11 Reasons Why Recruiters Ghost Candidates

No matter the reason, getting ghosted by a recruiter is frustrating for job seekers. Candidates custom craft their resume and cover letter to match the job description, sometimes pending hours before hitting the submit button to send their application. And then they wait to hear back. On average, only 2% of applications get called for an interview so when the recruiter stops responding candidates feel disrespected.

Ghosting is the act in which a person interviews for a job and is led to believe there is a chance in getting the job, then no acknowledgement of the position being filled is ever conveyed to the interviewee.


The impact is more than just unprofessional behavior, social rejection activates the same pain pathways in the brain as physical pain (PNAS) and employers are recognizing the impact of employee experience on retention and their employer brand.

Here are the top reasons why recruiters stop communicating and ghost candidates.

Recruiters Are Overwhelmed

The typical corporate job posting will receive 250 applications according to Glassdoor research and the challenge only grows as more employers utilize the 1-click application process advertised by LinkedIn and Indeed.

To deal with the growing number of applications, recruiters increasingly utilize applicant tracking software (ATS) to identify qualified candidates through keyword searches. Even so, eye-tracking software shows that recruiters only spend an average of 7.4 seconds per resume during the initial screening step.

Recruiters are evaluated against performance metrics of time to hire and cost to hire, with quality of hire and their talent pipeline as possible secondary metrics. Rarely does an organization include metrics that measure the candidate’s experience, and then only for candidates that get hired.

When the company sees negative reviews on social media that mention ghosting candidates it may prompt a coaching message from company leadership and drive a temporary change. But recruiters know they are unlikely to be called out by name which is the only way they will suffer meaningful consequences.

Traditional business school teaching views Human Resources as an expense to be minimized (Gartner), not as profit center that generates revenue. Consequently HR and recruiting teams are chronically understaffed in many companies.

Hiring Priorities Changed and the Recruiter Was Reassigned

Recruiters frequently cover multiple departments and hiring managers all at the same time. As business conditions change recruiters get pulled to work on the most urgent priorities. In an ideal situation the recruiter would notify everyone affected that their process is delayed, but in the real world it is hardly practical.

Internal candidates frequently take priority over external candidates to support career progression of their current staff. When there is a wave of internal candidates the external applicant take a back seat until decisions are made about the current employees.

They Have a Better Candidate in the Pipeline

Getting the silver medal in the Olympics is no small feat, but coming in second during your job search is a poor consolation prize.

Second place is just the first loser.

Dale Earnhardt

The job market is always competitive, even in the best of times. Stronger candidates will get the lion’s share of attention while less-qualified candidates get put on keep-warm status in case they are needed. You might have incredible skillset and experience for a position but still get edged out by someone who looks a little better on paper or had easier conversation with the team.

Even the most direct recruiters hesitate to tell a candidate they are ‘Plan B’ if their first choice candidate doesn’t work out. Only 17.3% of job offers get rejected in 2020. If you had a great interview followed by a long silence it doesn’t mean you are completely out of contention – your odds are about 1 in 6 that they will come back to the second choice and make an offer.

It’s Bad News for You

Recruiters are people too and being the harbinger of bad news is never enjoyable. Some recruiters choose to avoid the unpleasantness of sending rejection emails and simply stop communicating.

Candidates get left in a catch-22. If they don’t follow up they are viewed as disinterested but if they follow up too much they get labeled as needy and demanding. Every recruiter has a form rejection email ready to use so there is no justification for ghosting candidates once a decision is made.

Recruiters shouldn’t leave them wondering because candidates have no way to distinguish legitimate reasons for a communication gap from when they need to stop spending time on this position.

The Recruiter Is Out of the Office

Candidates looking for a new job wait with anxious anticipation once they receive any sign of interest from an employer. After all, the recruiter controls the communication that opens the door for their future professional career. However, remember for the recruiter it is just another day.

Recruiters go on business trips to job fairs or college campuses, get sick, have family emergencies, and even get vacations… Conscientious recruiters plan ahead to minimize the impact to candidates or stay available on their mobile. However when they are hiring for multiple positions it is easy for some to slip through the cracks.

For unplanned events the best internal coworkers can expect to receive is an out of office autoreply from the email system and external candidates won’t even get that.

You Failed To Follow Instructions

Candidates get filtered out of the screening process at every stage due to mistake they make. Leave blanks on your application or fill out sections incorrectly and it goes in the trash. When you don’t deliver what is requested at this early stage of the process recruiters simply don’t want to waste their time on a candidate that has a low chance of proceeding all the way through.

In every communication try to anticipate everything needed and make sure you are delivering a complete package. When the recruiter asks you to provide your availability for a phone interview, give them timeslots that work for you as well as your contact number for the call. After they select a time reply with a quick acknowledgement that you are confirmed for the schedule.

Your Interview Didn’t Go as Well as You Thought

Experienced hiring managers have seen it all, so when they have uncertainty about a candidate they are unlikely to proceed to the next steps unless they are in dire need to fill the position. They may know their decision is negative early on in the interview but still proceed through the process so as not to embarrass the candidate.

The interview may have uncovered a weakness in your qualifications that the hiring team believes is critical to success, or you may have asked too many questions that were interpreted as demanding rather than confident and assertive. For whatever reason, they weren’t sold on you as a candidate. After the interview stage any recruiter that simply stops communicating is simply unprofessional. The time commitment from candidate certainly warrants a 1-minute email from the hiring team.

Hiring Is on Hold

Hiring is an expensive process by any accounting. Each new hire costs the company 33% of the employee’s annual salary, while each bad hire costs the company an estimated $15,000 on average.

Company executives may respond to changing business conditions by putting in place a hiring freeze for specific positions or even a general freeze that halts all hiring. Similarly, when there is an internal reorganization the new executive will frequently put a temporary hold on hiring until they have a chance to assess the current situation and formulate their plan going forward.

Recruiters are severely impacted by hiring freezes because they don’t know if their job will be retained, let alone any concern they may have for candidates. Most companies make the strategic decision not to inform candidates to avoid unwanted speculation in the media and to avoid a severe hit to their reputation.

You Bombed the Follow-Up

Even if you had a great interview you can still eliminate yourself from consideration by sending a horrendous follow-up message. Companies are increasingly implementing the no assholes rule as company policy (a great read from the Harvard Business Review, buy now on Amazon).

Recruiters have wide discretion in eliminating candidates on their own and will consult with the hiring manager for questionable situations. You can remove yourself from consideration by sending a follow-up that is rude, entitled, condescending, or with unrealistic expectations.

Similarly, some candidates rely too much on the recruiter for follow-up communication. After an interview if you just wait passively and don’t send a thank you note the recruiter may think you are not interested. Always close the communication loop by responding to their messages and show a continued interest in proceeding to the next step.

The Recruiter Is Not Very Good at Their Job

Recruiting requires strong organization skills to keep track of their multiple hiring requisitions, interview teams, and where the many candidates are each at in the screening process. Even with ATS systems it can be a lot to manage and recruiters with great people skills are not able to coordinate everything effectively. At times, candidates can get lost in the process.

Recruiters get complaints from all sides. In addition to poor communication, candidates complain about recruiter’s lack of transparency and not understanding the job requirements. Meanwhile, hiring managers complain about recruiters relying on keywords and not delivering a high-quality shortlist of candidates quickly.

The Recruiter Left the Company or Was Terminated

Working as a recruiter is challenging. Annual turnover is estimated at 25% according to the American Staffing Agency, approximately double the U.S. average turnover rate of 12-15% from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When the typical modern job search takes 18 weeks (Randstad), approximately one out of twelve job seekers will experience a change in their recruiter before they receive an offer.

Assuming there is overlap with the person taking over their responsibilities some candidates can still be overlooked. But when the transition is unexpected the reality is that many loose ends simply never get tied off.

Recruiters Ghost Candidates Because…

There are many reasons why recruiters ghost candidates, and while many reasons are legitimate there an equal number that arise from poorly managed and sloppy operations.

Recruiters work to find the best candidate in the shortest time possible and will sometimes cut corners. The recruiting industry is bottom heavy with a constant inflow of new college graduates. Many are working professionally at the first job in their careers don’t fully realize the impact of their actions.

In the modern job market you should expect that you will be ghosted. It will be a pleasant surprise when a company provides closure and be sure to let them know.

The most common reason why recruiters don’t respond is they simply don’t have time. Predominately, a polite follow-up inquiry about your status will prompt a response from the recruiter. The best practice is to always find out when to expect the next update before ending a conversation. Ask directly for the information so that you can follow up with confidence.

Dan Sawyer

Founding editor and head writer of ExpertEmployee.com. Dan is a job interview and career expert, with more than 20 years of experience in senior roles at high tech leaders Space Exploration Technologies and Samsung Austin Semiconductor.

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