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Candidate Ghosting Guide for Interviews and Recruiting

Posted by
Prarthana Mugeraya
March 1, 2023

As a recruiter, you are probably all too familiar with the situation.

You meet a great candidate who’s the right fit for the role.

They cruise through the interview rounds.

Get a huge thumbs-up from the hiring manager and even land the job.

And it’s all going well until…

Poof - they’re gone!

You’re not alone in being left ghosted after interview by candidates.

But are there ways you can predict, prevent or salvage a ghosting situation? Read on to find out.

What is candidate ghosting?

“Ghosting” is when someone ceases communication with another for no apparent reason or explanation. In the world of recruiting, “candidate ghosting” is when a candidate looks to be a good prospect but then no-shows to interviews, and/or ceases communication at any point during the recruiting process. 

Why are candidates ghosting before, during, and after interviews?

No-shows and cancellations are frustrating, and for every job role that is open for more than the average 43 days, your company is raking up significant losses. Let’s first take a look at common reasons why candidates ghost to understand how you can tackle it.

Complex, lengthy hiring processes are a primary driver of candidate drop-off

Think a better job offer is one of the main/sole reasons candidates ghost during the interview process? Try again. When we surveyed people on LinkedIn, guess what came out as the top reason for drop-offs?

A third of survey respondents said a lengthy interview process (that includes the lag time between rounds) is one of the main reasons candidates drop off. Application processes that are tedious and lengthy especially get a bad rep - in fact, two-thirds of GenZ candidates say they will abandon a job application if it takes more than 15 minutes. Time to rethink how much time and effort your hiring process takes?

Candidates see themselves as free agents and will ghost after final interviews if a better offer comes along

As you know, it’s a candidate's market. And with more jobs than job-seekers in the market today, candidates are starting to see themselves as free agents. They often have multiple job offers or interviews and are able to walk away from offers/opportunities without explanation. In fact, tight labor markets such as retail, hospitality, healthcare, and technology are observing increased accounts of ghosting, as high as 50% of the cases. Gone are the days when you could close a job offer with a handshake or just take a candidate’s word for it at a job fair. Today, most candidates may not see loyalty or following through with commitments as necessary. And it’s not uncommon to have candidates not showing up to work even after accepting a job offer.

There is little that recruiters can do here when candidates clearly have the upper hand in the job market. One way recruiters are circumventing this situation is by overbooking interviews - while it does mean additional work, it also means you won’t be left with requirements to fill when a new hire goes MIA, since you have other interviewees to fall back on. Here is an insightful video on what else you can do to win in a candidate-centric market.

Candidates will ghost during a hiring process after a poor interview experience or brand image

78% of candidates believe that the hiring process is an indicator of how a company values its people and how they will be treated as employees. This means while you’re evaluating candidates, they are just as much evaluating you, picking up on any slip-ups in communication, the nature of interviews, (lack of) feedback, and so on. And it doesn’t just stop at that, it trickles down to your brand image and presence online. In fact, 55% of candidates in a survey reported avoiding/ghosting a company after finding negative reviews online. And it's not just Glassdoor reviews, they’re benchmarking the pay package, perks, benefits, and culture. It becomes important to ask yourself - How does your company stack up?

The candidate experience feels impersonal

A lot of hiring occurs remotely today. A candidate applies on a job board, communicates with recruiters via email, and then probably goes through multiple interview rounds on Zoom calls. This kind of interview setup barely leaves room for opportunities to connect. Then again, coordinating these activities virtually is not simple, and is also time-consuming - leaving both candidates and recruiters with little energy to actually connect. As a result, interview experiences feel impersonal and transactional. This in turn makes it easier for candidates to forget and move on. They don’t always find the need to put time or effort into giving recruiters an explanation, if/when they get a better job, feel a job is not a good match, or for other reasons. How do you make a memorable connection in remote hiring settings and make sure candidates do not pull a Houdini act on you?

How to reduce candidate ghosting

While you may not be able to completely put a stop to ghosting, you can certainly reduce it (dramatically so). Nipping ghosting in the bud comes down to three main factors: your interview process, communication, and candidate relationships.

Simplify your interview process to reduce candidate ghosting

Remove friction in your hiring funnel by making your interview process simple, so candidates do not drop off. Here's how -

  • Only ask questions that are actually required from the candidate and relevant to their job. No one enjoys filling a job application for two hours.
  • Stagger out information collected in different stages of the interview. For instance, you can ask for past employer references and recommendation letters closer to the final review stage rather than asking for all information in one go.
  • Automate interview scheduling so there’s lesser back-and-forth while coordinating, and candidates can self-schedule on the platform.
  • Reduce lag time between interviews. If the hiring manager is too busy, see if you can get someone else from their team to take the interview in their place, or set a regular process so all rounds happen on ‘Interview Mondays’.

Pro tip: Screening, scheduling, and other interview tasks can be automated with the help of AI recruiting chatbots, so candidates complete it at their convenience, instead of a constant barrage of emails/calls from recruiters that might dissuade candidates from continuing with the process. Here is what a conversation between a candidate and screening chatbot would look like:

Notice how the chatbot is able to ask tailored screening questions and capture relevant information. In a matter of a few minutes, the chatbot screens and qualifies the candidate, asking only what’s necessary, so the application process is a breeze.

Prevent ghosting by keeping candidates warm through ongoing communications

Talk to candidates often, and when and where they like to communicate. Here's how:

  • Proactively communicate about any gaps between interview rounds so candidates know what to expect, else they might think that you’re ghosting them. Nobody likes being ghosted after interview rounds. Send an email/msg like: “Hi <First name>, we’re expecting to hear back from the hiring manager on the next steps of your interview by Thursday. Until then if you have any questions on your role or the company, feel free to reach out to me, or <contact 1> from the team.”
  • Regularly check in with candidates throughout the interview process. You can use automated workflows to send messages. Be sure to send messages that prompt response, instead of a feeble just-checking-in message when you’re following up, such as: "Hi <First name>, we haven't heard from you in a while. Are you still interested in <job position>?"
  • Often candidates and recruiters communicate asynchronously where only one person is available at a time, and it eventually results in ghosting. A recruiting chatbot that is on standby during non-business hours can promptly reply to candidate queries in such cases. For ex: A candidate may only find time to respond at the end of their shift when recruiters may not be available, but can instead talk to a chatbot to schedule an interview.

Pro tip: Look closely at candidate preferences in communication. About 75% of millennials, for instance, say they prefer text messages over calls. Schedule personalized messages based on the candidate’s behavior to communicate and nudge them to take action. For instance, if a candidate has abandoned an application, you can send them reminders via personalized text messages to complete the process, instead of bombarding them with calls.

Deliver positive candidate experiences to keep them engaged through the process

Use every opportunity you get to delight candidates during the hiring process. Here's how:

  • Be honest and transparent with candidates so they reciprocate the gesture and feel comfortable opening up to you if they land another offer or decide to not pursue the job. An FAQ page or a real-time FAQ bot is a great way to communicate and clarify any apprehensions or queries they may have upfront. This way, you also offer a clear picture of what to expect early on and avoid no-shows at a later date due to mismatched candidate expectations.
  • Deliver a positive interview experience from the get-go by proactively answering their interview-related queries, showing candidates what to expect in each round, telling them more about the role/team/company, and so on. Make them fall in love with your brand even before day 1 by sharing rich branded content, so you never have to worry about ghosting employees again. Give them a sneak peek of your culture, benefits, perks, and reasons you’re a great place to work so they don’t choose to leave you (hanging). You can reach out to them saying: “Hi <First name>, hope your interview went well. I thought you’d like to check out the <Company name> culture code to get a peek at what it’s like to work with us <Link>.”
  • Treat your candidates the same way you would treat your customers. Spend time understanding their career goals, and connecting with them at a deeper level. Personalize communications so they feel special, heard, and understood. For example: If a contractor’s assignment is coming to an end, it’s a great time to connect with them and understand what they’re looking for in upcoming projects, saying: “Hi <Candidate Name>, congratulations on completing 2 years with <Client>, I’d love to chat about how your assignment went and your future plans. I may have an interesting gig that is right up your alley. Are you available on <date> for a quick 10-min chat?”
  • Candidates are evaluating you as much as you are evaluating them, so show them you care. A simple NPS survey doesn’t go to show that your brand cares about candidates, but also sheds light on what could possibly be contributing to a leaky funnel. Use a simple automated msg like this to get their feedback:“Hi <Candidate name>, could you spare 2 minutes to answer a couple of short questions? Your feedback is super helpful and helps us understand how we can make this process better for candidates like you. Appreciate it! <Link to survey>.
  • Start the pre-boarding process once you roll out the offer, so you don’t lose star candidates to competitors or have them become ghosting employees. Introduce them to their teams, invite them to company outings/ townhalls, and show other gestures that make them feel like they are a part of your company and look forward to working with you.

Pro tip: Automate mundane tasks that take up more than 60% of your time, so recruiters actually have the time to do what they do best - connect and build meaningful relationships with candidates. Here’s an interesting blog that shows how you can unlock recruiter productivity hacks with the help of automation.

Using an engagement platform to prevent candidate ghosting

When a candidate drops off, reopening the job and restarting sourcing will no doubt be your immediate priorities, but this is also a good time to introspect.

  • Evaluate how drop-offs compare to other similar roles to see if the job description, pay package, benefits, perks need a lift.
  • Conduct surveys to know what’s causing no-shows and cancellations and identify areas in your hiring process that have room for improvement.
  • Investigate where the drop-off happened to get to the root of the issue - was a recruiter/hiring manager rude? Were they unhappy with the offer?

While these are some things that you can fix to make your hiring process and candidate experience fool-proof, know that sometimes ghosting is simply not a one-person problem, and is out of your hands. Sometimes candidates will fail to show up/reply to multiple interviews or calls, even after you get everything right in your recruiting process. Worse still, ghosting employees who accept your offer but don’t mind not showing up to work. Know that they may just not be dependable, and give yourself some credit for sidestepping an unreliable candidate.

Want to put a stop to ghosting and engage candidates more effectively? Chat with our experts to learn how technology can help!

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