How to avoid being ghosted in the job-hunting process

Have you ever applied for your dream job, landed an interview, and then weeks have gone by, and … nothing? 

You’re not alone. More than 1.3 million Australians changed jobs in the year to February 2023, meaning that being ‘ghosted’ by a potential employer is more common thank you think. 

The concept of being ghosted is common in the dating world. It refers to abruptly cutting off contact with someone without giving them any warning or explanation for doing so.

With modern technology designed the way it is, ghosting someone can be as simple as blocking their number and blocking them from accessing your socials. 

‘Ghosting’ in the work world occurs when a job seeker submits a job application or attends an interview with a potential employer, but doesn’t hear back at all regarding the outcome. And it can be a real dent to your confidence.

Anonymous company review site Glassdoor’s lead economist Daniel Zhao told Fortune earlier this year that ghosting has always been part of the job-search process, but now we have terminology to describe it. 

But the problem is twice as bad as it was a few years ago, with reviews mentioning ghosting on the site more than doubling since before the pandemic began.  

‘Ghosting’ is common

Recent data from employment expert Seek reveals that two-thirds (66 per cent) of Australians have had a potential employer ‘ghost’ – or not respond to them – during the job-hunting process. 

Of those job hunters that have not been responded to, 29 per cent had been ghosted in their most recent job hunt, highlighting the prevalence of the experience. 

Half of those who haven’t received a response admit they would be unlikely to reapply for a role at the same organisation because of the experience. 

But Seek career coach Leah Lambert urged job hunters not to take personally the experience of being ghosted, or to become disheartened. 

“Don’t assume that a lack of response is a poor reflection of your experience, skills or your performance in a job interview. In fact, there are a variety of reasons an employer may not get back to every job applicant. These include a lack of time, or not having the systems in place to respond to all applicants,” Lambert said.

“Or they could be waiting for an internal update on the recruitment process and don’t have any news to share at that time.” 

Rules of engagement 

It can be frustrating to be ignored in this way when you’re keen on a job, but it’s important to remain professional and keep all communication simple and polite. 

“You also shouldn’t be afraid to follow up and ask for feedback. While there may have been a range of reasons your application wasn’t successful, getting feedback may help you to move forward and tailor your approach for future job applications,” Lambert said.

But don’t follow up too soon. Seek’s research shows 72 per cent of hirers say between a few days to a week is an appropriate time to respond to job seekers, which can guide your follow up. 

Beforehand, check the job ad again to see if it includes information on when you should expect to hear back.

“If you still haven’t heard back after this time frame, I’d suggest following up via email to see if the person hiring needs further information, and to find out the next stage of the process.” 

Clarify next steps

There are ways you can take charge of the timelines by asking about next steps.

“If you’ve landed an interview, be sure to ask during the interview when you can expect to hear back about the role and the next stages,” Lambert said. 

“Directly after the interview, I’d also recommend sending a short and sweet email to confirm your interest and thank the interviewers for their time.” 

If a week has lapsed since the interview and you’re still waiting for a response, you can send a quick check-in email to see if there’s any additional information you can provide and to get an understanding of the next steps, Lambert says. 

Competing jobs site Indeed also recommends on its site to consider contacting another individual in the organisation if you haven’t heard from your point of contact. 

“This might mean reaching out to another individual who interviewed you, for example, or an internal connection you already have. This might be a useful way of gaining information about the hiring process in a tactful way,” the site recommends.

Lambert says that while being ghosted on your job application is largely out of your control, there are ways you can strengthen your application with a potential employer. 

These include: 

  • Ensure your experience, skills and training are up to date in your resume and presented in a detailed manner
  • Provide a well-written cover letter that gives a snapshot of your skills, qualifications and experience and how they relate to the job description
  • If you land a job interview, be on time and well prepared. Do your research and show your knowledge of the company’s size and structure, their values and the products or services they offer. This shows that you’re eager about the job and have put in effort to demonstrate your interest. 
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