A disgraceful phenomenon that — while not exactly a new concept — feels more prevalent than ever in the dating world: "ghosting." Ghosting refers to the act of vanishing entirely from a romantic prospect’s life without a text, email or DM to explain why. It’s frustrating, it’s juvenile and, unfortunately, it’s not exclusive to your love life.
Ghosting during the hiring process happens more frequently than it should and it can easily send job applicants into a tailspin of uncertainty. You attend an interview for what seems like a promising position, you leave the conversation feeling good about your prospects and then you never hear from the hiring manager again. No “you’re hired.” No “we went with another candidate." Just total silence.
Today, thanks to the remote-first world of work, job searches have taken on a whole new meaning. But ghosting hasn't gone away. In some ways, it's even easier to do it since you probably aren't meeting the interviewer in person — you have to rely on videoconferencing, email and other digital forms of communication. Disappearing is fairly simple. And experiencing this type of non-response while on the job hunt can feel just as devastating as dealing with a disappeared suitor.
If you've followed up and don't hear back from the hiring manager or recruiter for at least a week, then it's time to move on. Unfortunately, you've been ghosted.
It’s completely understandable to feel the need to send a follow-up message to reiterate your interest if you’re getting the silent treatment after a positive interview. But it’s also critical to remember that the hiring process almost always takes longer than anyone expects. Reaching back out to your interviewers a week (or less) after your meeting doesn’t just read as “enthusiastic” — it tells the hiring managers that you may have an unrealistic expectation of workplace norms.
However, if it’s been a couple of weeks at least, there’s nothing wrong with a quick email to check-in. Focus the message on your excitement about the job, avoid accusatory language (anything in the realm of “It’s been a long time since our interview and I haven’t heard from you” won’t serve you well) and restrict your follow-up process to a single email. Don’t call the office, don’t try anything overly performative (i.e. sending flowers or chocolates to the hiring manager) and do NOT show up at the office in person to demand an update. A simple, polite and direct email presents you in a professional light and gives you the best chance of receiving an update.
It can feel counterintuitive to mentally “move on” after a great interview, but it’s a smart way to keep your expectations reasonable and to maintain your job-seeking momentum. “If I could control your brain (and the brain of every other job seeker), I would make you move on the minute after you send your application. There’s nothing to be gained by the agonizing and waiting and wondering — send the application and move on immediately. If they call, great. If they don’t, you’ve already moved on anyway,” advises “Ask A Manager” guru Alison Green.
So go ahead and enjoy the positive feelings that follow a good interview, then try to set the experience aside for a few weeks. Keep applying for other interesting positions that catch your eye, invest your energy in activities and pursuits that have nothing to do with this role and if you do ultimately get an offer from this company, let it come as a pleasant surprise.
Here’s the regrettable truth: there’s no way to remove ghosting from the equation entirely. Rude people will be rude people, and that applies to employers and dating prospects alike. However, you can control the way that you react to this behavior, and one mitigation method involves directly asking the employer for a hiring timeline after the interview concludes.
As you’re saying your goodbyes to your interviewers, ask if they know when they’re hoping to make a decision. That’ll give you a useful (albeit vague) idea of their plans and will also help you figure out when to send a follow-up message. It generally makes sense to build a bit of wiggle room into your own follow-up timeline; if they tell you that they’re planning to make their choice in two weeks, put a follow-up notification in your calendar for three weeks from now.
Writing a thank-you note to the hiring team stands out as a courteous way to wrap up your interview process. If you’re hoping to be kept in the loop about their decision, it can also make or break your standing as a candidate. The Muse points out that, if the hiring team is strongly considering two potential hires with similar qualifications, a well-phrased thank-you note often makes the difference. If “one candidate sends a note and the other doesn’t... or maybe, one sends a great follow-up and the other sends one that is one-line, a week late or too aggressive,” the first candidate will nudge their way ahead of the second in both instances.
Of course, some life circumstances eliminate a job seeker’s ability to be super-choosy about where she’s applying. There are times when you need a paycheck, and it’s necessary to take a job where you can find one, even if it’s not your dream career.
But if you’re in a situation that allows you to be a bit more discerning about the companies and positions you’re pursuing, taking advantage of that can absolutely work to your benefit. Interviewing for jobs is, by nature, a stressful endeavor, and if you can narrow your scope to roles that genuinely feel like a strong fit for your current skill set and your future career aspirations, you’ll have more energy and time to invest in the application process and interview preparation. Plus, you’ll have fewer follow-ups to think about, which can offer a welcome level of worry reduction.
Ghosting is never the correct way to interact (or, rather, to not interact) with another human being, and that truth absolutely applies to hiring managers. That said, it unfortunately happens from time to time, and you won’t do yourself any favors by taking it personally. Plenty of variables can contribute to a lack of communication from a company — the position may have been eliminated, a strong internal candidate may emerge at the eleventh hour or any number of other explanations may apply to this scenario.
Yes, the company should still keep candidates in the loop when the hiring process takes an unexpected turn, but if they don’t, it’s most likely not a commentary on your interview performance or qualifications. After any interview, keep your mind focused on other pursuits and job possibilities and you’ll position yourself for success.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
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