worker in middle of street wearing ghost costume

Ghosting Job Applicants is Bad for Business

By Kimberly Kafafian

I am mindful that I sit on this side of the desk. We review hundreds of resumes each year, so we see firsthand how much work is involved in the pre-employment phase of the employee lifecycle. That being said, one of my loved ones is changing careers. Each time a recruiter connects with him, his excitement is palpable. He gets more eager with each passing interview, and then bam!, crickets from the recruiter and the hiring managers. He reaches out politely and uses the “thank you so much for your time” approach, but still nothing. I am mindful of how heartless it feels sitting on that side of the desk.

In today’s hiring market, suddenly stopping all communications with job candidates after the interview process, hoping they will get the hint rather than letting them know they are no longer being considered for the position, has become commonplace. Applicants submit a resume, go through the initial interview, and then meet with more people moving up on the prospect list. Their excitement grows with each step and the increased possibility of being chosen. There is radio silence from the hiring team. They aren’t returning calls, emails, texts, or LinkedIn messages. This unofficial “sorry, but you are now out of the running” communication – or rather, lack of one – leaves the applicant confused and angry. And let’s be honest, it’s insulting and incredibly rude. 

This action is what is referred to as “job applicant ghosting” and while hiring teams may think this is saving them time or from having to handle those dreaded I’m sorry calls or emails, it is very bad for business as it can affect how applicants and job hunters view your brand.

Ghosting Can Impact Hiring Potential and Culture

Failing to have the common courtesy to even send a form rejection letter is unprofessional and inexcusable given the technological capabilities to send out form communication. But on top of that, it is also a bad reflection of your brand. If you can’t have open communication with applicants, what kind of culture are hires walking into? Applicants may share their frustrations on social media and on sites like Indeed and GlassDoor for all future applicants to find. Ghosting silently sheds light on what it may be like to actually work for the company, which can prevent the applicants you need to sustain and grow your business from applying in the first place. And what if those applicants were referred by existing employees? Once word spreads about the disrespect that was shown, employee referrals may cease and feelings of betrayal and displeasure may start to erode your culture.

Follow Acceptable Recruiting Etiquette 

As an HR professional, I’m extremely angered by the ghosting trend. It’s our job to ensure a smooth and effective recruiting process – for both the benefit of the applicants and the organization. I understand first-hand how the sheer volume of applications can be overwhelming, but if you have the right processes in place, you can handle communications in a courteous and professional manner. Here are some tips to help you streamline and save your brand’s reputation.


Set up an automated response process for the early application stages. This can be done using a candidate relationship management (CRM) software or through your applicant tracking system (ATS). Leverage these platforms to let candidates know you received their applications, send rejection letters, request additional information, etc. 

Outline Your Hiring Process

Formalize the steps of your hiring process and let candidates know what to expect, including when they should expect to hear from you. Having a formal process in place, with timelines, will help streamline communication. 

Directly Communicate in the Late Stages

For those job applicants that are far along in the interview process, stay in touch through phone or email with personalized communication. Let them know where they stand. If they are not moving forward in the hiring process, let them know you enjoyed meeting them, that the decision was difficult, and encourage them to apply for open positions in the future. Give them the courtesy of knowing they are no longer being considered. 

Your hiring team should be focusing on the candidate experience and making it the best possible so you can attract and retain the right workers for your organization. Don’t let your team think job applicant ghosting is acceptable. Commit your company to open communication – that is what is good for business.

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