Ghosting in the Job Search: How to Help Ghosted Job Seekers
By Pamela Mena-Romano
Imagine the following: you have a client who finds a job opening that corresponds exactly to what they have been looking for in a job while going through a job search engine. They immediately get excited and decide to apply, investing hours to prepare their application and to think about ideas for their future new job position. After going through a couple of interviews, your client waits for the recruiter to contact them with the next steps or the final decision. Unfortunately, the client ends up waiting for a response that does not arrive.
Suddenly a process that should have lasted some weeks ends up lasting months, leaving your client not only waiting for a response that will never show up but also with a sense of disappointment, confusion, and frustration. Why have they not reached out? Did I do something wrong? Have they picked someone else and not told me about it? These might be some of the questions that your client might be asking themselves. The question for us, as their Career Services Providers (CSP), is: How can we help a client that experiences ghosting in the job-seeking process?
Ghosting Job Seekers Increasing Since COVID-19
The Cambridge Dictionary defines ghosting as “a way of ending a relationship with someone suddenly by stopping all communication with them” (Cambridge University Press, 2021). Ghosting in the job search process happens when either a recruiter or employer ceases to communicate with the potential employee or vice versa. In the case of ghosting from the recruiters’ side, the reason for this disappearance, may or may not be related to the candidates themselves. It could be that the employer decides the candidate is not the right one for the position, or there might be a change of the company’s priorities. Sometimes a new employee was chosen even before the entire process started, but the employer felt obligated to advertise the job anyway (Jaffer, 2019; Kelly, 2021).
According to a survey carried out by Indeed, which included feedback from 500 job seekers and 500 employers in the United States, the percentage of job seekers who have experienced ghosting by a potential employer has reached an alarming rate of 77%, with 10% of those surveyed saying that this happened even after a verbal job offer was made (Threlkeld, 2021). This is bad news for job seekers because they are now obviously at risk of being ghosted at some point in their job search.
Considering that ghosting has emerged in the job-seeking process, and may be likely to stay, it is essential for career services providers to keep this in mind and determine what can we do to support our clients.
Helping the Job Seeker
Career service providers may want to consider the following tips to assist the job seeker who is experiencing ghosting.
1. Address the job seeker's mental health challenges.
Ghosting can be detrimental to the mental health of the person receiving it. It is especially important to provide a safe space in which clients feel confident to allow their emotions to show up. This is part of a healing process and a healthy way to move through painful experiences (Rollin, 2016), after which the client can come to a grounded place, where assertive decisions can be made. If at some point you notice that this might be overwhelming for them, remind them to breathe consciously and as slow as possible. This act will reduce the agitation they might be experiencing and will allow them to deal with their emotions without feeling drowned (Princing, 2021).
2. Encourage your client to explore different perspectives.
Often the job seeker assumes they caused the ghosting by doing something wrong. The reasons why a potential employer or recruiter decides not to contact the job seeker are often due to something unrelated to the applicant. Therefore, we can help our clients to not defeat themselves with negative self-talk by inviting them to see a different perspective. Suggest a different possible scenario that is not personal or one unrelated to how good they think they are for the role.
3. Help the client learn from the experience.
Finally, remind clients that every NO they get from a job offer is one step nearer the YES. Offer them the possibility that this situation was only training, from which to learn as much as possible, and become even better for the next job interview opportunity. Work together on re-stating all the strengths they bring to the table and all the lessons they can take out of this situation.
What could they do differently next time? Empower the client to make changes in areas they have control. Could they perhaps set themselves a deadline to wait for a response and then move on completely? Is there something they did in the interview, or they wrote in the follow-up note, that they can improve for next time? Perhaps extend the job search strategy to include more networking and informational interviewing. In other words, think about any possible improvement that can be made based on this ghosting experience.
Exploring Opportunities Despite Challenges
Even though experiencing ghosting, either professionally or personally, is an unpleasant reality, there is always an opportunity to be explored. Career services providers can be not only the professional that helps them prepare for the job search, but also the person they can reach out to, to accompany them in the sometimes emotionally challenging job-seeking process. After being ghosted, the client can develop resilience and move forward with the help of the career professional.
Cambridge University Press. (2021). Ghosting. Cambridge Dictionary. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/ghosting
Jaffer, S. (2019, July 09). What to do when recruiters and potential employers ghost you. Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/90373513/what-to-do-when-recruiters-and-potential-employers-ghost-you
Kelly, J. (2021, Feb 17). A new study by Indeed confirms that ghosting during the hiring process has hit crisis levels. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2021/02/17/a-new-study-by-indeed-confirms-that-ghosting-during-the-hiring-process-has-hit-crisis-levels/?sh=4afcd4ee99c4
Princing, M. (2021, 09 01). This is why deep breathing makes you feel so chill. Right as Rain by UW Medicine. https://rightasrain.uwmedicine.org/mind/stress/why-deep-breathing-makes-you-feel-so-chill
Rollin, J. (2016, 11 25). 3 Reasons to let yourself feel your emotions. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-musings/201611/3-reasons-let-yourself-feel-your-emotions
Threlkeld, K. (2021, Feb 11). Employer ghosting: A troubling workplace trend. Indeed. https://www.indeed.com/lead/impact-of-covid-19-on-job-seeker-employer-ghosting
Pamela Mena-Romano, Ph.D. is a physicist with a doctorate in medical physics from the University Heidelberg and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). After her first postdoc in cancer research at the University Tübingen, she switched to the field of coaching and finished her training as a Whole Person Certified Coach (WPCC) in 2019. She obtained her Associate Certified Coach (ACC) credential from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) in April 2021 and in July 2021 graduated from the NCDA Facilitating Career Development Training. Her field of interest in career development is higher education, specifically working with postgraduate students towards an increased sense of work satisfaction and life balance, by not only helping them find their career paths after grad-school but also addressing other important aspects of their lives. Pamela can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and https://www.linkedin.com/in/pamenar