The Ghost is not in the Machine, it’s in the Hiring Process!

The Ghost is not in the Machine, it’s in the Hiring Process!

The term Ghosting has become quite popular, and a common term now utilized throughout the dating world.  Even The Business Insider defines it as “the act of cutting off all contact with someone you’re romantically involved with, without offering an explanation.”  Unfortunately, this term is now bandied about in describing the behavior of a company or recruitment firm that interviews a candidate and then never contacts them back about the outcome.

The job of hiring is difficult and takes a great deal of time and energy by those involved, but so does the job search.  Imagine being out of a job for several months, applying to potentially hundreds of jobs, and getting few interviews.  However, you are excited about those interviews you do receive, that is, until there is no follow up, no call, no letter, and ultimately no response of any kind.  How would you feel?

There is never, never, an excuse for ignoring candidates and just leaving them hanging, refusing to call them back.  There is also no excuse for the following:  “if we decide to interview you, we will call you.”  What has happened to civility in the job hunt?  Recruiters, headhunters, HR, hiring managers, or whoever it is doing the hiring or contacting of candidates has a lot of explaining to do.  You simply won’t, or are too lazy, to get back with those you have interviewed.  We aren’t talking about the Applicant Tracking System and the lack of response there (don’t even get me started on that subject), but we are talking about the common courtesy you should show candidates YOU called for phone interviews, or better yet, interviewed in person.

While I understand it can be awkward to tell jobseekers they weren’t selected for a position, you still owe them a call.  They care greatly, and deserve to be notified of the outcome.  However, you choose to leave them hanging, not returning calls, and are, should I say it, rude, if they do happen to catch up to you via phone.  You started this journey – you advertised the job, they spent an hour or more on your system applying for it, you phoned them, you interviewed them, it is your job to get back with them and give them closure!

The Ghost is not in the Machine, it’s in the Hiring Process!

How about we come up with an easy way to give people the unpleasant news?  This doesn’t mean they are going to like being told no, but the candidate will surely appreciate the gesture of a call.  Here is just one example that can leave a very positive impression:

“We really enjoyed getting to know you, and wanted to get back with you as soon as possible.  We had a candidate with more of the particular experience we needed, and while you weren’t selected for this position, you should definitely apply in the future for other positions with our organization.  Thank you so much for your interest in our company.”

Short, sweet, tells them someone else has been hired, encourages them to keep applying.  This person will now go and say nice things about your company, and your follow up skills.

Ghost them instead, and they will most likely no longer apply for any job at your company, and will gladly spread the word about how you treated them.  This is the case with three of my clients within the last month who were promised a call back about the next steps within days (not weeks).  Every one of them had the experience of being called, being brought in for an interview or extensively interviewed over the phone recently, and then nothing, just silence.  Each followed up, and each received no response.  This didn’t happen over a two day period, this is over the last month.

The Ghost is not in the Machine, it’s in the Hiring Process!

I then hear a lot of my recruitment and HR colleagues saying they don’t understand why jobseekers say bad things about their company online.  However, you are making it more difficult for you and your company when the candidates are treated as if they aren’t important enough for a short phone call.

Yes, sometimes the candidate wants to hear why they didn’t get hired in more detail.  Just tell them the other person had more experience and don’t get into the subject of what they can do better unless you are a retained or contingency recruiter advising them for a future, potential position.  Let the jobseeker know again that you are encouraging them to continue to apply for jobs of interest, and wish them great success.

Leaving people hanging is just impolite.  Help a candidate out and give them a call to tell them yes or no, or keep them updated on the process when it takes longer than expected – it will make you feel better, and help them to move on.


Karen Silins is a multi-certified, award winning resume writer, career, business and personal branding coach working with individuals and small businesses.  After graduating with degrees in education and vocal performance, she made her own career transition into the Human Resources realm.  Karen left Human Resources to become an entrepreneur and help jobseekers and fellow entrepreneurs achieve their goals.  She keeps current regarding trends in the resume writing, coaching, HR, small business and marketing industries by working daily with individual clients on resume development and career coaching, consulting for small businesses in business plan development, marketing, blogging, hiring and overall HR processes, and providing 50-70+ seminars and workshops annually to a variety of organizations in the greater Kansas City area.  She can be reached via her website at