Job seekers tell Moneyish why they cut off contact with potential employers. But experts warn ‘ghosting’ could haunt their careers.
People are swiping this bad dating behavior for their job searches.
More candidates are now “ghosting” potential employers — or cutting off all communication without explanation, which has been the scourge of the hookup scene.
Chaz, who declined to give his last name, confessed to Moneyish that he has ghosted a couple of potential employers, beginning with a doughnut shop in Tennessee when he was 17.
He was put off by his in-person interview. “The recruiter seemed so stressed out by their job that I felt that same level of stress. He kept talking about how you have to manage stress, and to just keep telling yourself, ‘It’s only a job, and all I have to do is take care of customers and keep smiling,’ and he kept repeating it over and over again, like he was trying to convince himself,” said Chaz, now 24. “I was like, wow — I don’t know if I can deal with that.”
And he couldn’t bring himself to tell the interviewer that he was no longer interested because, “He just seemed so desperate, and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I let communication die off.”
Now Chaz has got two internship opportunities on the table, including one out-of-state that will take a few weeks to make a decision, and another closer to home that has already made him a offer, which he accepted. “And for some reason, I still haven’t reached out to the other one to let them know what’s going on,” he admitted. “Procrastination has gotten the better of me.”
But Hannah, a nursing student who withheld her age and last name, said that she ghosted a Pittsburgh hospital a few months ago after it began spamming her. Someone from HR left her a voicemail asking if she wanted to schedule an interview, and she called back and left a message saying that she would love to, along with her email address and phone number.
“Then I received a call returning my message, asking if I was still interested. I called back, left the same message. Got another message asking if I was still interested … once they had left me three messages asking if I was still interested, I never called back,” Hannah told Moneyish, noting this disorganization was “a red flag of a disorganized company.
“As a soon-to-be new nurse who needs a lot of support from their employer, I figured there was no way that company could be a good fit,” she added.
They aren’t the only ones pulling a disappearing act. Almost half (41%) of job seekers believe it’s “reasonable” to ghost a company, according to a recent survey by Clutch, a business-to-business ratings and reviews company. And almost one in 10 (9%) said that it’s “acceptable” to ghost even after accepting a job offer– even though more than one-third of candidates complained that it’s “very unreasonable” for a company to ghost an applicant.
It’s a hire’s market, for one thing: The U.S. added 201,000 jobs in August, according to the most recent Labor Department jobs report, and the unemployment rate held steady at just 3.9%. So more than half of job seekers (55%) also said that they abandon one to five job applications during their job search. And their most common reasons for ghosting include accepting another job offer (30%) and deciding that the open position just isn’t the right fit for them (19%).
“With the job market being at an all-time high right now, and with lots of companies that are hiring for a lot of opportunities, I think candidates really have the power in their hands,” Janet Lamwatthananon, the early career advisor at online employment marketplace ZipRecruiter, told Moneyish. “It’s a candidates’ market right now, which I think is one of the biggest reasons for this.”
Inexperience also plays a part. “We typically find this happening more among candidates that are more entry-level; for example, those seeking positions in sales,” said Lamwatthananon. These newbies aren’t familiar with business etiquette or the job application process yet. “Those that are mid-level or senior-level are pretty good about getting back to us, like if they take other opportunities,” she said.
But candidates are also so used to employers ghosting them during the application process, that many said they have adopted the same behavior. After all, more than one in three job seekers (36%) told Clutch that the last company that rejected them did so by not responding at all. And 23% of ghosters in the survey said they cut off communication with a company because the company ghosted them first.
So now businesses are feeling the frustration that many job candidates have. A recent LinkedIn article interviewed more than a dozen recruiters in industries ranging from food service to finance, who all reported that the number of candidates ignoring emails and phone messages from hiring managers — and even blowing off job interviews — is on the rise.
The Babysitting Company founder Rachel Charlupski told Moneyish that she had 50 RSVPs to a recent NYC orientation for potential childcare candidates — and only five showed up. “It’s crazy, and so shocking. We waste a lot of time and money waiting them,” she said. “And also, a lot of these young no-shows are friends of people who currently work with us, so this puts them in a tough situation, and makes them look bad.”
And recruiters warn that ghosting a potential employer or job placement agency — even if that company has its own history of ghosting — could come back to haunt you.
“It’s amazing how some of the no-shows will call back months or years later saying they want an interview with us, and when we ask, ‘Have you ever been applied before?’ they say, ‘Oh this is my first time,’” said Charlupski. “No, it’s not. We keep records. And we reject these people. This job is based on trust and commitment, and if you showed us already that you can’t keep that part of the deal, we can’t hire you in fear that you would do that again.”
Lamwatthananon also said that she and her fellow recruiters make notes about how responsive candidates are in their profiles. “It can hurt your reputation, because our (recruiting) industry is pretty small,” she said. “And then if the next recruiter pulls up a person’s profile, they would see, ‘She applied to a job a year-and-a-half ago, and then she just ghosted.’ You get the sense that this person is kind of flakey.”
You can let a company or a recruiter down easy without making it awkward. “Ideally it would be over the phone, because it’s so much easier instead of going back and forth (on email),” said Lamwatthananon. “Just give a brief explanation why, and a professional recruiter will listen and just wish them luck.” For example, “Thank you for your time, but I’m going to pass on this opportunity,” “I’ve decided to go in a different direction,” or, “I’ve accepted another offer with a higher salary or better healthcare benefits,” which most people can appreciate.
If calling someone to reject them is too terrifying, then sending an email with one of the above explanations is fine. “We are just as grateful for a note,” assured Lamwatthananon. “Don’t feel forced to share your life story or go into elaborate detail: just a quick message with a simple reason.”
Plus, giving feedback for why you’ve passed on something could help companies and recruiters improve their hiring process for the next person. “There’s a lot to learn from the situation, and maybe we can’t add those qualities that you’re looking for to our job offer now, but that could change,” said Lamwatthananon. “And it keeps the door open if anything else comes up.”
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