What is job ghosting?


Job ghosting is when a job candidate or employer ceases all communication with the other without notice.

Job ghosting is when a job candidate abruptly and unexpectedly ceases all communication with an employer or hiring manager. This may happen at various stages of the recruitment process, including during initial interviews, after receiving an offer letter or even after starting a job. Ghosting can manifest in different ways, such as failing to respond to emails or phone calls, not showing up for scheduled interviews or work shifts, or completely cutting off contact without any further communication. 

It's worth noting, however, that job ghosting is not limited to candidates. Employers have also been known to ghost candidates by abruptly halting communication or failing to provide updates during the hiring process. This may occur after the initial interview, following subsequent rounds of interviews or even after the candidate has received and accepted a job offer. The company may stop responding to the candidate's emails or phone calls, fail to provide updates on the hiring decision or not follow through on promised next steps. 

History of job ghosting 

The term "ghosting" originally emerged in the context of personal relationships, referring to the act of abruptly cutting off all communication with someone without explanation or warning. The term was later extended to describe similar behaviours in the professional realm, such as job candidates or employees abruptly disappearing without providing any notice or explanation.  

While there is no specific documented history, the historical context of job ghosting is intertwined with broader shifts in the employment landscape. In the past, the job market was often characterised by stability, with long-term employment and a stronger emphasis on face-to-face interactions during the hiring process. Candidates were typically expected to provide notice and decline job offers formally. 

However, as the job market evolved and became more competitive, and technology enabled easier communication, job ghosting emerged as a response to changing dynamics. The rise of online job boards, social media platforms and email communication made it easier for candidates and employers to initiate and maintain contact during the hiring process. Simultaneously, the increased mobility and flexibility of the workforce led to a greater number of job opportunities and options for candidates, allowing them to be more selective in their choices. 

The practice of job ghosting has therefore become more pronounced in the digital age, where communication barriers are lower, and job seekers may receive multiple offers simultaneously or change their minds without having to face the immediate consequences of their actions. Similarly, companies may find it easier to disengage from candidates due to internal changes, lack of resources or shifting priorities. 

Recent trends in job ghosting 

Traditionally, employers have been more likely to ghost than the workforce. In fact, a recent study of 1,500 global workers revealed that 75% of respondents had been ghosted by a company after a job interview. This isn’t something that companies seem to be hiding either, as only 27% of US employers surveyed by Indeed said they hadn’t ghosted a candidate in the past year. 

In recent years, however, the job market has experienced significant changes – and employees are ghosting back more than ever before. While this trend is largely related to the Covid-19 pandemic, it started before the outbreak of the virus, as a tightening job market meant that candidates could afford to start mimicking companies’ behaviour.  

Be that as it may, the pandemic and pandemic-related fallout (the cost-of-living crisis, Great Resignation, fluctuations in employment rates, increased competition for talent and more) have contributed significantly to this trend by creating the conditions for a candidate-driven market – where individuals have more options and feel even less obligated to adhere to traditional communication norms.  

Yuletta Pringle of the Society for Human Resource Management explains, “Labour shortages have left employers pinched and desperate to hire, meaning they have to push out a ton of feelers online and may not be able to respond to everyone. On the employee side, there are so many job vacancies – they may be ghosting potential employers as they search for their ideal role and move around the recruitment process.” 

Advantages of job ghosting 

Job ghosting is considered unprofessional and can have negative consequences for both candidates and employers. However, this trend has prompted discussions and calls for improved communication and respect in the recruitment process. Many organisations are now focusing on enhancing candidate experience, maintaining open lines of communication and providing timely updates to ensure a positive and respectful hiring process for all parties involved. 

Disadvantages of job ghosting 

While job ghosting may have become more prevalent in recent years, it is important to recognise that it represents a breakdown in professional communication and etiquette. It is widely regarded as unprofessional behaviour on both sides, as it can damage professional relationships, harm one’s reputation and disrupt the hiring process.