Job Searching

Why Do Recruiters Ghost and What Can You Do About It?

Lauren Hamer

Professional Resume Writer, Career Writer and Career Coach

Once you’ve finally mustered up the courage to find another job, leaning into the job hunt can feel scary and overwhelming. So, it does nothing to help your confidence when your outbox is full of unanswered follow-ups and interview requests. You thought that ghosting only happens on dating apps—so why do recruiters ghost, too? Recruiter ghosting is not an effective recruiting strategy, but sometimes it’s inevitable. How can you overcome such an unfortunate new career trend? Read on.

What Does Being Ghosted By a Recruiter Mean?

In hiring, ghosting means a recruiter stopped sending messages or communicating after previously showing interest. Admittedly we’ve all ghosted at some point or another, whether it happened on a dating app, to a general contractor you didn’t choose, or to a friend you made plans with before realizing you’d rather not go.

When you don’t hear from your recruiter after your initial conversations, chalk it up to a good old-fashioned ghost fest. It’s a blow to your ego every time and an unfortunate byproduct of conducting a job search. While recruiters are a helpful resource for connecting candidates to relevant jobs, they’re also loyal to the company that hired them to source top talent. This means that a recruiter could go silent at any point during the hiring process.

young woman shrugging and asking why recruiters ghost candidates

Why Do Recruiters Ghost?

There are several reasons why your most promising job lead might come to a screeching halt. Here are nine of the most common reasons why recruiters ghost.

The Company Is No longer Hiring for the Role

A lot can happen between the company approving the job ad and you submitting your application. Priorities can change for many reasons, including the decision not to hire for the role. Blame inflation, HR budgets, or staffing; sometimes recruiters must stop communicating with every applicant for reasons outside their control.

Your Salary Expectations Are Out of Budget

Though the job market is competitive, hiring budgets are still pretty tight. If you’ve been ghosted—at any point during the process—it could be because they’ve learned they can’t meet your needs.

Before stating your compensation range during any interview, do some research. Are your salary expectations too far out of line? Consider saying a range more in line with the market rate. If you discover that your expectations are reasonable, take this ghosting as a blessing that you didn’t waste time on a company that can’t afford you.

Employment Change

Various tech giants (among other companies) have reduced headcounts this year, and recruiting professionals have faced the brunt of the layoffs. Companies of all sizes are terminating recruiter contracts with every “economic downturn” report published online. If a company has ghosted you, this might be why.

A “Shift In Priorities”

Get a generic response email blaming a “shift in priorities” as their reason for stopping all communications with you? It could be their (albeit subpar) way of avoiding one of the real reasons for ghosting you. Why recruiters ghost candidates could really be because

  • they moved forward with someone else
  • the hiring manager changed their mind
  • the business is merging with another company

Simply put, something has changed, but they can’t tell you. A standard email response is better than nothing, but to an eager job seeker, this can still feel like ghosting. 

Internal Obstacles and Delays

Some companies experience internal obstacles when hiring a new candidate, which could delay communications until they have answers to give you. Hiring managers and departments might have differing views about what they want in a candidate. As a result, leadership might delay approving an offer letter.

For example, say a company found the perfect candidate (you), but they know they’ll need to raise their salary range to get you. Recruiters require approval for this and won’t always reveal the inner workings behind the scenes.

Hiring Is On Hold

Even the most profitable businesses are announcing hiring slowdowns. In certain markets, your recruiter’s leadership may have prompted hiring freezes. Professional recruiters will do their best to provide candidates in the pipeline with an explanation (if they’re allowed to). Still, if they’ve sworn to secrecy, it could explain why recruiters are ghosting you.

Recruiters are Simply Doing Their Job

…which takes time. In many cases, the recruiter isn’t intentionally ghosting you. They may just be overwhelmed. Sourcing, vetting, and hiring employees is not easy. It requires aligning multiple schedules for each stakeholder, interviewing candidates, conducting background checks, and documenting progress internally. If it’s been a while since your last communication, don’t panic; give your recruiter time to communicate an update.

They Hired Someone Else

Of course, you must also consider silence as a sign that the company didn’t choose you. If they hired another candidate or someone internally, your application will go ignored until they receive a signed offer. Transparency and communication are great qualities in a recruiter. However, they won’t always respond to every other applicant or reveal the reasons for their silence.

They’re Pursuing Other Candidates First

Like job seekers applying to multiple roles, recruiters interview several candidates for each open position. If there are numerous promising candidates, recruiters may put your application on hold until they evaluate all candidates. In this instance, recruiters might ghost you temporarily (not reject you) until the hiring staff decides who to move forward with. 

Is It Okay For Them to Ghost?

There are many reasons why recruiters ghost candidates, but is it acceptable? The well-mannered human being in us says that recruiter ghosting is not okay. But if that were the case, we’d stop ghosting of all kinds in every environment. Ghosting is bad for your mental health, yet it still happens. 

We can’t explain why people ghost in social settings, but we can explain why ghosting happens in professional settings. The good news? It usually happens for reasons beyond your control that have nothing to do with you. Such a competitive job market leaves more applications unanswered—even the good ones. But job seekers could find comfort in thinking about the reasons behind the ghosting we discussed above. Your recruiter might simply be “too busy” to respond.

What Can You Do When You’re Ghosted?

A stressed man at a table with coffee with a HELP sign for what he can do when recruiters ghost him

The question isn’t why recruiters ghost. It’s what can you do when it happens to you. So, if getting ghosted by a recruiter is (somewhat) inevitable, how can you pivot and respond to keep your job search moving in a positive direction? Here’re a few ideas.

Commit to a Follow Up Schedule

During the first conversation with a recruiter, ask about the hiring timeline. Then, make sure to send follow-up emails at the appropriate cadence. Tracking your follow-up dates can get tricky if you’re juggling multiple applications. As a career coach, I created an online applicant tracking document that allows job seekers to record each company’s critical interview and follow-up dates. That way, you can appropriately time your communications for a better response rate.

Be Objective

Try to put the situation in context. The recruiter probably reviewed hundreds of applicants for the position, and they can’t possibly respond to everyone. In these instances, chalking it up to deliberate ghosting isn’t wise for your mental health; it’s simply a consequence of job hunting.

Seek Other Opportunities

Never put all your eggs in one basket. While you wait for answers to one application, continue your job search elsewhere, even if you feel confident about your current opportunity. Putting out the feelers is a smart strategy for increasing your chances of finding a job sooner. If your recruiter does ghost you, you have other leads you can nurture. 

What You Can Do to Prevent Getting Ghosted Again

Recruiters ghost candidates for many reasons that are out of anyone’s control. But there are some things that you can control to minimize the chances of this happening. For one, don’t give up after one or two attempts at contacting the recruiter. They might be busy or unable to respond for a variety of reasons. You can turn on “read receipts” in Outlook or use a tool like Mailtrack for Gmail to see if the interviewer has been opening your emails.

Ask the Right Questions Upfront

Interviews should help you decide if you’re the right fit for a company. But even before the interview, you might uncover some “red flags” early by asking the right questions. Here are a few questions that you can ask employers to circumvent some of the most common reasons for ghosting:

  • What is your favorite part about the hiring and interview process?
  • What will the hiring process look like? When are you hoping to extend an offer to the right candidate?
  • What are your budget allocations for this role?
  • Are you open to hiring remote candidates? (If applicable)
  • How does my background compare to other candidates you’re interviewing?
  • What are some of the current projects I would begin working on?
  • Based on your own experience, what does the company do to promote diversity and inclusion?
  • Could I meet some of the people I’d be working with?
  • When should I expect to hear from you next?

Don’t end an interview without getting clear next steps. If they’ve given you a follow-up date, record it and mark the date on your calendar to follow up if they haven’t already.

Do a Bit of Introspection

In many ways, occasional ghosting has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. So, don’t take it personally. That said, if ghosting is becoming a common occurrence for you, take some time to determine why you think this is happening. One of the best ways to avoid this is by being upfront about your needs and expectations when responding to recruiters.

Ask the recruiter for feedback on your resume and qualifications. Ask why they reached out to you (or didn’t) and what they’re looking for in the future. Could you have prepared a better answer to a common interview question or focused on a specific skill in your resume? You can do the same to help ensure you prioritize the best leads.

Someone holding a virtual ball with the words new normal

Has Ghosting (Both Ways) Become Normal to Some Extent?

In today’s world, candidates and recruiters are ghosting each other. Is this the new normal? With so much of the recruiting process happening virtually, it’s easier for employers and candidates to communicate lackadaisically without commitment or regard to the human on the other side of the screen.

Hiring work tech platform, Greenhouse, found that more than 75% of job seekers have been ghosted after an interview. On the other side of the screen, nearly half (48%) of Indeed survey respondents say they stopped communications with a prospective employer. Meanwhile, another 46% didn’t show up for a scheduled interview. Other data suggests the candidate-ghosting phenomenon is more prevalent among younger, uber-confident, and aggressive job seekers.

Maybe this is the aftereffect of a generation who grew up on dating apps and social media, where the repercussions of their actions are non-existent. Perhaps it’s a self-defense mechanism against non-transparent companies. Either way, it doesn’t behoove candidates to sink to such levels. More than 93% of companies keep track of candidates who ghost, which suggests your own ghosting actions could have long-term career effects.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is this: conduct your job search with intention and professionalism. While ghosting is possible, it shouldn’t trigger you to give up or ghost in turn. Like the dating market, the job market is a brutal scene where only the strong persevere. Know that you are one of the strong ones. Lead with a polished resume, brush up on your interview skills, and grab a job application tracker online to help organize your hunt. With any luck, your timely follow-up abilities will help thwart any recruiter ghosting.

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