The digital age has introduced new, and often painful, ways of ending relationships.
None of them are more hurtful than “ghosting.” For those of you who are fortunate to not have been ghosted before, being ghosted simply means that someone has stopped responding to all communication.
And sadly, this disappearing act isn’t only happening to those dating. Candidates on the job hunt are just as much at risk of being ghosted by recruiters.
Being ghosted when you’re applying for a job doesn’t mean sending in an application and never hearing back—that happens to everyone. It means you applied, assumed the interview went well, and expected to hear good news soon.
And then, nothing.
No next steps, no calls, no emails. Just dead silence in response to your follow-ups.
Candidates can easily spend six months on the job search, and being ghosted when you thought you had a promising lead can be devastating. As rough as the experience feels, just know that it may not be your fault. And if it is, there are always actions you can take to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The most common reason job candidates get ghosted is also the one they have the least control over: a company simply changes focus.
- A change in priorities. A position they thought they needed to fill right now suddenly isn’t as important.
- An influx of internal referrals. Recruiters are often told to prioritize referrals, so even if you had a great conversation on the phone or in person, the recruiter may be prioritizing an internal referral instead.
- Timing. The recruiter you spoke to initially may be on vacation, have quit, or been let go.
- A poor recruiter. The recruiter you’ve been working with might just be dropping the ball or feeling overwhelmed, and that’s why you’re not hearing back.
Now, it’s also possible the candidate has done something that resulted in ghosting.
- Bombing the follow-up. Sometimes, candidates can have a promising interview but completely bomb the follow-up without realizing it. That usually means they’re no longer a priority for the recruiter.
- Not showing initiative. I’ve seen candidates who were too passive in showing their interest in a role. One woman I worked with was told by a recruiter they would send her an assessment test as a next step. But she never responded to that email with a note saying, “Okay, thanks for sharing next steps. I’m looking forward to taking the assessment test.” She just assumed they would send it. But that’s not always the case—recruiters want candidates to show a consistent desire for the role
While being ghosted is never a good feeling, you’re not at a loss. If you still feel like a job is the right opportunity for you, ask yourself, “How can I become a priority again?”
Making your candidacy top of mind means following a few simple steps:
1. Focus on thoughtful follow-up
Hands down, the best thing you can do is to follow up.
Send one email per week for at least three weeks. Be thoughtful in your correspondence, and continue to express your interest in the company and the role. Be specific. Study trends in the industry, and reference your research when you correspond with your contact. Offer thoughtful discourse that continues to show them that you can walk in and begin contributing immediately. Most people don’t ignore that type of follow-up.
And even if they tell you it’s not the right fit, at least you received a final answer and can move on.
2. Connect through different channels
It’s completely acceptable to reach out through different channels if you’re not getting any emails back.
Try sending a polite LinkedIn message along the lines of, “Hey, I really enjoyed our conversation last week and would like to chat about next steps.” Just don’t bombard the same person through every channel you find. One follow-up on a different channel is enough.
3. Reach out to build other relationships
If you notice the job posting has been taken down, that’s a pretty clear sign the role has been filled. If it’s still up, then it may be worth reaching out to another recruiter at the company or even the hiring manager.
This is really about showing your interest and building another relationship with someone internally. But don’t be surprised if the recruiter you spoke to is very much still active. In that case, at least you know that the interview didn’t go as well as you thought, and you need to pursue other options.
If you’re consistently being ghosted by companies, you need to find out why. Sometimes, candidates get ghosted because the recruiter isn’t doing a great job or priorities change.
But if you’re being ghosted over and over, then it’s time to reflect on your own actions and figure out what you may be doing wrong. For instance, candidates often don’t know what skills and metrics the company is actually looking for, and without doing effective research to find out, candidates end up not speaking the same “language” as the recruiter.
Unfortunately, recruiters aren’t incentivized to give candidates feedback about where they messed up. It’s not part of their job. If you’re being ghosted consistently, then you may need personalized feedback from a trusted source. Having someone on the inside to look at your follow-ups or hold a mock interview with you can go a long way.
Being ghosted is an emotional experience, whether it’s done by a love interest or a potential employer. But you don’t have to let it define you. Figure out why it’s happening, make whatever changes you can, ask for help, and put yourself back out there.
With a little introspection and perseverance, you’ll find the right long-term match.