It happened again.
I’d applied for a marketing job with a global property management group headquartered in my city. I didn’t expect a response — after all, I’ve been unable to land a full-time job in my field since being laid off nine months ago. Why would anything be different this time?
This time, though, I received a call from the contract HR recruiter just hours after submitting my resume.
“The hiring manager reviewed your resume, and she thinks your experience would be a great fit for this role,” the recruiter enthused. “They need to hire someone quickly — maybe as soon as next week! When can you come in for an interview?”
We agreed upon a time and date. I rearranged my schedule to accommodate the hiring manager’s calendar. I went through my usual pre-interview preparation: Online industry research. Identifying mutual LinkedIn contacts. Rehearsing my responses to anticipated interview questions.
Then, on the morning of the interview, I rose early to prep some more. I made sure that my appearance was professional as could be. I drove to the corporate headquarters and paid the requisite $30 parking garage fee. I arrived twenty minutes early and sweated profusely in the lobby waiting area.
Almost two hours later, I walked back to my car in triumph. I’d met with the hiring manager, the hiring manager’s boss, and someone in IT who wanted to show me the marketing platform I would use daily. I engaged with two additional marketing higher-ups with whom I would frequently interact. I’d nailed every question and felt like I had established a good rapport with every interviewer.
I waited a few hours after arriving home, then sent thank-you emails to each of the individuals with whom I’d met. I circled back with the original recruiter to provide an update.
And then I waited.
And after two weeks of radio silence, I know what’s going on.
I’ve been ghosted again.
Merriam-Webster defines ghosting as “the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone…by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc.” The phrase, coined in the mid-2000’s, was originally attributed to romantic relationships (“I didn’t feel like having a difficult conversation with the guy I’d been seeing, so I decided to ghost him.”) The concept revolves around the idea that by disappearing, both parties are spared an awkward conversation about a one-sided (or mutual) lack of interest.
But in recent years, ghosting has become a phenomenon not just among would-be lovers, but also employers and their potential employees. Last year, the Federal Reserve Bank introduced the term into their December Beige Book, noting an uptick in the number of employees who stopped coming to work without notice. And even though 2019’s labour market has been one of the tightest in years, HR ghosting continues — and it’s not going away anytime soon.
“Ghosting might not be malicious in any way, but I don’t think most companies are all that concerned about improving the hiring experience for candidates,” says Cynthia Pong, a career coach in New York City. “In my opinion, many organizations are mainly — or only — concerned with filling the position and moving on to fill the next vacant role (along with any number of other concerns like their bottom line, serving clients and customers, meeting quarterly or annual goals, answering to board members and shareholders, etc.).”
Tony Doster, a career transition coach with The Entrepreneur’s Source, believes that ghosting is more prevalent when recruiters are involved. “One can surmise the reasons from the way the industry is structured,” he says. “From the compensation structure to the competition to find candidates, to being ‘a step removed’ in that the hiring company may not be responsive — these could all be factors. And when you add recruiter turnover to the mix, it is fertile territory for this conduct.”
And Forbes just published even more insight into the phenomenon, citing fear of litigation as a primary reason why companies don’t provide feedback. The appearance of negative feedback could be interpreted as discriminatory, for example. Vexed candidates might take to social media to voice their displeasure with whatever “criticism” they’ve received, tarnishing the carefully crafted corporate brand.
“After you’ve been ghosted multiple times, you start to lose the motivation to keep searching,” says Lana McCormick of Indianapolis. “It makes me angry. I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into these companies and recruiters, jumped through so many hoops, and they dismiss it like it’s nothing.”
So what steps should job seekers take if they feel they’ve been ghosted during the hiring process? Ms. Pong offers these suggestions:
- Don’t take it personally. Unless you have reason to believe that you’re doing something wrong, remember that there are plenty of reasons for being ghosted that have nothing to do with you.
- Focus on the next application or job prospect. I like to call this “hope on the horizon.” (Or to bring it up to present-day pop culture: “Thank you, next.”) When we have something else to focus on — another potential role to be excited about, another organization to research, another networking conversation or interview to prepare for — it helps with moving on from past dead-ends.
- Also, keep networking. The vast majority of people are hired because of who they know. Ensuring that your network is “simmering” helps with a) getting hired, b) keeping your spirits up, and c) practising your interviewing skills.
- Take care of your physical and mental health. It’s easy to feel demoralized and burnt out from job hunting for extended periods — especially if you’re getting ghosted a lot. Be sure to get the support you need and do what you need to do to take care of your health. That has to remain priority number one.
For generations, job seekers have been trained to regularly follow up with potential employers, to make an effort to stay in contact throughout the hiring process. It would be ideal if recruiters and HR leaders would return the favour. We get it — it might not be the most comfortable phone call to make. But leaving us with a positive image of the company could go a long way for everyone.