Would You Ghost a Job Offer?

by Nancy Ordman

With the U.S. unemployment rate below 4 percent, employers are facing a dearth of qualified applicants for engineering and other technology-related positions. Recruiting and landing talent takes patience and ingenuity; recruiter John Widgren opined, “If you don’t love your job [as a recruiter], you’ll beat your head on your desk.”

Dealing with a tight job market is bad enough without having to deal with an increasingly common experience: ghosting. While ghosting – deliberately ignoring another person until they stop attempting contact – is par for the course in the world of dating, such behavior would have been unthinkable in the world of work. For decades job searchers have dutifully written thank you notes after interviews and responded promptly to job offers. Recruiters and hiring managers are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to address this unexpected behavior.

Why is this happening? Recruiters have posited several explanations.

  • For millennials, ghosting may seem like no big deal: no response equals a no.
  • A potential employee is waiting for the best offer after interviewing with several employers.
  • Some people may not know how to say no or they dislike doing so. (See this earlier IEEE Job Site article, Respectfully Declining a Job Offer).
  • Job seekers who endured job searches during the Great Recession and after were probably ghosted themselves. Peter Cappelli of the Wharton School said, “The employers have been far worse about this than any of the job seekers.”

What can employers do to avoid ending up with unfilled jobs? Suggestions vary depending on the type and level of position that is open. 

  • Extend offers for more positions than are open. This approach assumes that the hiring manager has enough experience to predict the yield and is probably best for entry-level positions.
  • When a candidate accepts a job, maintain contact, including calling the day before the new employee is due to start work.
  • After the first non-response or no-show at work, assume a benign explanation, such as a family emergency. Decide how many more contact attempts to make; the last attempt should be a message that the position is no longer on offer.

What are the consequences of ghosting a potential employer? Recruiters and hiring managers may keep a list – in a database or in their heads – of candidates who blew them off. Since both applicants and hiring staff could end up at different companies in the future, leaving a favorable impression is not just polite; it is a smart career move. Polite, respectful behavior, from employers and potential employees, is always the right way to go.