Breaking the silence: Understanding and tackling candidate ghosting

You went through a long and demanding, albeit exciting, recruitment process. You are in the final stages of recruitment. However, a promising candidate unexpectedly disappears without a trace—no answer to calls or emails. They seem to have vanished into thin air.

You have just been “ghosted”. Candidate ghosting is unfortunate, but a reality.

“Ghosting”, an act commonplace in the dating world (they also coined the term), where people abruptly cut-off contact, is now sadly trending in the professional world.
It is time to explore the reasons behind this undesirable act and come up with solutions.

Why do candidates ghost?

No doubt, frustration and anger engulfs you. For good reasons too — your time and energy are wasted with such no-shows. However, if you examine the case, the reasons unfold. Among them are:

  1. Poor hiring process: Hiring processes that are disorganised and confusing reflect negatively on company culture. They also damage candidates’ trust and faith in the organisation, causing them to hesitate and, in the end, to ghost. In a survey, 33% of professionals stated ‘poor hiring process’ as their main reason to ghost!
  2. Lack of communication: Candidates feel abandoned and undervalued when they receive no communication during the recruitment process or no information regarding their application status. This prompts them to disengage altogether.
  3. Uninformed policies and remuneration: Human resources (HR) policies, compensation & benefits, and leave policies all factor into candidates’ decision-making. Lack of information or clarity regarding these makes candidates ghost.
  4. Unclear expectations: If the job description and expectations are not clearly communicated, candidates may lose interest or feel uncertain about pursuing the position.
  5. Implementation of mandatory return-to-office policy: Workplace flexibility may be a comfort for many people, but a necessity for others. Either way, if candidates are strongly opposed to a mandatory return-to-work arrangement, they may ghost.
  6. Candidate’s market: In a highly competitive job market, skilled candidates often receive multiple offers simultaneously. They may prioritise some opportunities and cut off communication with other employers.
  7. Change in personal circumstances: Candidates may be unable to complete the recruitment process due to personal concerns or unanticipated circumstances. They may find it difficult to communicate their situation and disappear.
  8. Change in professional circumstances: Candidates may have just gotten lucky with their current job — a promotion, new opportunity, or better pay may be awaiting them. So, they change their mind about looking for opportunities outside. Rather than communicating this, they vanish from the recruitment scene.

Ultimately, individuals often prefer to avoid the discomfort of communicating whatever their reasons for not proceeding with the recruitment process are. Instead, they opt for silence.

Addressing candidate ghosting

Now that the causes have been recognised, it is time to work on solutions. Here are a few pointers for your consideration:

  1. Streamline the recruitment process: Simplify and expedite the recruitment process, minimising delays or repetitive steps that discourage candidates.
  2. Prioritise candidate experience: Treat applicants with respect, respond promptly to inquiries and provide constructive feedback, regardless of the final hiring decision.
  3. Improve communication: Establish clear and timely communication channels throughout the recruitment process. Provide regular updates to keep candidates engaged and informed about their application status.
  4. Don’t ghost candidates: Have you ghosted candidates? Think hard and be honest. Many candidates ghost because they want payback for previous unfair treatment. Call it karmic restitution.
  5. Maintain professionalism: Maintain professionalism and uphold the company’s reputation. Avoid negative remarks or assumptions about the candidate.

Say ‘no’ to a haunting
Candidate ghosting is a recruiter’s worst nightmare since it leaves them in limbo. It is also on the rise. According to a survey, 39% of employers said it has gotten worse in the last two years.
Candidate ghosting can occur at any point in the recruitment process, including during interviews and even after accepting a job offer (candidates may just fail to report to work). Despite the helplessness of the situation, companies can mitigate the impact of ghosting.

By identifying the causes and implementing proactive actions such as improved communication, improved candidate experience and clear expectation-setting, you can stay in control of the situation and emerge successful.