Candidate Ghosting - what it is and how to avoid it?

Ghosting in recruitment - what does it mean?

Suppose a candidate suddenly stops contacting the recruiter, does not answer phone calls, does not reply to messages, and de facto disappears from the recruitment process without an apparent reason. In that case, we are dealing with ghosting on the part of the candidate.

If the candidate does not receive feedback about the result of the recruitment process, then the candidate is ghosted by the recruiter.

Nothing is more saddening and upsetting than a candidate who has accepted an offer and seemed fully ready to take on a new job, doesn’t show up to sign the contract, and the contact with the candidate is lost. 

An experienced recruiter knows that there is uncertainty until the candidate starts work. I remember when I had to cool the enthusiasm of my junior recruiters who, after the candidate accepted the offer, couldn’t contain their joy at the thought of an impending placement.

Of course, ghosting can occur at much earlier stages, whereas the later it happens, the more painful it is due to the amount of work invested in the candidate and being closer to the placement.

I have reached back to my own experiences with ghosting in recruitment, refreshed the topic a bit among my recruiter friends, and gathered practical tips that should minimize the occurrence of candidate ghosting and eliminate ghosting by recruiters altogether. At the same time, these good practices improve the recruitment process in many other areas as well.

Before we move on to good practices, let’s remind ourselves what the most common causes of ghosting are:

1. A belief that there is or will be a better job offer within the candidate’s reach. 

2. Lack of confidence in the recruiter.

Of course, there are also other reasons, such as random accidents, but these occur much less frequently.

Considering the above two reasons, we can conclude that the best way to prevent ghosting is to build a strong relationship between the candidate and the recruiter and reinforce the candidate’s interest in the job offer.

Here is how I believe recruiters should do it.

Direct conversation is better than text messages.​

If you have the time and opportunity, always choose a phone conversation with a candidate over an email. A phone call (and even better, a video call) builds a stronger relationship with the candidate. The phone is a recruiter’s primary tool and should be your first choice, especially in the early stages of relationship building. Of course, I am not saying that you should call the candidate with every single thing. There is no point in calling every time with trifles. However, if there is a topic to discuss or any doubts to clarify, the phone should be the first choice.

Tip – confirm the most important elements of the job offer by email after the conversation. Email confirmation is good practice for many different reasons.

Tip – use ATS for communication automation. Check out our Element for that!

Shorten the distance with the candidate

Try to strengthen your relationship with the candidate by shortening the distance and making them feel comfortable talking to you. Some people shy away from talking to strangers, and conversations about professional matters are additionally stressful. By shortening the distance during the conversation, e.g. with a joke, a compliment, or simply a smile that the candidate can feel even through the phone, we break the ice and build a relationship that can protect you against ghosting.

Candidate's participation in other recruitment processes

Always try to find out if the candidate is involved in other recruitment processes. You won’t always get an answer, but often you will. It is extremely valuable information for you. If you know that the candidate is in another process, you can take steps to strengthen your position in the competition that has just arisen. For example, ask the candidate how your offer compares to the competition, where it has advantages and disadvantages. Without answers to these questions, it will be difficult to negotiate with the employer on behalf of the candidate effectively.

Each day a new opportunity arises

The candidate participates only in your recruitment process today. However, tomorrow they may be considering other competitive offers. Therefore, if your recruitment process is prolonged, ask the candidate if your offer is still the only one in consideration.

Identify what is the most important to the candidate.

Ask directly what the candidate cares about most. It’s often the case that we tell the candidate about the offer, the candidate nods, and we end the interview. After such a conversation, the recruiter may feel that they’ve done a good job. However, if we do not ask what the candidate cares about most, the interview is not good.

Remember that even in entry-level positions, some candidates care about the salary. Others care more about having a reasonable commute to work. Sometimes it’s the big things, sometimes it’s the seemingly minor details, but in the end, you have to find out what truly matters for your candidates.

Tip – make notes about the candidate’s preferences. You never know when particular information will be useful, so store all of them in one place when you can quickly access all your candidate-related notes and documents. Again, an ATS is a perfect tool for that.

Confirm that the candidate understands everything

If, after the presentation of the offer, the candidate claims to understand and accept everything, it’s still worth asking about any issues that you think might be questionable now or in the future. Are responsibilities clear and acceptable? Is the salary rate OK? What about the working hours? After going into details and asking such questions, you may find that something is unclear or not entirely acceptable. The sooner you identify the candidate’s doubts, the more time and energy you save, and the higher chances of placing the candidate.

How to deal with the candidate's doubts about the offer?

Usually, job offers do not match candidates’ expectations perfectly. As soon as you hear that the candidate is not satisfied with something about your offer, react immediately. Ask what exactly would make your offer perfect. Go through the offer again and ask what’s OK and what’s not. Once the candidate starts to talk about his doubts concerning one element of the offer, you can untie his tongue and find out other doubts as well. You want to find all these details as soon as possible.

Find out if there is room for negotiation.

If you see room for negotiations that will make your offer more attractive for the candidate, then immediately and firmly assure the candidate about such possibility. Be sure to let the candidate know when you will come back with feedback. The candidate must feel that the opportunity is real in a reasonable time. Reassuring candidates about the employer’s flexibility is critical, especially if the candidate is involved in several recruitment processes.

The ideal candidate

If you see that the candidate is a good fit for the job, make this clear. Emphasize this regularly if you feel the candidate may need such confirmation, especially if they feel not confident. 

Communicate how the the recruitment process is scheduled

Be clear about how the recruitment process will work, highlighting in particular:

 1. recruitment process stages

 2. the waiting period between stages

 3. when candidates can expect the final decision

 4. how often you will contact candidates

If the recruitment schedule is to change or you cannot provide feedback within the agreed timeframe, you must communicate this before the fact, not afterward. Some candidates may not care about deadlines. Others will be angry if no one contacts them on time.

Tip – use the ATS system, such as Element, to plan your recruitment stages. See here how you can easily manage stages and candidates with the kanban board in our ATS

Give your feedback after the recruitment process, and do not ghost your candidates.

If, after rejecting, a recruiter fails to provide feedback, they have just ghosted the candidate. As a result, this candidate will be more likely to ghost recruiters in the future.

Finally, let me emphasize again – the recruiter’s professionalism, particularly maintaining ongoing contact with candidates, is not just about building a good relationship faster and preventing ghosting. Efficient communication is a key to the efficient recruitment process and better promotion of the recruiter’s and employer’s brand, and finally, higher chances of accepting the job offer. A recruiter’s commitment can work wonders.

If you feel like you’re running out of time to keep in touch with candidates on an ongoing basis, it might be time for Element ATS. Element fully automates feedback! 

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Picture of Maciej Michalewski

Maciej Michalewski

CEO @ Element. Recruitment Automation Software


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