.


Why are candidates ignoring you?

Quite simply, candidates are no longer willing to settle for the status quo. They don’t want to be in an environment with unrealistic workloads, average or below market-rate pay, long hours, a basic holiday allowance, no opportunities for progression and no work-life balance.

Employers who persistently struggle to attract or engage candidates should first look at their offer. Is the salary really competitive? Is the holiday allowance generous, or merely the bare legal minimum of 20 days? Are there clear routes for development and progression? And – most importantly – are you offering flexible or hybrid working on jobs which can partly be done at home?

Secondly, think about your corporate reputation. Candidates research you online, just as you search them online. What do the Google reviews of your company say? If you’re on Glassdoor, what are previous employees saying? In a Google search, do any negative news stories come up about your business? It’s essential to address all these channels, if not take a closer look at your working culture if a poor reputation persists.


Taking a transparent approach

Thirdly, do you have a communications strategy in place to support your current recruitment drive? If not, you should. How (and who, and when) will you keep interested candidates in the loop? What kind of stock answer can you send to unsuitable applicants, so they know where they stand? Or, if you have time, can you provide feedback?

It’s also worth checking that you’re coming across as friendly and approachable in emails or calls. Overly formal or strict-sounding correspondence is a red flag to candidates. Make sure you clearly outline what’s expected of them at interview, as well as any helpful information like links to the role and directions to the interview.

Finally, it’s important to have realistic expectations of your candidates. It’s likely they’ve been applying to jobs for quite some time. In many cases, they’re also trying to balance their current role, which they could be leaving because it’s toxic, stressful or economically precarious. If they’ve taken the time to apply, the least employers can do is respond, however briefly.

And if you don’t hear back from them – or they don’t show – send them a non-confrontational email. Ask for honest feedback about why they didn’t progress their application; their answers (if they do answer) could help you pinpoint any problems. Transparency throughout the entire process is key.


The struggle for employers

Now, let’s look at ghosting from an employers’ perspective. Not every job you apply for is for a ‘faceless corporation’. Many of the roles out there today are for small or medium-sized businesses which people have spent many decades building.

They have customers to answer to. They have staff to support. They have projects to complete. They have a gap in their team that they’ve sometimes spent thousands of pounds advertising and promoting, and they need support – quickly.

Not every business has a dedicated HR department; often, recruitment is done by a senior manager or even the MD themselves, occasionally with the support of a dedicated recruiter. When you accept an interview, they’ll need to plan for it.

Mostly, this means they’ll clear space in their diaries and secure the availability of anyone who needs to be present. They’ll look through your CV and prepare questions. They might check out your LinkedIn profile to find out what you’re most interested in.

They’ll organise a parking space for you. They’ll brief their receptionist or front-facing staff to expect you.

All of these things take time and effort, and it’s just as frustrating – not to mention tremendously bad form – for a candidate who’s confirmed to then not attend their interview.

It’s even worse when a candidate accepts a job offer, and an employer has gone to the trouble of setting up a workspace, an email address and onboarding materials, if the candidate then fails to show up for the first or second day.

The stress and logistical nightmare this can cause employers is tangible, and not showing up will always look far worse than taking the time to say “Sorry, I made a mistake. This isn’t for me,” or “I’ve been offered another role which I feel is a better fit.”

In both cases, lack of transparency is usually at the root of ghosting. Candidates who’ve changed their mind (or had a counter-offer, an unexpected family problem, poor mental health or any other number of variables) may feel too embarrassed to approach prospective employers, so simply choose to ignore them.

Equally, employers who’ve been spammed with hundreds of ‘one size fits all’ cover letters from candidates who are in no way suitable or qualified may get tired of having to send individual rejection emails, and simply decide not to bother. By appreciating the challenges on both ends of the spectrum, and keeping the lines of communication open, the recruitment process for candidates and employers will be smoother, clearer and more effective.


A&D Recruitment are specialists in recruitment for the renewable energy and building services industries. For more tips, visit our blog section or contact us today for a friendly, informal chat about how A&D Recruitment could help you fill – or find – your next role.

Trackback from your site.