mist representing candidate ghosting

Candidate ghosting: Why it happens and how to prevent it

It can happen after an interview or even on the first day of the new job.

While ghosting is usually reserved for the dating world, candidate ghosting is becoming more and more common in recruitment.

What is candidate ghosting?

Have you ever made a hire, only for that candidate to change their mind, unbeknownst to you, and no-show to their new job? This is an example of candidate ghosting.

Ghosting usually occurs after you’ve put some considerable effort into a candidate, and you are nearing the end of the recruit. It can happen after an interview, when you’ve made an offer, or even on the first day of the new job. (See: What to do when a candidate ghosts you)

It occurs out of the blue, at least for the recruiter or hiring manager, and usually happens at a point where you’ve had many conversations with the candidate. Despite the number of times you’ve spoken, the candidate had not expressed any barriers or reluctance to accept the job, and you’re left guessing why they’ve suddenly gone radio silent.

For employers, experiencing a candidate ghosting is a frustrating experience. Not only have they spent time and money on the recruit, but they will need to begin the process again.

Person researching candidate ghosting

Why does candidate ghosting occur?

  1. The job market

As the job market ebbs and flows, usually between candidate-rich and candidate-poor, so too will negotiating power. It’s a metaphorical tug-of-war between recruiters or employers, and candidates or employees.

In the current candidate-rich market, we’re likely to see more instances of candidate ghosting as the ‘ghosters’ have more negotiating power. In this market, it’s also likely candidates are entertaining several competing job offers so they’re more likely to be swayed by last-minute incentives.

  1. They’re not excited

If a candidate isn’t getting excited about the role or about joining the new company, they are more likely to fall off during the recruit. But, when you couple this feeling with poor communication from the hiring manager, a candidate will be more likely to ghost you rather than formally withdraw their application. After all, if the hiring manager hasn’t put in the effort to communicate and help build excitement, the candidate will feel less obligated to return the favour.

  1. Unaligned expectations

When a formal offer is sent out, only to be received by the candidate ghosting, this could signal the offer was not what they expected. For example, they could have expected a higher salary, more incentives, or fewer responsibilities in the job role.

  1. Change in circumstances

Sometimes candidate ghosting is not something you can predict or control.

Changes to circumstances, whether this is personal or professional, can lead to a candidate ghosting. An internal promotion or industry pivot may mean that the candidate has ceased their job search. Personal circumstances including a family emergency, move, or pregnancy can also mean they are no longer interested in changing jobs or taking the new offer.

Lady wondering why there was a candidate ghosting

What can you do to limit the instances of candidate ghosting?

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Drum up excitement for the role by constantly touching base with your candidate. This will help them to feel a part of the team and create a positive association with the company.

  1. Write a clear job description

If a candidate is applying to multiple similarly titled positions, you will want to be sure they understand the specifics of the job role in your company. List the day-to-day duties as well as the benefits that are standard in your company. This should provide enough context for a prospective candidate to judge whether their expectations align with the business.

  1. Ask how they are feeling

Every interview or phone call is an opportunity to ask your candidate if anything has changed. Candidates need to feel like they are being heard and that the hiring manager cares about their needs, wants and motivations. The more you ask, the less likely you will be ghosted, as they would have previously communicated a lack of interest or misalignment.


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