Candidate Ghosting: Why It Happens and How to Handle It

Candidate Ghosting Staffing Recruiting Agency

Last Updated April 29, 2024

Staffing and recruiting agencies work tirelessly to fill open positions on behalf of their clients. Recruiters spend a lot of time developing job listings, reaching out to candidates, scheduling interviews, and more to find the best available talent.

So, understandably, it can become very frustrating when you experience candidates not showing up for interviews. Why do candidates ghost recruiters and not show up for interviews—or even their first day at work? While you can’t necessarily completely eliminate the challenges of job ghosting, understanding why candidates ghost recruiters can help you better prepare for and address this issue.

What Is Candidate Ghosting?

“Ghosting” is a pop culture term in which one person in a relationship completely cuts off contact with the other without any kind of explanation. In the employment world, candidate ghosting occurs when a candidate suddenly cuts off all contact with a prospective employer. Despite additional outreach from recruiters or others at the company, the job candidate doesn’t respond to messages or show up at previously scheduled appointments.

When Can Ghosting Occur?

Ghosting can occur at any stage of the hiring process. It is most commonly associated with the interview process, with candidates ghosting interviews. Interview no-shows are the most widely known form of candidate ghosting, with 28% of candidates admitting to ghosting a prospective employer in the last year, and 76% of companies saying they’ve been ghosted by a candidate.

However, ghosting can even occur after a hiring decision has been made. Job seeker surveys have found that 19% have accepted a verbal offer from a company but then never went on to sign the paperwork. Even more alarming, 22% of new hires who accepted a job offer simply didn’t show up for their first day of work.

So, while no-show interviews are certainly a top concern for many recruiters, the reality is that candidate no-shows can occur at any time.

The Most Common Reasons Candidates Ghost Recruiters

So, why do candidates not show up for interviews—or even the first day of work? As it turns out, it’s not something that organizations can exclusively blame on the candidates. Many of the most commonly cited reasons for candidate ghosting lead back to how a company approaches its hiring process.

Poor Communication

The communication (or lack thereof) that a candidate experiences during the hiring process directly influences their perception of a company. Many view a lack of communication as a red flag during the hiring process—an indication that a company isn’t well organized or that it doesn’t prioritize them or the role to be filled.

When a company doesn’t communicate effectively with candidates about their interview status or respond to questions in a timely manner, candidates will naturally not feel very compelled to remain in contact with that company.

Bad Interview Experience

A negative initial interview can be enough to cause a prospective hire to withdraw their name from consideration—or to stop communicating with a company. A negative interview experience is cited by 57% of workers as the reason they decided to ghost a company.

A major reason why job candidate ghosting occurs after an initial interview is when candidates are asked invasive or discriminatory questions during the interview. Many of these questions are technically illegal, yet 34% of candidates say they have experienced discriminatory questions surrounding age, race, gender, religion, marital status, and more.

When the company is unwilling to answer a candidate’s questions during an initial interview, this can also be a major red flag. In fact, 55% of candidates cite a potential employer avoiding their pay-related questions as a reason why they decided to ghost them.

Job or Company Doesn’t Seem Like the Right Fit

Sometimes, a candidate doesn’t necessarily have a negative experience, but after their initial interview or researching more about the company, they determine that the organization or the position isn’t the right fit for them. This could be due to their perception of the company culture, not feeling like they fit the job requirements, or other factors.

In these circumstances, a candidate may be unsure of how to withdraw from the application process. As such, they decide it is easiest to simply stop communicating with the company.

Low Pay or Inadequate Benefits

Pay and benefits consistently rank as some of the most important factors in job selection and job satisfaction. After all, every employee wants to earn enough to support their wants and needs. If a prospective employer’s compensation package is too low for what an employee is looking for (especially in comparison to industry averages), candidates aren’t going to think it’s worth their time to continue engaging.

Received a Better Job Offer

Employers should never assume they are the only option for a prospective candidate. In a constantly competitive market for recruiting and staffing, top candidates will be in high demand. If a candidate receives a job offer with better pay and benefits, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that they would stop considering your company.

What Recruiters Should Do After a Candidate No-Shows an Interview

Candidates not showing up for interviews can be understandably frustrating. So, what to do when a candidate ghosts you? It’s important to keep in mind that while there are many reasons why a candidate might intentionally ghost your company, sometimes, life happens. A candidate might have gotten sick, forgotten about the appointment, or had another personal issue come up.

Because of this, the best initial response for an interview no-show is to give the benefit of the doubt. Send a friendly email to the candidate noting that they didn’t show up for their scheduled interview, ask if everything is okay, and confirm whether they are still interested in the position.

This way, you don’t burn bridges if the candidate is still interested and has a legitimate excuse. If the candidate doesn’t respond, you can assume they are no longer interested and move on. Stay professional and dedicate your resources to finding other top candidates. While just about every company will experience periodic no-shows, if this becomes a recurring problem, you will likely need to look into your recruiting and hiring processes. Frequent candidate ghosting is an indicator that you likely have other underlying issues you need to deal with.

Tips to Prevent Candidate Ghosting

With tight talent pools being a top concern for many in recruiting and staffing, taking steps to prevent candidate ghosting should be a top priority. Fortunately, many factors are actually within your control. Here are some key tips for reducing candidate ghosting throughout the process.

Offer Clear Job Descriptions

You should periodically review your job descriptions. Do they set clear expectations for what the role will be like and what is required of the position? A clear job description will help candidates have a better understanding of whether it is the right fit for them before they even apply.

When done right, strong job descriptions will ensure that only qualified and interested candidates apply. While you may get fewer applications overall, the candidate pool will be stronger and less likely to ghost you.

Train Staff on Proper Interviewing Procedures

Successful staffing and recruiting efforts often hinge on the interview process. Poor decorum during the interview process can immediately alienate a top candidate, even if the job seems like a perfect fit.

Providing team members with sample questions or an interview template can go a long way in avoiding such issues, while also ensuring that all candidates are interviewed on equal footing. This will make it easier to directly compare candidates when making a hiring decision.

Offer Pay and Benefits Transparency

While employers may not always like to share this information in interviews, there is no denying its importance to job candidates. In fact, some surveys have found higher pay, pay transparency, and better benefits to be the top three solutions offered by candidates to reduce ghosting.

During the interview process, strive for as much transparency as possible regarding pay and benefits. This will allow candidates to make an informed decision about whether a job is right for them, and you won’t waste time with someone who feels your company’s offerings are insufficient.

Be Flexible and Communicative

In an era of remote work, employers should be willing to demonstrate flexibility during the hiring process. Offering the option to do a video interview rather than requiring an in-person meeting can be especially beneficial for disadvantaged candidates who might have issues with scheduling or transportation.

Recruiters and employers should also provide consistent communication throughout the hiring process. Regular updates on a candidate’s status help them feel valued and in the loop, making them more inclined to be equally communicative with you, regardless of whether they want to continue to be considered for a role.

Don’t Take Forever

While “slow to hire, quick to fire” is a commonly cited employment mantra, employers should be cautious about taking too long to make a hiring decision. Forcing top talent to wait gives them greater motivation to apply for jobs with competitors—and if those competitors are more communicative or make faster hiring decisions, you are likely to get ghosted. Look for ways to streamline your hiring process so you can deliver faster decisions to candidates.

In-Summary: Candidate Ghosting

While candidate ghosting is undoubtedly an inevitable, frustrating aspect of working in the staffing and recruiting realm, there are several ways to reduce your chances of getting ghosted by a candidate, such as being communicative, as flexible as possible, and transparent. And if your employment agency does get ghosted, it’s important to review the hiring process they endured to see what might have gone wrong or rubbed a candidate the wrong way. By doing so, you’re providing better experiences to future candidates, and you will stand out as a highly professional agency.