You thought you had it in the bag, then... nothing. What now?
You did your research, brushed up your CV with great care and sent off your application, knowing that you’re extremely well suited for the role. And then, nothing. Zilch. Nada. You don’t hear a peep back. Or maybe you were fortunate enough to make it to an interview where you dazzled your prospective employers with your wit, enthusiasm and transferable skills only to be met with deafening silence days or even weeks later. Now instead of hopeful optimism you’re left in limbo, not knowing if you’ve been rejected or if that fateful ‘Success!’ email is just around the corner.
We’re used to hearing about dates doing a disappearing act in this manner and it stings, but this bad practice is also an ordinary occurrence for job seekers who are left ‘hanging on’ by employers and it can prove to be just as painful. In fact, a recent survey by recruiting software company iCIMS found that 76% of people say that not hearing back from a potential employer is more frustrating than being ghosted by that Tinder match you shared cocktails with.
Maybe that’s because job ghosting is a prevailing concept that keeps employees wondering if they’ve failed themselves or jeopardised their futures. When it comes to dating there’s always plenty more fish in the sea; decent jobs that you’re suited for and interested in pursuing are rarely as plentiful, and it can feel particularly frustrating when it seems like you’ve jumped through hoops during the application process.
Recent figures from Career Data Firm Clutch suggest that more than a third of job seekers say they’ve been ghosted for a potential job by receiving no response from a potential employer at all, so what gives? Jane Downes, founder of Clearview Coaching Group and author of The Career Book says it’s partially down to the sheer bulk of applications and the very fact that most hiring is now done online.
“The nature of online applications means there is no longer a human connection or point of contact to chase up with in an organisation or a quick conversation to be had via phone to impress or even schmooze. This is combined with application tracking so ware or digital optical recognition technology means it is unlikely that a human is reviewing your CV and reading between the lines in terms of your experience.
“It simply means CVs are rejected quite easily and put in the ‘no’ pile if relevant keywords from the job specification are not present. With online applications, ghosting is likelier to happen as most employers now view job applicants or candidates as a potential resource to fill a need as opposed to viewing them as human beings with needs and goals to be met.”
If you’re experiencing radio silence, a company shakeup could also be to blame, Jane suggests. “Always consider that this may not be about you, it could simply be a hiring freeze directive from above where roles go on hold, re-structures happen or budgets are cut temporarily.” It could even come down to the very fact that the hiring manager just felt too awkward about rejecting you and simply chose not to contact you at all.
Still, when an employer goes AWOL, blaming it on company politics or an in-office shakeup does little to take the sting out of a possible rejection, so what should you do if you’re left waiting and wondering? “Typically hold off for approximately seven days from your application before you check in,” Jane advises. “Get ahead of the rest by doing detective work on LinkedIn to establish who the hiring manager is in the organisation. Also consider your network, do you know anyone in that organisation, even a friend of a friend who can follow up your application for you?”
But a word of warning, don’t badger them. “Avoid falling into the ever so tempting trap of the ‘over follow up’ as you might be viewed as too pushy,” Jane counsels. “It’s a delicate balance which requires social intelligence and cop on.” And if you experience ghosting after being called for interview or multiple rounds of interviews and are left in limbo with no feedback good or bad, what do you do? “Chase it up,” Jane enthuses.
“You have earned the right to receive some level of feedback. While it’s often not a deliberate approach on an organisation’s part sometimes things, like getting back to an unsuccessful applicant, fall through the cracks. The reality is, organisations are led by people and we know people can make mistakes. In this case I would always give the benefit of the doubt.”
After chasing it up and waiting a realistic amount of time, if you still don’t hear any word back, it may be time to take it on the chin and brush up your skills for the next opportunity. “If your application has been ghosted ensure you re-look at the
role applied for and ensure your CV is skills led and keyword led to reflect the role and job specification,” Jane recommends.
“This is often the leading cause for not being selected (of course you may not be relevant to the role either). Ensure your CV is also digitally up to date with hyperlinks or embedded website links for companies worked for and your LinkedIn public profile address is on there.”
If you’ve been ghosted post-interview, “ask yourself what you are in control of here. How about some self feedback on where you may have let yourself down or what you need to improve on for your next interview,” Jane advises. “A lot of job applicants don’t give time to this, but constant learning and improvement using your own feedback really helps.”
What if the shoe is on the other foot and after applying for a role you decide that it’s not the right fit for you. Is it ever okay to ghost the employer if they approach you with a job offer? “Nobody owns you, remember that,” says Jane. “But you do have a brand, ‘Brand You’, and a reputation to protect, so ensure you handle this correctly, as tempting as it may be to run for the hills and go into hiding and ignore calls or mails.
Be honest about the role not being a fit for you, then apologise and move on. You never know, you may really want to join that organisation down the line so always keep doors open.”
Ghosting on either side isn’t nice or good practice, so follow the old adage of treat others how you’d like to be treated, and remember that if an employer hasn’t given you much respect during the hiring process it stands to reason that they probably won’t treat you very well down the line either. In other words? Consider it a dodged bullet, lick your wounds and move on. You deserve better than an employer who is going to leave you in limbo.