Candidates “Ghosting” Job Interviews? Just More Proof of a Bad Candidate Experience.

John Hollon candidate experience, Communication, Employment Branding and Culture, Hiring Managers, Interviewing, Job Market, Recruiting, Recruitment Marketing 3 Comments

Here’s a hiring trend we could live without – job candidates who are “ghosting” (aka, blowing off ) scheduled job interviews, or, failing to show up to work for new positions they had accepted.

Last week, USA Today published a story that indicated that this new phenomenon was due to the strength of the job market and our near-record low unemployment. “In the hottest job market in decades,” the newspaper observed, “workers are holding all the cards. And they’re starting to play dirty.”

Well, count me as someone who doesn’t believe the job market is as great as everybody thinks it is, or that very many job seekers feel they “hold all the cards.” That’s nothing but pure, unadulterated hooey in my book.

But, the story does raise all sorts of interesting issues.

Are 20-50% of applicants really a no-show?

Here’s how USA Today described it:

“A growing number are ‘ghosting’ their jobs: blowing off scheduled job interviews, accepting offers but not showing up the first day and even vanishing from existing positions – all without giving notice.

While skipping out on appointments and work has always happened on occasion, the behavior is ‘starting to feel like a commonplace’ occurrence, says Chip Cutter, editor-at-large at LinkedIn, the job and social networking site, who has studied hiring practices.

While no one formally tracks such antics, many businesses report that 20 to 50 percent of job applicants and workers are pulling no-shows in some form, forcing many firms to modify their hiring practices.”

There’s another perspective on this as well.

“(It’s) downright rude and unprofessional,” Carl Schussler, managing principal of Mitigate Partners, told Employee Benefit News. “What happened to handwritten thank you notes and treating people with respect?”

Maybe it’s payback for a bad candidate experience

Yeah, being rude and unprofessional is not a good look. It’s also not a smart way to land a new job or accomplish much of anything else, but there is a very simple reason for all this “ghosting,” if that’s what’s really happening.

I think it’s all due to something a little more basic. In my book, you can blame it on the candidate experience, or, to be more specific, the LACK of a good candidate experience.

If there’s a lot of “ghosting” of employers going on, there’s a simple reason for it, and it’s because candidates have figured out that if recruiters and hiring managers can blow off/fail to respond/ignore job seekers, well, the job seekers can damn well do it too.

I’ve written about this a lot — check out The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Candidate Experience” and Is Your Candidate Experience Also Driving Great Candidates Away? — where I made the point that everyone who recruits or hires should have to be a job candidate sometime because too many of them seem to have forgotten what it’s like to be on the other side of the interview table.

If “ghosting” is really that big of a problem, that may be the reason why.

More companies need to walk the talk

Companies love to talk a lot about wanting a great candidate experience, but I’ve applied for more than 100 jobs over the last year and the candidate experience I’ve had has been universally crappy. Even getting a “We’ve selected someone elsebut thanks for applying” email seems to be beyond the reach of far too many organizations, and if you spend much time reading the comments people post on LinkedIn, you’ll see that there are lots of others who feel that way too.

Gerry Crispin, Kevin Grossman and the good people over at The Talent Board track the state of the employee experience, and although I’m sure they’ve gotten some organizations to do better at it, there’s still far too many who need to walk the talk.

The most recent numbers I have from The Talent Board report that when it comes to employers responding to job candidates:

  • More than half (52 percent) say they were still waiting to hear back from employers more than three months after they applied to them for a job;
  • Only 20 percent of candidates received an email from a recruiter or hiring manager notifying them they were not being considered for a position; and,
  • Only 7 percent received a phone call from a recruiter or hiring manager notifying them that they were not being considered.”

Time for employers to get serious

With numbers like that, no wonder so many more candidates are “ghosting” interviews and blowing off companies that have hired them.

In that context, the upsurge in “ghosting” isn’t surprising at all, but … it’s a terribly bad idea and a pretty horrible habit to get into.

And as we’re learning from so much of the bad behavior going on at a national level right now, responding in kind to a slight or someone else’s bad behavior doesn’t do much to fix the problem. It’s a quid pro quo response where neither side gets anything positive out of the deal.

Yes, “ghosting” recruiters and hiring managers is a really bad idea, but I understand the thinking behind it.

Still, the big question is this: How long will employers put up with candidates wasting their time by blowing them off before they decide to get serious and really start to do something about it? In other words, when will they start to walk the talk about improving their candidate experience?

I’d ask Gerry Crispin about it, but I think I already know what he’ll say.

John Hollon

John Hollon is an award-winning journalist and nationally recognized expert on leadership, talent management, and smart workforce practices. He currently is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media. He also was founding Editor of the popular talent management website, and before that, Editor of Workforce Management magazine and
John also held editing positions at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and the Orange County Register, and was top editor for Gannett at two statewide papers —Montana’s Great Falls Tribune and The Honolulu Advertiser. He also has deep experience in magazine and online publishing as editorial director at Fancy Publications, VP of Editorial at, and Editor of the San Diego Business Journal.
In addition, John is an adjunct professor in the College of Communications at California State University, Fullerton, and a board member at the Kronos Workforce Institute. He holds an MBA from Pepperdine University’s Graziado School of Business & Management, and lives in Southern California.

Comments 3

  1. John – I was quoted in that USA Today article and the LinkedIn one as well; apparently I’ve become the go-to-HR-gal for this topic ;-).

    We HAVE seen an uptick in this behavior at my organization. We’re hiring in the service industry (typical hospitality roles) for F&B, Housekeeping, Maintenance, Security, etc. and while we’ve always, certainly, had our share of applicants and new-hires who “disappear,” it has gone up the last several months. We call to schedule an interview and the applicant hangs up once the HM introduces herself. An individual verbally accepts job over the phone (pay, schedule, etc.) and then no-shows at their onboarding appointment (generally the next day or whatever works for them). What we have ascertained, via the few that HAVE communicated with us after the fact, is they are continuing to interview, may get several offers, accept them all, decide on the best one (could be for 25 cents more per hour or a slightly better work schedule) and then “ghost” the rest. (And yes; sometimes they re-appear a few months later and apply again).

    This is not, dare I say, based on a bad candidate experience with us; we are super responsive and move very quickly (we HAVE to!) – we stay in contact with applicants as best we can throughout the process. But MY types of applicants have numerous options – I really can’t blame them for choosing the job that they feel is best for them – all I ask is that the LET US KNOW or decline the offer in the first place.

  2. I respectfully disagree (in part), John. Don’t get me wrong – I totally agree that companies generally do not do enough work on the Candidate experience. I also agree that a company that does put emphasis on it can really set itself apart in a tight labor market. So, I got the religion, John! But if you think candidates are ghosting interviews primarily because they have been dissed by companies in the past then I’m going to have to just say you’re missing the larger picture. While rude behavior does spawn rude behavior, I think it basically comes down to money and opportunity. If the employer were the “only game in town” (we wish, right!) or was paying top dollar for the job, then I promise you the candidates wouldn’t ghost the interview. The fact is that the labor supply is tight and there are multiple opportunities to gain employment. However, the recent Salary Budget survey from World at Work shows that companies are not increasing their salary budgets much more than 3% again for 2019. Or, put another way, companies are still bargain shopping. So, if you’re looking for something, you probably sent your resume to 10 different jobs (because you could) and got callbacks from 2 or 3 of them. But then you found out the job isn’t paying so great compared to one of the others. So, the candidate says “I’ll be there” but continues to look for the BBD (Bigger Better Deal). And finds it, So, sure, the candidate could call you and cancel – and some do. But many don’t because that is 10 minutes of their life they won’t get back and there are no penalties societally or otherwise for failing to do so. Yes they should have been raised to be more polite but don’t even get me started on the decline of manners. The solution here lies in companies competing for talent like they mean it. If you build the BBD, the candidates will come……The BBD can be money or one of those “Best Places to Work” awards. Like every other area of business, you have to set yourself apart in some way – perhaps the better candidate experience can be part of that differentiation, but it won’t be enough by itself. Let’s modify Field of Dreams just a touch: “If you pay, they will come”.

  3. Pingback: What Do Job Candidates Want Most? Glassdoor Has the Answer and It’s Pretty Simple - TAtech

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