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So What’s the Deal With Professional Ghosting?

You’ve emailed ten times, left a number of voicemails, and even tweeted the hiring manager to confirm that your CV has been sent and you’re oh so excited about the role.

So why haven’t you heard back?

You were told to be thorough with your follow up, and tenacious with your quest to be heard (and hired). Plus, your contact’s read receipt confirms that she checked her email hours ago. So much for a timely reply, right? You may have heard of ‘ghosting’ in relation to dating, in which one party simply stops returning calls, texts, and emails without providing a reason. However, it is becoming increasingly relevant in a professional capacity, too, with many potential employers failing to contact applicants on receipt of CVs, writing samples, and even post-interview.

In this competitive job market, it is understandable that potential employers cannot reply to each individual applicant to inform them they weren’t successful. Many recruiters overcome this by sending out an automated email on receipt of an application, informing the eager job seeker that if they are not contacted again then they have not been shortlisted for the next stage. But what if you don’t hear back. At all. Do you keep trying to make contact, presuming the person at the other end has simply been too busy and hasn’t seen your application, or do you reconcile yourself to the fact that they are ignorning you, that you’ve been ghosted?

Here are four common professional ghosting scenarios (and how to handle them):

1. Application Ghosting

This tends to happen when there is a huge amount of interest in a position. Often, you will have applied through a jobsite and received an automatic reply, confirming receipt of your application and informing you that if you haven’t heard within a fortnight then you’ve not been selected. In some ways this is favourable to the vague “we regret to inform you” email, which fails to provide constructive criticism and can put a dampener on your day. By knowing the stakes up front, try not to be too disheartened if you don’t hear back. Accept that it wasn’t the right fit and focus your efforts elsewhere.

2. Sample Ghosting

This is one of the most frustrating types of professional ghosting that you will experience. An employer responds to your original application, asking you to write a sample essay or complete a task, only to then go AWOL once you’ve sent in your efforts. Being ghosted in this way is particularly disheartening as you end up feeling that what you produced can’t have been good enough. Whilst there may be some truth in this – that you’re not ready for the role, or your angle wasn’t right for the company – equally it’s unlikely that you’re massively wide of the mark. Often employers ask you to write something to show your enthusiasm for the job, yet when more people complete the task than expected they don’t have time to reply to everyone. Sure, this is widly frustrating, but remember that for every reason you thought this was the perfect job for you, there are countless reasons why it wasn’t.

3. Serial Ghosting

Serial ghosters are those employers who seem to alternate between being interested in you one minute, and not the next. You may receive a response to your application weeks after you had applied (and subsequently assumed you had been rejected for). The serial ghoster may also ask you to complete a further task – some competency questions, a telephone interview – and then, once again, leave you for weeks without a response. We have even heard of instances where applicants receive email after email asking for the same exercise to be completed, but no other response. If this happens to you, don’t be disheartened: you don’t want to be working for a company that is so disorganised anyway. Just laugh at the lack of professionalism displayed and pat yourself on the back for dodging a bullet.

4. The Interview Ghoster

In most cases, employers today tend to conduct telephone interviews to further narrow down prospective employees before selecting those they want to meet face-to-face. This is beneficial to you as it reduces the time and money spent travelling to an interview you might not have the experience or skills for. When selected for a face-to-face interview, however, you should be able to assume that you will hear back within a week; if this is not going to be the case, you will normally be informed by your interviewer when you can expect to hear from them. Not hearing back from an interview is rare, but it does happen (and is the closest to relationship ghosting as it gets, really). If this happens to you, hold your head high, don’t lose heart, and just move on. The right opportunity is somewhere else: go forth and seize it.

Unfortunately, in the era of mass emails and online applications, it is very easy for employers to ignore jobseekers at any stage, rather than phoning and informing each candidate of the outcome. If you are currently applying for a new job and are the victim of professional ghosting, remember: stand by your work, try not to feel disheartened, and remind yourself that if a company can’t find the time to reject applicants properly then it is likely they won’t put in the time training and supporting their staff, either.

Written by:

Alysia-Marie is a University of Nottingham English and Creative Writing graduate with a passion for writing anything and everything. Her life's ambition is to find and taste the best doughnut in the UK (and become a travel writer/publisher/Louis Theroux's PA).

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