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How can you prevent “ghost candidates”?

Tips and advice from our “ghost-busting” team.

Published on

October 29, 2022


The “ghost” stories we’re hearing from our clients and candidates range from true tales to the truly bizarre.

We’re referring to the ghosting by candidates—the no-shows at interviews or even on the job, itself. It isn’t new, but it is on the rise. According to one recent survey, 28% of job seekers say they’ve ghosted an employer (up from 18% in 2019) and 76% of employers say they’ve been ghosted in the past year.

What are we hearing from our clients and candidates?

One candidate didn’t show up for an interview because a family member became ill, which is completely reasonable. Life happens, and employers need to be accommodating and understanding. Another no-show later confessed to being spooked by the prospect of a background check. And then there was the candidate who ghosted a potential employer during the interview stage… only to pretend to be someone else on the phone when we called them to chat about it (i.e., ghost BUSTED!).

Other common reasons for ghosting that we have heard include:  

  • The interview process took too long and included too many interviews (up to seven in some instances), so the candidate lost interest and moved on. Note: We find the more junior the role, the higher the chance of ghosting if the interview process is lengthy.
  • The candidate was interviewing for multiple opportunities and, rather than waiting to hear back from a client, they accepted another offer. This isn’t surprising—with over 1 million open roles in Canada, candidates have a lot of choice!
  • Candidates disappear when they learn last-minute about background checks, panel interviews, testing or assignments—things that make them nervous. Nerves play into the job search.
  • The potential employer seemed disengaged during the first interview and didn’t leave a positive or encouraging impression on the candidate.
  • The candidate learned details about the role that contradicted the job ad (e.g., the need to work onsite full-time, different responsibilities, a different reporting structure, etc.).
  • The candidate decided they just weren’t interested in the job but felt awkward saying so for fear of disappointing the interviewer.
  • And often over the last two years, either candidates or their family members became sick and just couldn’t continue with their job search.

How can you prevent ghosting? Eight tips from our recruiters

While there are no guarantees in today’s competitive market (despite a looming recession, we’re still seeing unprecedented demand for talent), our team of recruiters has provided a series of practical tips to help employers ward off “ghosts”!

  1. Stay in regular contact with candidates: When in doubt, over-communicate and stay in touch every few days. This shows you are interested and keen to meet with the candidate. If you wait a week or two, the odds are, the candidate will already have moved on to the next opportunity. And if you book an interview more than three business days away, confirm the day beforehand either by email or a quick phone call to say, “I wanted to make sure we are still on for tomorrow…we are excited about meeting you.”
  2. Be transparent: Keep candidates apprised of each stage in the interview process, what it entails, and the schedule and length of time required. Make the screening process clear right from the start: Will you do a criminal check? A credit check? How many references will you require? Will there be a written test? A case study evaluation? Do they have to bring a portfolio of past work? Tell them early. Note: We always advise our candidates when an interview is going to be lengthy and what will be required of them.
  3. Make your interview process short and fast: The old days of taking 2-3 months to evaluate a single candidate are gone. Today’s employers need to think in days or weeks, aiming for 21 days from start to finish. Make sure you book all interviews as close together as possible and have all key decision-makers at the table. This not only speeds things up but also signals that you’re interested in the candidate. And if possible, try to reduce the number of interviews. Some of our clients require seven interviews, and the candidates end up losing interest and moving on.
  4. Maintain regular contact between signing the offer and start date: If you have a lot of time between the offer and the start date, schedule regular touchpoints with the candidate to stay connected, perhaps even a time for them to meet their team virtually or in person before they begin. Maintaining contact reduces the possibility of them being enticed by another opportunity. And if possible (provided the candidate is available), try to bump up the start date.
  5. Be completely honest: To reduce “buyer’s remorse” and lower the odds of ghosting during the interview stage and especially after the candidate starts, make sure you share all details of the job, including any potentially difficult or challenging aspects (for example, if they will need to deal with irate customers, say so and if the work must be done onsite, be clear about your position). You want to ensure the candidate accepts the role with eyes wide open, so they’re not surprised or disappointed by something unexpected.
  6. Be frank and ask pointed questions: Ask the candidate directly in the interview stage if they are interviewing elsewhere, entertaining any other offers and are interested in the role. This will give you an indication if you need to speed up the process or negotiate a higher offer for a top candidate. Be sure to ask pointed questions about salary, benefits and vacation expectations during the interview stage, so you’re not surprised later in the process.
  7. Show them you care: If you’re excited about a candidate, show them! Everyone wants to feel wanted. And keep in mind, we’re all human and we all have good days and bad days. If a candidate calls to reschedule because of a personal matter, try to be understanding and show that you are a caring, empathetic employer. Also, try to show that you’re open to feedback, so the candidate feels comfortable saying they’re not interested in the role. Many people find it awkward to reject or turn down others, and instead prefer to not reply or “ghost” a potential employer. Pro Tip: To avoid this scenario, help the candidate know how they can back out of the process by saying, “If at any point you lose interest in this position, please let me know. I’d like to have a transparent relationship and want you to know that there won’t be any hard feelings.”
  8. Be boastful: The interview process offers a great opportunity to strut your stuff as an employer. Share all your wonderful attributes early on in the process – your compensation, team, benefits – please BRAG. Don’t wait to tell them how amazing you are at the end. Wow them from the start!

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