Hiring managers ghosting job candidates is way too common. According to a recent survey, more than a third of job candidates said the last company that rejected them did so by not telling them anything. And I suspect the numbers are even higher in some industries, because we hear so much about it. And job candidates are fed up with it.
I know I am. As a freelancer, I am always on the job hunt. And I get ghosted fairly often – and it sucks.
What is ghosting?
To be clear, “ghosting” is the practice of ending a relationship by suddenly withdrawing from all communication without explanation. This means that a relationship actually existed. If someone doesn’t respond to a cold email or a resume submission, that’s not ghosting. It’s ignoring unwanted communication.
To be legitimately “ghosted” you have to have established communication through messages, phone, or email, and usually to have attended at least one interview. Some say it has to be more than one interview but I think one is enough. You also have to have send a few polite follow up emails inquiring about the status of your application or proposal, and not to have heard anything back. After about a month with no response you can consider yourself ghosted.
Maybe it’s time to speak up because this is out of hand
Almost everyone is going to tell you to let it go, move on, forget it, and apply for the next job. I used to say the same thing myself. But I’m starting to think this is bad advice. I think you should send an email informing the hiring manager that ghosting is rude.
The hiring process is problematic in Canada, because so many employers leave job candidates hanging, even after lengthy interview processes. A friend of mine who recently went through an ultimately successful job search said, “I’ve been working for over twenty years and there has been a real shift in the hiring process. I can’t believe how often I was ghosted, even after multiple rounds of interviews. This isn’t acceptable practice but it seems to be the new norm. Job-hunting has always required a real tenacity but it seems like it’s just become meaner.”
How has this become the new norm? Are people just self absorbed jerks?
Legit reasons for ghosting
Maybe. But I think there are actually legitimate reasons why employers do this. I heard a recent story in which a recruiter sent an email to a job candidate telling him that the hiring manager had decided to go with someone else. Instead of saying “thanks for letting me know,” the candidate fired back a nasty email about the hiring manager, the company and the recruiter. I think this probably happens often enough that recruiters and hiring managers just don’t want to bother.
That said, I also think that we’re all justified in sending an email stating that it’s unacceptable to leave candidates hanging. In my fantasies, so many people do this that we reach critical mass and things change.
How to tell an employer their behaviour is rude and unacceptable
But what to say in your message?
Recruiter Jane Ashen Turkewitz recently suggested the same idea in a social media post, in which she also wrote a sample text where she accuses the manager of showing “a lack of leadership and empathy” she suggests you write:
“I hope one day, if you are in my shoes, interviewing for a new, exciting job, that you are not treated in such an unkind manner. Wishing you and yours continued success as I find success elsewhere.”
This is a bit angry and passive aggressive for my style. As I’m hoping to establish understanding rather than Ito alienate the manager, I would write something like:
“Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the role of _____________. As I have not heard from you, I am going to assume that you have decided not to hire me.
“I understand that people are busy and that these conversations are difficult. However, I would have appreciated you letting me know as I was hopeful and optimistic about the position and was eagerly waiting for some communication.
“The job search can be difficult, and it is made even more difficult by employers who ghost candidates. Please consider this in the future and take just a moment to let the next candidate you don’t hire know if they don’t get the job.
“Thank you and have a great day.”
It’s possible that the hiring manager will still take offence and/or fire back with an email claiming they were about to hire you but now aren’t going to (so nyeah nyeah). After all, this is why we’re all afraid of going to far with the follow up, right? But that probably won’t happen and if it does, you didn’t want to work for them anyway.
I think managers are not necessarily so much thoughtless and cruel as they are busy and distracted, and that letting them know that their behaviour has caused you grief might make a difference.
Or, you can always let it go.
It’s up to you. But I think it’s worth trying to change the culture, which would be good for everyone.