So, you’ve just come out of a job interview and you’re feeling pretty positive and upbeat.
You spent hours preparing – thinking of suitable examples of when you’ve been a brilliant team-player, gone above and beyond what was asked of you, demonstrated your flexible attitude and a short list of all your supposed weaknesses. You’ve got references from previous employers, polished your shoes and perfected the firm, non-sweaty handshake.
Then – nothing. Not a call, not an email, nothing on social media. It’s as if the person that interviewed you has disappeared like a ghost. Unfortunately this is happening to more and more job hunters and it’s exactly what happened to Jessica Thompson, a trainee accountant.
Thompson was interviewed for a finance role at a large accountancy firm in March and was assured she would hear back from the interviewer in the next week or two. She felt the interview went pretty well. She had a nice rapport with the line manager and came up with some good, tangible examples in answer to their questions. “I thought everything had gone well and they sounded quite impressed with my experience to date,” she notes. “They said they would call me in the next few days and thanked me profusely for coming in.” But Thompson never heard back. “After a week or so I thought perhaps I hadn’t received their email or maybe they’d taken down the wrong mobile number for me so I emailed to see if they had any feedback but no one ever replied,” she says. “I didn’t want to seem pushy but I emailed again a few days later and still nothing.”
Thompson’s experience is far from uncommon. ‘Ghosting,’ a term once synonymous with online dating, is now becoming increasingly rife in the world of recruitment. It’s not exactly what you would call a candidate driven market at the moment and employers are often inundated with CV’s, many of which aren’t even relevant for the role. Ben Hawkes, employment expert and managing director of Mindsight Ltd business psychology firm, says this sort of bad practice is becoming increasingly common. “Not from every employer, thankfully, but certainly from a minority,” he notes.
So what can job applicants who are put in this unpleasant situation do about it? Presume that you may not hear back and take the preventative measure of asking about the next steps during the interview, Hawkes advises. “There are no guarantees, but there is one thing you can do to reduce the risk of being ghosted. If you’re being interviewed, ask about following-up. It’s a simple as “Can I follow up with you next week if I haven’t heard by then?”, or “If I’m not successful, would you be able to email me and let me know?”
If you subsequently hear nothing, at least you know you have tried. “If you have followed up with an email or a phone call and still not got a response, there might be literally nothing else that you can do,” says Hawkes. “You might feel let-down or frustrated, but you have to move on and put your energy into the one thing you can control: the next step of your job hunt.”
Sharon De Mascia, occupational psychologist and director at Cognoscenti Business Psychologists, says it’s really important to try and remain positive and professional. “Remember that recruiters are busy people so do not expect an instant reply. If you do not hear anything after a week or so, then send another email. Remember, that your application may still be under consideration, so remain respectful but persistent,” she advises.
Hawkes says it is vital not to take it too personally. “Remember that employers who ghost their applicants don’t necessarily set out to be rude and unprofessional: it just looks that way,” he notes. “It is absolutely not personal. Yes, you’ll be disappointed and maybe angry but recognise that ghosting is just another part of job-hunting. It happens a lot and it is says more about the employer than it does about you.”
De Mascia agrees. “Remind yourself that although you may not have been the right candidate for that particular post, there are many other posts out there, for which you will be perfect, and keep on trying.”
Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.