When a Promising Candidate 'Ghosts' You

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: This has happened to me twice: I’ve had interviews scheduled with qualified applicants, and they don’t show up without calling to cancel. In other words, they “ghosted” me. Is there anything I can do to avoid this?

A: If it makes you feel better, you’re not alone. This is happening with increasing frequency. It’s a serious time waster and is disappointing when you think you have a promising candidate on paper.

Employers are struggling to find reasons why this is becoming so common. One may be that the economy is relatively strong, and applicants are in the driver’s seat after years of a difficult job market. Some people surmise that it’s a kind of payback for how applicants were sometimes treated during the recession. Employers who didn’t acknowledge that they received resumes or didn’t let candidates know, after they were interviewed, that they weren’t selected left a sour taste in many applicants’ mouths.

Whatever the reason, here are some suggestions:

Move fast when you have a qualified resume in front of you. Since competition for good talent is intense and good candidates are in high demand, contact them as quickly as you can.

Since competition for good talent is intense and good candidates are in high demand, contact them as quickly as you can.

Set up a phone screening interview as soon as possible. Schedule the interview so that the applicant knows you’ll be calling at a specific time. During this call, ask questions that gauge the candidate’s qualifications for the job and his or her level of interest in the position. If the applicant blows off a phone interview, at least you haven’t wasted a lot of time.

If the phone screen is successful, move quickly to schedule an in-person interview. One of the frequent criticisms applicants have about potential employers is that many organizations drag out the selection process.

Pay close attention to whether an applicant is sincerely interested in your organization and the position. When you interview candidates in person, do they ask thoughtful questions that demonstrate they’ve spent some time learning about your association? Do they do a good job of presenting their qualifications and explaining why they believe they’re right for the opening?

An even more disruptive form of ghosting is one in which the successful applicant doesn’t show up for the first day of work. While you can’t control people’s actions, one suggestion to prevent this occurrence is to shorten the time between acceptance of a job offer and the start date.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR, The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook and the latest book—The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

Interviewing Organizational Culture