Tempted to Ghost Someone While Job Searching? Here’s What to Do Instead


Not long ago, we ran an article on the growing phenomenon of ghosting in the job search world. Ghosting comprises such situations as candidates going all the way through the job search process to the point of being offered a job – and then disappearing and never being heard from again. Some ghosts accept the job and don’t show up. Some show up but then stop showing up with no notice.

Ghosting might seem reasonable in a low-unemployment market in which job seekers are seemingly in control. It might also seem reasonable in light of how many times job seekers have themselves experienced a form of ghosting – never hearing from the employer after applying or even after interviewing with an employer.

In fact, 40% of employees believe it’s reasonable to ghost companies during the interview process, according to a study by Clutch. In a podcast on ghosting featuring two top business professors, Wharton’s Peter Capelli compared this practice to putting an item in your online shopping cart but never completing the purchase. Capelli and his podcast partner Jay Finkelman believe employers can accept part of the blame: “Ghosting prospective employees is old hat for employers. Companies have been engaging in the practice for so long that it has become perfectly acceptable for them.”

Unfortunately, as the consensus in our previous article revealed, no matter how much you justify ghosting, it’s likely to be seen as an unprofessional reputation-killer you may never recover from. Here are some situations in which you might be tempted to ghost and what to do instead.

Situation: You are scheduled to interview at Company X, but you get a call inviting you to interview at your Dream Company. Even though Dream Company is not a sure thing, you are so excited by the prospect that you are tempted to blow off the Company X interview in ghost fashion.

Why you might think it’s OK to ghost: You feel a much stronger affinity for Dream Company than for Company X.

What to do instead: Keep both interviews. Interviewing is always good experience. Company X could surprise you positively, while Dream Company could surprise you negatively. Since neither job is a sure thing, it’s wise to keep options open.

Situation: You are scheduled to interview at Company X, but you get an offer from your Dream Company.

Why you might think it’s OK to ghost: You feel you have nothing to lose since you have an offer in hand.

What to do instead: Assuming the offer from Dream Company is acceptable to you, communicate briefly and politely with Company X that you’ve received an offer and are no longer interested in interviewing.

Situation: A pesky recruiter you’ve already decided you don’t want to work with pressures you into a meeting.

Why you might think it’s OK to ghost: You know you don’t want to work with this person. What better way to send the message than just not show up?

What to do instead: Email the recruiter to say you have realized you are just not a good fit for him or her and would rather not meet. If the recruiter still won’t back off, consider contacting his or her supervisor.

Situation: You have accepted an offer from Company X but then learn that your Dream Company is interested in you.

Why you might think it’s OK to ghost: You’ve wanted to work for Dream Company for years.

What to do instead: Flirting with a highly desirable employer while holding a solid offer from another employer is a difficult situation. Only you can determine whether to let go of the firm offer to see where things go with Dream Company, but if you decide to go that way, you must politely and professionally turn down the offer you’ve already accepted. Imagine things don’t go well with your Dream Company explorations, and you again approach Company X. Will Company X consider you again if you’ve ghosted them? Highly unlikely. They may not consider you under any circumstances, but you’ll have a greater shot if you’ve rejected them professionally.

Situation: You’ve been in a job search process with Company X for many months and have been through three interviews and pre-employment testing. You get a call saying you are a finalist for the job and can you please come for another interview? You are tempted to just stop communicating with the internal recruiter.

Why you might think it’s OK to ghost: As this process has dragged on, you increasingly feel the company is not right for you. The long period of indecisiveness feels like a bad portend for working there.

What to do instead: It’s hard to abandon a process you’ve invested so much time into. You can always decide to go ahead with it, but if not, simply tell the recruiter you have changed your mind about moving forward.

After years of being ghosted by employers and in a climate that makes ghosting easy, we may all be tempted at some time to ghost an employer. It doesn’t take much effort to not be a ghost; preserve your reputation by not blowing off employers unannounced.

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