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Why job candidates are ‘ghosting’ employers like never before

Payback is hell.

In a turn of the tables, job seekers are increasingly ghosting employers. That’s according to a new report by Indeed, the online job search platform.

Prospective employees who are in the middle of the hiring process and vanish without letting the employer know why think it’s “fair play,” according to Raj Mukherjee, executive vice president at Indeed. “It’s easy to see why, after years of having been ghosted by employers.”

In other words, they apply for jobs, or are interviewed, sometimes by multiple people, and then it’s radio silence.

Maybe you’ve been there or done that.

More than half of employers (57%) say ghosting had never happened to them prior to the past 12 months, according to the Indeed findings pulled from a survey of 4,500 job seekers and employers, each, in the US, the UK, and Canada.

Too bad. A whopping 7 in 10 (70%) of US job seekers say they feel it’s “fair” to ghost employers, according to the data.

Being ghosted by a potential employer is infuriating. Job seekers are returning the favor. (Getty Creative) (MilanMarkovic via Getty Images)

For many job seekers, being ghosted is maddening.

The silence echoes when they don’t hear back from an employer after they submit a resumé, perhaps because an artificial intelligence tool automatically screened and jettisoned it without a person even seeing it. Or it could be the even more personal blackout following a job interview, or even several stressful rounds of interviews. That’s crushing.

More than a third (35%) of US job seekers said an employer did not acknowledge their application in 2023, according to the survey. Even more job candidates, 4 in 10 (40%), report getting ghosted after a second- or third-round interview this year, compared to 30% in 2022.

Per the latest research from Glassdoor, the website where current and former employees anonymously review companies, the total share of interview reviews from users that mention ghosting by employers has more than doubled since before the pandemic in February 2020. The findings draw on over a million interview reviews posted by US-based job seekers between 2016 and 2023.

Interestingly, candidates who scored an interview with a hiring manager through a recruiter were 1.4 times more likely to be ghosted than candidates who simply applied blindly online. Job seekers who landed that one-on-one via a referral were less likely to be ghosted, but not entirely. Ghosting was still a quibble mentioned in a fraction (2.2%) of referral-based interview reviews.

Rudeness rules

Job seekers are simply saying that two can play this game.

“The spike in ghosting is quite surprising,” Mukherjee told Yahoo Finance. “It sparks curiosity about what’s changing in the job market and how candidates are approaching their job searches these days.”

He’s right. In many ways, the remote process makes it possible. It dilutes the human connection. There are two pieces at play: First, there’s the surge in virtual job interviews that ramped up during the pandemic — a practice that continues to be deeply embedded in the hiring landscape. And then, the push-button applying for positions online. Combined they create a less tangible person-to-person relationship. That, in turn, makes it far easier to shut off communication with a prospective employer (or potential employee) guilt-free and not look back.

Male indian hr, recruiter or employer holding cv having online virtual job interview meeting with african candidate on video call. Distance remote recruitment conference chat. Over shoulder view.

The missing human touch: Virtual job interviews may be one of the flaws in our current hiring process. (Getty Creative) (insta_photos via Getty Images)

“Workplace norms and expectations regarding communication have evolved over time,” Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Workplace Intelligence, told Yahoo Finance. “Individuals may feel that traditional etiquette around formally declining offers has relaxed, especially in industries or sectors where job mobility is high.”

The reality: Two-thirds of US job seekers (75%) and employers (74%) say that ghosting has become ingrained in the hiring landscape, according to Indeed’s data.

But is the tide turning?

Probably not. Ghosting is also a signal of who holds the cards in the job market. When the job market was tight with roughly two open jobs for every job seeker, in-demand workers had some leeway to desert potential employers they were interviewing with without so much as a goodbye if a better opportunity turned up. Some workers even accepted a position and walked away without a word.

Job seekers said their motive for ghosting was usually because it wasn’t the right job or company for them, according to Indeed. Other reasons that emerged as the hiring process reached the final stages included pay offers that were too low, benefits that weren’t good enough, or receiving a better job offer.

The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released on Friday showing the unemployment rate was 3.7% for the month, down from 3.9% in October, indicates that job seekers still have leverage.

“The labor market has ample momentum heading into 2024. Hiring is still robust, job loss is still low, and employment is high, according to Nick Bunker, head of economic research for Indeed Hiring Lab. “At the same time, the labor market is no longer speeding along at unsustainable speeds.”

Then, too, the rate of layoffs was little changed, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics report earlier this week, hiring remained largely unchanged, as was the rate of quitting, which generally reflects workers’ confidence in their ability to find new employment, he added.

All positive news for job seekers. “In today’s competitive job market, candidates may receive multiple job offers simultaneously,” Schawbel said.

What would prevent ghosting

One in 4 job seekers (42%) said higher pay would help, or at least knowing what to expect early in the process. Of course it would. Roughly the same (41%) said better pay transparency, such as providing a salary range up-front, would keep them from ghosting at the last stage of the game. And certainly better benefits (39%) would sweeten the pot.

The good news that could ease some of the last-minute braking is that it’s becoming much easier for job seekers to find out how much a potential job may pay. Overall, the share of US job postings that disclose a salary range nearly tripled from February 2020 to August of this year, according to Indeed. The increase is largely due to a host of pay transparency laws enacted over the past few years by states.

In the end, it comes down to the human touch throughout the hiring process, particularly if it’s a drawn-out one.

Indeed

Indeed (Indeed Survey with Censuswide, 2023)

Unbelievably, while the majority of recruiters and hiring managers are aggravated by job seekers ghosting them, 40% have no strategies in place to stop it before it starts, according to Indeed’s survey.

They’d better brace themselves then. More than half (62%) of US job seekers said they plan to ghost employers during future job searches, a significant increase from only 37% back in 2019. “Ghosting provides an important window into human connections, revealing what’s broken in our hiring process,” Mukherjee said.

Kerry Hannon is a Senior Reporter and Columnist at Yahoo Finance. She is a workplace futurist, a career and retirement strategist, and the author of 14 books, including “In Control at 50+: How to Succeed in The New World of Work” and “Never Too Old To Get Rich.” Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.

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