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.

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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?


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.

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