Etiquette 101: Don't ghost job candidates

  • After an employer has interviewed a job candidate in person, the employer should notify the applicant whether it has made the decision to hire them - or not.

    After an employer has interviewed a job candidate in person, the employer should notify the applicant whether it has made the decision to hire them - or not.

Posted5/26/2019 1:00 AM

Q: I applied for two jobs this year: professor at a well-known university and executive director of a foundation. For both jobs, I went through multiple rounds of interviews, my references were contacted and then ... nothing. My follow-up emails went unanswered. The university sent me a form email about three months later. Is it common these days even for finalists for high-level positions to be ghosted by employers?

A: From what I see in my inbox, this lapse by employers is common in two senses of the word: frequent and rude.


The executive managing editor of Business Insider stirred up a kerfuffle this year with a column arguing against hiring interviewees who fail to send thank you notes. Interestingly, in a follow-up column, the author admitted her own employer is less than consistent about sending thank yous or even notifying candidates when a decision has been made.

At a minimum, employers that get swamped with applications should be able to manage an automated "We have received your application." Bonus points for giving a time-frame on when successful applicants can expect to hear back. Regardless, if an employer has the resources to track down select candidates and schedule in-person meetings with them, it certainly has the resources to track down those same candidates and notify them when it has made its decision.

Case in point:

Q: I am a recruiter for nonprofits. What is the best and most polite way to deliver bad news to candidates? If I send an email, candidates can take their time to read and process the bad news. Or should I call the candidate so I can deliver the bad news in person and offer feedback if requested?

A: Besides allowing candidates to process bad news in private, email would spare you potential in-the-moment backlash. And you can always invite them to call you if they want feedback. But why not ask candidates what their preferred contact method is?

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

Q: I am applying to large companies with online application processes. One company I have been applying to regularly only sends me automated "thanks, but no thanks" emails -- even when my skill set checked every box in the job description and I included a solid cover letter. The company does not publish any direct phone numbers, so I could not follow up. Could I have been filtered out by software? Additionally, is it common practice for companies to post a public job description as a formality, even if they already have an internal candidate lined up?

A: It's possible the employer is advertising unavailable positions publicly as a formality or even as a way to check the temperature of the current talent pool. You can't do much to overcome that, but you can take steps to boost your profile as a candidate.

First, double-check what you're submitting to ensure you're using keywords that match the job description.

Meanwhile, work on building a presence for yourself on LinkedIn and at industry networking events; personal connections beat blind applications every time.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.