3 April 2023

Why Ghosting Job Applicants Is Bad for Business

applicant tracking system,

Ghosting, the act of cutting off all communication with someone without any explanation, has become a widespread phenomenon in today's digital age. Unfortunately, this trend has entered the job market, with employers increasingly leaving candidates in the dark about their application status. A recent study found that 75% of job seekers get ghosted by a potential employer in the hiring process. 

Ghosting job applicants can significantly affect businesses by damaging their reputation, reducing their candidate pool, and even impacting employee morale. This article dives deeper into why ghosting job applicants is bad for business and how it affects job candidates and employers. You'll also discover actionable solutions to eliminate ghosting in your hiring process and avoid its potentially devastating effects on businesses.  

Is Ghosting Job Applicants the Greatest Sin in the Hiring Process? 

Rather than sending an official rejection email to applicants who didn't get the job, some employers simply cut off contact in the recruitment process. Understandably, a digital hiring process overwhelms companies with plenty of candidates, so replying to every applicant can be tricky. 

But does that really justify ghosting? Definitely not, considering its multiple, hidden consequences that hurt businesses in the long term (more on this below). From what we can tell, several things are to blame for the ghosting culture: 

  • Recruiters are simply overwhelmed with huge volumes of applications—keeping all rejected candidates in the loop becomes difficult.
  • Some employers withhold written feedback for applicants who didn't make the cut to avoid legal issues or negative publicity.
  • A lack of solutions to reach out to every candidate quickly and easily makes recruiting teams communicate only with applicants best suited for the role.

These are the primary root causes of employer ghosting. We'll dig deeper into the best solutions to prevent the devastating effects of ghosting in your business. But first, understand its potential long-term harm. 

Hidden Long-Term Damages of Ghosting Job Seekers

On the surface, ghosting job applicants seems to save time and effort by only responding to candidates who make the cut. Peel a layer deeper, and you start seeing its hidden repercussions, which we've discussed in detail below. 

Getting a Taste of Your Own Medicine

With every future employee search, there's a chance of targeting the same talent pool. Candidates previously ghosted by an employer will remember the mistreatment. And they will likely 'return the favour'—think of the past coming back to bite you. 

Today, job applicants are ghosting back—and potentially at higher rates than ever before. Recent statistics on Forbes say  94% of employers have been ghosted. Additionally, a 2021 Indeed survey revealed job candidates who ghost employers have skyrocketed to 28%, up from 18% in 2019. Getting ghosted as an employer increases the time and effort of filling job openings. 

Missing Out on Top Talent

Think. You reduce your talent pool by suddenly stopping to communicate with rejected applicants. You burn bridges that can be difficult to repair. 

If your company ghosted prospective employees in the past, chances are they won't apply when you advertise a job offer next time. They are more likely to assume history repeating itself, which increases the risk of missing out on top talent.

Staining Your Employer Brand

No matter why employers leave applicants in the dark, the act secretly hurts your company's candidate experience and taints the employer brand in the job market. Everything a company does is part of employer branding. 

Ghosting leaves a wrong impression that can quickly destroy a professional relationship that is yet to be established. The more applicants a company ghosts, the more the risk of reputational damage, especially in an increasingly connected online world where word-of-mouth can spread quickly like wildfire.

Ghosting is a bad practice for companies and job hunters—no one fancies being on the receiving end. However, the act is more detrimental to the business. After all, building a solid employer brand takes time and effort, but ghosting candidates can destroy it quickly. 

Decreasing Talent Referrals

Employee referral is one of the best ways to find top talent. Talent referrals enable a more targeted applicant selection than casting a wide net and hoping to get qualified candidates. As a result, it's easier and quicker to hire the right people for the job. 

However, these referrals can quickly dry up if your recruitment team ghosts referred applicants. Chances are that employees will stop acting as referrers if the people they recommend are likely to be ignored in the hiring process. As a result, finding suitable candidates becomes time-consuming and much more difficult, considering referrals make hiring more targeted. 

Anti-Ghosting Solutions to Streamline Your Recruitment Process and Save Time

For most employers, ghosting stems from an overwhelming number of applications. In most cases, recruiters want to respond to every candidate but don't have time to get back to hundreds or even thousands of applicants. How can recruiters deal with candidate overload as an anti-ghosting strategy? 

1. Leverage Automation

In an ideal situation, employers should send a personal message to every applicant who didn't make the cut. But an automated response is the best alternative when your recruiting team has hundreds of applicants awaiting a reply. With increased digitisation, it's easy to find recruitment software that automates email or SMS for messaging both rejected applicants. 

You can send the same message to all rejected candidates explaining the criteria and reasoning for rejecting their applications. This method gives each recipient an idea of why they didn't get the job. It also prevents recruiters from having to read hundreds of CVs to respond to rejected candidates. 

2. Avoid Broad, Generic Job Descriptions

Most recruiting teams witness firsthand how huge application volume fuels employer ghosting. Generic job descriptions worsen the situation. They provide insufficient information about job requirements, which attracts unqualified or unwanted candidates. 

On the other hand, a narrow specific job description clearly explains the role, including necessary skills, duties, and expectations. It weeds out unsuitable candidates and invites only qualified applicants. This could be the difference between getting hundreds of candidates and receiving fewer applications only from high-quality prospects, making it easier to keep all applicants in the loop. 

3. Consider Third-Party Support

While most small and midsize businesses (SMBs) operate on tight budgets, third-party support as an anti-ghosting solution might be a great move in the long term. Forward-thinking employers know they can't afford to burn bridges with multiple candidates. 

Doing so would hurt the company's talent pipeline in the long term, especially during economic recovery when candidates for critical positions are required quickly. The short-term cost of treating job applicants well will pay off for an employer's long-term talent needs. Third-party recruitment support can streamline hiring and improve job seekers' experience. 

4. Declare Who Will Get a Response

And no, we are not talking about the standard clause "Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted." Some may argue that this clause doesn't consider the time candidates spend completing the job application, researching the company, and matching their CVs to the advertised role. 

A better clause in your job advert would be "We respond to all candidates who follow provided application instructions." This clearly tells applicants that only those who pay attention to application instructions are entitled to feedback. That's fair to any reasonable candidate. 

Such a declaration in a job advert can significantly reduce the applications recruiters need to read and lower the number of replies they should send. After all, no sane person can accuse an employer of ghosting, yet they are guilty of not following application protocols.  

Reliable Talent Pipeline Is About Building Relationships with Candidates

Forward-thinking employers know that consistently making great hires is based on strengthening relationships with job applicants. And ghosting, obviously, is not the best way to nurture relationships with prospects who don't make the cut. 

Businesses that compromise on great candidate experience should rethink their recruitment strategy because a lot is at stake. If an applicant is unsuccessful in the hiring process, employers should ensure a positive candidate experience. Not only to avoid being bad-mouthed but also to prevent cutting ties entirely with top employees of the future. 

Slapping them in the face with a cold rejection letter is better than leaving them to wonder what happened or falsely hoping that one day you'll respond. A simple response will put them out of their misery so they can jump onto opportunities from other potential employers. 

Additionally, candidates ghosting employers is also a thing. That means if a potential employer ghosts job seekers today they might do the same in the future. What comes around, goes around.

Reach Out to Job Candidates, Even If They Don't Get the Job

We understand. Saying no is not easy for everyone, and some employers may have genuine concerns about withholding feedback in the recruitment process. For instance, they sense risks related to written replies, such as litigation or an applicant publicising the company's feedback. 

But it's essential to inform rejected applicants so they know where they stand in the recruitment process. The frustration and anxiety of being unsure exactly why something happened is not news to anyone. So whether it's an automated email or SMS, the feedback gives them closure and prevents the serious effects of ghosting we've discussed above.  

Employee Management