You’ve chatted online, clicked during your first phone conversation and maybe even met up in person. But suddenly, just when you thought things were going well, they stop answering your calls and text messages.
You’ve officially been ghosted. No, we’re not talking about online dating…we’re talking about tech hiring, where candidates are “swiping right” on other job opportunities and refusing to settle for the first job offer that comes along.
The job market is hot and a tech labor shortage means job searchers can be more choosy. And while it used to be employers giving candidates the ultimate silent treatment (let’s be honest, sometimes it’s easier than having difficult or awkward conversations), candidates are now ghosting employers, disappearing into thin air without warning. In fact, nearly half of job seekers (41%) think it’s reasonable to ghost a company. And many businesses say that 20% to 50% of job applicants are pulling no-shows.
So how can you avoid being ghosted by tech candidates who are often fielding multiple job offers? Below, we discuss how to prevent employee ghosting and make the hiring process as painless as possible, as well as outline six actionable steps you can take to keep the candidate-recruiter connection alive.
What is ghosting at work?
Breaking up a relationship (yes, even with a recruiter or hiring manager) can be uncomfortable for candidates. That’s why using “no response as a response” is becoming popular with job candidates in all industries, particularly tech, where highly skilled workers are often scouted by more recruiters than they can keep up with (and offered more jobs than they can accept). From the ghoster’s perspective, it’s easier to ignore conflict and avoid disappointing anyone.
So what exactly does ghosting look like in recruiting? If you’ve experienced a candidate who’s blown off a scheduled interview, failed to show up on their first day of work, quit without notice or simply cut off all communication suddenly and without explanation, you’ve had a ghost encounter.
Ghosting is more common at the very beginning of your contact with a prospective candidate, but it can also happen in the later stages of the hiring process when the breakup is a lot more painful (e.g., after several interviews, after extending a job offer, on their first day).
How to ghostbust your tech hiring
Unfortunately, Proton Packs won’t work on these kinds of ghosts. There are ways to respond after, but there are some anti-ghosting strategies you can implement now to win tech pros over and reduce the risk of your top candidates bailing without a word.
Here’s how to avoid being ghosted by tech candidates, whether you’re looking for a software engineer, data scientist, desktop support worker or anyone in between. Spoiler: It’s all about providing the best candidate experience possible and treating them with respect.
1. Streamline your process and move fast
Candidates hate playing the waiting game. In fact, 48% of job seekers say their #1 pain point is waiting to hear back from a potential employer. That means you’re potentially alienating candidates, causing them to look for other opportunities, all because of a slow hiring process.
To keep your candidates interested, respond to them as quickly as you can from initial application through final job offer and reduce the length of your hiring cycle, if possible. No one wants to endure a never-ending interview process or wait months before getting a response, so make sure you’re acting quickly and you’ll stand out as a candidate’s top choice.
A downright scary stat: More than 70% of job seekers will move on to the next company if their first choice takes too long to get back to them.
2. Make interviewing flexible (and as painless as possible)
Many tech pros are looking for a new role while juggling their current full-time job, personal life and busy schedule of job search activities. Make the interviewing process more convenient for them by offering a lot of flexibility and they’ll think twice about abandoning the opportunity.
This might mean scheduling interviews before or after work hours, during lunch, at a local coffee shop or via video chat—wherever and whenever works best for them. Sure, it might be less convenient for you to hold an interview at an unconventional time or place, but this kind of flexibility can show the candidate that you value their time and are truly interested in them.
Pro tip: Instead of playing email tag, let candidates book time on your calendar since scheduling is often when candidates ghost.
3. Find out if the candidate is genuinely interested
Maybe they’re just not that into you. Some candidates might be using your interview as “practice” for the roles they really want, or using you as their fallback plan. That’s why you have to determine if a candidate actually wants the position before spending too much time trying to woo them.
During the first phone screen, don’t be afraid to ask if they’re interviewing elsewhere, if they’re just starting out in their job search, what their salary expectations are and why they’re looking to change jobs. Get a feel for what they’re really looking for and gauge whether or not the open role fits their needs, as well as if they’re close to receiving an offer somewhere else.
Since ghosting often stems from a fear of conflict, let your candidates know that it’s okay to apply for other jobs and interview elsewhere, so they don’t feel like they’re “cheating” on you by exploring other options. However, ask that they keep you updated if you choose to go with another role.
Give candidates an easy out: Create an email survey link to send to candidates that measures their interest at different points in the hiring process (after the phone screen, take-home coding challenge, in-person interview, etc.). In the survey, you can even ask them point-blank if they’ve decided to go with another offer or if they’re still interested in the role.
4. Keep candidates in the loop at all times
Live by the Golden Rule when it comes to ghosting: You don’t like it and neither do tech candidates. If you leave candidates hanging for too long, you risk damaging your reputation. For instance, candidates who get ghosted are probably more likely to write negative reviews or share their unfavorable experiences with other job seekers. This can come back to haunt you because if reviews say that your company’s recruiters ghost, then candidates won’t feel bad ghosting you in return.
So be open with candidates about where they are in the hiring process and clearly communicate what each step looks like, including an estimated timeline. This will keep them active and interested, and not wondering why they haven’t heard back from you two weeks after their interview. (This is especially true for millennial and Gen Z candidates who are accustomed to instant answers.)
When you’re continuously in touch with your candidates, you’ll alleviate their uncertainty and fears about falling into a job search black hole, build up trust and encourage them to keep in communication with you.
Get candidates to show up: To help prevent no-shows, send interview reminder emails the week, day and hour before. Sometimes candidates aren’t intentionally ghosting you—they just have a lot on their plate and need friendly reminders.
5. Describe the “what’s in it for me” for the candidate
Tech candidates have a lot of choices (and competition for them is fierce). That’s why you have to sell your company and the job opportunity to get them excited. Making candidates an offer they can’t refuse can go a long way towards preventing job ghosting, so talk to them about the company’s benefits and perks, especially ones that are more unconventional or that might appeal to a tech candidate, like unlimited vacation, dog-friendly offices or quarterly hackathons.
Keep notes on the conversations you have with each candidate so you make them feel like a person, not just another resume. In return, candidates will be more likely to treat you like a person, not just another recruiter.
Ask each candidate what their job search priorities are and use that to highlight what matters most to them. For example, Gen Z tech pros are generally looking for growth opportunities, generous pay and the ability to make a positive impact. If you’re trying to recruit a Gen Z-er, you might mention the company’s career ladders, as well as what it’s doing to make a difference in the community.
Struggling to attract tech candidates? Check out our guide for attracting tech talent (even if you’re not a “tech company”).
6. Follow up…but don’t be annoying
So what should you do if you think you’re being ghosted? Keep in mind that tech workers are busy people. Sometimes they might need a little reminder, and sometimes they’re just so swamped they forget to respond. While this kind of behavior is more common with passive candidates who are happy in their current role or are just starting a search, it can also happen with active candidates, too.
That’s why if a candidate goes dark, don’t give up immediately. Send a follow-up email once a week for up to three weeks. In today’s digital world (especially as Gen Z enters the workforce) email is not where all of your candidates live, and many won’t pick up the phone if they don’t recognize the number, so reach out through alternative channels as well (e.g., LinkedIn, text message).
Be careful not to bombard your candidates though. It’s not worth your time and effort, and it’ll probably irritate the candidate anyway. General rule of thumb: Reach out up to three times via email and only once on another channel. If the candidate still hasn’t responded, they’re not interested. It’s not you, it’s them, which means it’s time to move on and focus on other candidates.
Don’t be afraid of no ghost
When it comes down to it, avoiding a job ghost isn’t always possible. You can be doing everything right and still end up in a dead end. But by following the tips above, you’ll build trusted relationships with candidates (who will probably feel bad about ignoring you) and reduce your risk of encountering a ghost.
It’s also important to have a backup plan in case ghosting happens to you. A simple way to do this is by building up your talent pipeline (and preparing for no-shows) by holding more interviews than you think you’ll need. That way, if your #1 candidate ghosts you in the final hour, you’ll have second or third-choice candidates ready to fill that vacancy.