What to do when a candidate ghosts you
You’ve sifted through your applications, whittled it down to a select few, found a favourite, and then…*crickets*. If a candidate has gone missing right at the pointy end of the recruitment process, you’ve likely been ghosted.

It may help to know you’re not alone. In fact, almost two thirds (65%) of hirers say they’ve had at least one candidate they were interested in not respond to their messages. And one in five candidates admit they’ve ignored a hirer in the past, simply because they didn’t want the job.

Nobody likes the silent treatment, but when you’re trying to fill a role and a great candidate goes silent on you, it can be frustrating.

Thankfully there are ways you may be able to spot a candidate who’s likely to ‘ghost’ early on, and actions you can take to minimise the risk.

Let’s take a look at why some people ghost and what you can do about it.

Why some candidates ‘ghost’ during recruitment

The problem of ghosting candidates is becoming more common, says Claire Cunliffe, talent manager at marketing firm Cemoh.

“I think in the current climate, where there are so many job opportunities and less talent available to fill the roles, there has been a shift in power, for lack of a better word, where candidates do not feel the same pressure to chase down every opportunity,” she says.

Michael Berger, director of recruitment firm Talent Blueprint says that, in his experience, some of the more common reasons for candidates going quiet are:

  • another job offer
  • a change of heart
  • unexpected change of circumstances
  • not feeling like the recruiter is on their side
  • fear of committing to the new role
  • guilty over ‘cheating’ on their current employer.

What to do if you’ve been ghosted

You may not be able to avoid being ghosted on occasion, and Berger says it’s always important to keep things professional.

“In all communication with the ghosted candidate, you need to be polite, professional, avoid any pressure tactics but set a firm deadline for them to come back to you with a no, yes or a return phone call,” he says.

When you do get in contact with the candidate, try to get an understanding on how they are feeling about the role opportunity and if they do have any reservations about the position.

How to minimise the risk of being ghosted

Of course, the best way to deal with ghosting is to try and prevent it in the first place. And while there are no guarantees, there are steps you can take to help candidates to feel comfortable with the process and less likely to disappear without a trace.

  • Be clear from the start

    “Draft the job ads to ensure you’re attracting the right talent,” says Cunliffe. Key to this is being clear and upfront about important requirements or conditions of the role – for example, if remote work is or isn’t an option. This can help you to narrow down to the most relevant candidates from the very beginning.

    SEEK’s Laws Of Attraction tool can help you understand the drivers different candidates have when considering a role. You can find out which factors are ‘must-haves’ that you should highlight to candidates, and which are ‘put-offs’ or dealbreakers that it’s worth being clear about early in order to filter out candidates who don’t suit the job. You can then optimise your job ad using this data.

    Including screening questions in your job ad can also help you filter out candidates who aren’t suited to the role early on in the process. “And include the salary in the job ad,” Cunliffe adds.
  • Communicate their way

    “During the very first phone call, when you recognise they’re a great candidate, ask them what times are usually best to speak and what platforms they prefer to communicate on,” says Berger.
  • Be open and approachable

    “It’s crucial to promote open communication from the first phone call,” says Berger. “Avoid the ‘us versus them’ approach. And as the candidate moves through the recruitment process, make it clear that if they are unsure or if their situation changes at any stage, ‘they should let you know ASAP. Communication is key: ‘if the job isn’t for you, just let me know.’”

What to do after being ghosted

While ghosting can be frustrating and cause delays in finding the right candidate for your role, it can also provide an opportunity for you to review and re-think your recruitment process. Is the hiring process too long? Is it reflective of the current employment market conditions? Are there steps in the process that aren’t working well, or points where you could communicate with more clarity?

Asking questions like this can identify ways you can make hiring an all-around better process for you and your team.

“It’s interesting as it used to be frustrating for candidates not to hear back from a job they applied for, and now the roles have reversed,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to reconsider or review processes and be sensitive to the time and effort candidates invest in an applying for a role”

With ghosting an unfortunately common occurrence in this job market, it’s important to have strategies to handle losing connection with candidates, and to minimise the risk of this happening in the first place. Focusing on clear, upfront and open communication at each point of interaction you have with candidates can help you prevent ghosting – and while you’re at it, create a better hiring process for all involved.

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK interviewing 4000 Kiwis. Published August 2022.

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