It's annoying when applicants don't hear from a company anymore or, conversely, the HR department offers a job and waits in vain for feedback. Whatever the reason for ‘ghosting’ someone in a professional context, it can be a career damaging move.
Anyone who has ever experienced it knows what we're talking about: the application documents have been compiled with great care and sent on their way, but there has been no feedback from the HR department. Not even a confirmation of receipt pops up in the mailbox over the next few days and weeks. And now? Did the documents get lost on the way or end up in the spam folder? Or is the company simply not interested? In such a situation, it is important not to take it personally or let it unsettle you. After two or three weeks it is quite appropriate to follow up in a friendly way and ask for feedback.
What to do if a potential employer ghosts me?
There are many reasons why corporate ghosting happens. It could be that the position has long been filled internally but had to be advertised publicly for legal reasons. Or the HR department does not have the capacity to respond to all candidates due to an unexpected large number of applications or perhaps being understaffed. Or the company has possibly offered the job to another applicant but hasn’t disclosed this due to time constraints. All of this can happen and is understandable to a certain extent – but it shouldn't be the rule.
Whatever the reason may be in a specific case and even if there is usually no bad intention behind it: a complete withdrawal from communication is unprofessional. If you are waiting for an answer, you should remain calm and give the company some time for feedback. After two or three weeks at the latest, however, it is quite appropriate to follow up in a friendly manner and ask questions - either by email or by phone.
Many HR managers even see such a follow up as a positive sign that there is a serious interest in the position. It can also be personally helpful to set a deadline and thus define your own boundaries. If you haven’t received feedback by your deadline, you can then move forward by withdrawing your application and looking elsewhere. After all, there are plenty of employers who communicate quickly and openly.
The scary reality of candidate ghosting
On the flip side, companies are increasingly finding that applicants are suddenly unavailable - and here, too, the reasons can be varied. The most probable reason for a sudden loss of contact is that another opportunity has arisen. Or perhaps during the interview, the candidate has realised the employer or role isn’t well aligned. In this situation, many find it difficult to be honest and tell the HR department directly that they are no longer eligible for the vacant position. For avoidant types, it is easier to leave emails unanswered and stop answering the phone. However, that is not fair either, because those responsible in the company also need planning security in order to be able to look around for alternatives if necessary. If you have a tendency to push uncomfortable tasks down the priority list and then eventually neglect them completely, you can put a reminder in your diary: that way nothing unfinished gets lost. You never know – the hiring manager or recruiter could still help you secure another role in the future.
The bottom line is that ghosting is a bad habit, regardless of which side it comes from. It's a matter of courtesy to cancel. Not having any certainty about how to proceed is frustrating and, in the worst case, leads to uncertainty among the applicants, which has a negative impact on future application processes. In addition, an unannounced dive can also be associated with disadvantages for the future. After all, employers are well networked in some areas and job seekers often exchange their experiences in online forums. It is not at all unlikely that word of improper behaviour will get around.And last but not least: rejections may be disappointing, but they enable growth and learning on both sides. Honest communication is the key to a successful career - even if there is no collaboration at this point.