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Ghosting in recruitment – Why do candidates disappear?

It’s not just around Halloween when candidates start ghosting. By ghosting, we don’t mean they go all ethereal, otherworldly or walking through walls. Instead, some candidates simply vanish…They disappear into thin air, just like a ghost.

What is ghosting in recruitment?


The term ghosting was initially used when talking about dating and, in particular, internet dating. You’ve connected with someone, you have exchanged messages and seem to have built up a real rapport, bouncing texts or emails back and forth. Then suddenly, nothing. Eerie silence. The potential partner vanishes, ceases all communication, never to be heard of again.


It’s the same concept in recruitment. You’ve found the perfect candidate, you’ve had friendly introductions, they’re keen on the role you’re recruiting for and want to be put forward. Then, without warning or reason, you suddenly can’t get through to them. They stop responding to calls, don’t reply to texts or WhatsApp messages, or worse, they don’t turn up for the interview you have already confirmed with both them and your client.


Although we just used to call these candidates ‘no-shows’, the term ghosting has become increasingly popular.

Why do candidates ghost?


The reason why candidates, or indeed anyone, ‘ghosts’ is subject to debate. Some of the popular opinions across the recruitment industry include:


  • A better offer – They’ve found a more appealing role so are focusing on that or they have already accepted this offer.
  • Counter offer – The candidate’s prospective employer discovers they are looking and makes a counter offer strong enough to keep them in post for the foreseeable future.
  • Change in circumstance – The candidate has a change in personal circumstances which means they’re no longer looking.
  • Tyre-kicking – The candidate is shopping around to see what’s on the market without any real intention of moving roles.
  • Recruiter fail – Some responsibility lies at your door. If your candidate experience is poor, you didn’t warm them up enough or you didn’t outline what you needed from them, then look closer to home for why the candidate has gone quiet.
  • Word of mouth – People talk, candidate’s talk and often believe what they hear or read on social media. If you or your client has a poor reputation, the candidate might bow out without a word.


Ultimately, none of the reasons above means that the candidate can’t tell you why they are no longer looking. You just want to know what the deal is.


Ghosting is unbelievably frustrating. In relationship terms, it’s sometimes viewed as a form of emotional abuse when one party withdraws all communication and connection.


In recruitment, it’s not as dramatic. However, when your perfect candidate vanishes it can leave you chasing your tail or banging your head against the desk for so long, you feel like a zombie.

Ghost-busting in recruitment


To help ensure your candidate sourcing and placement process stays alive and well, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself from ghosting.


Accept that it is going to happen – There will always be no-shows or candidates that go off-radar. Some recruiters have mimicked airlines in that they overbook to compensate for empty seats. If you can, line up more candidates or have back-ups in mind.


Have a variety of contact details – It sounds obvious but having a range of ways to contact your candidates is useful. Look out for those 2 blue ticks on WhatsApp if you use it, to show your message has been read.


Confirm what you’re looking for – (And why).


Talk to them about burning bridges – Be up front to candidates that disappear. Just like candidates remember bad experiences, so do recruiters. Remind your candidate that ghosting will give them a bad reputation and could negatively impact future opportunities.


Improve your candidate process – If your candidate experience is poor or you’re no different to other recruiters then candidates are less inclined to be loyal to you. Improve your process by adding candidate testing, show the individual what they’re good at, offer a psychometric profile so they can increase self-awareness. Or you could think about loyalty schemes to keep candidates affiliated with you or offer workshops or training on interview skills.


In a recruitment space with decreasing candidate numbers, think about which tricks and treats you can use to protect yourself.






ISV.Online is the leading supplier of skills testing software and services to the UK Recruitment Industry.  Used by 9 of the top 10 UK agencies, by number of offices, and 7 of the top 10, by revenue, ISV.Online offers candidate skills assessment and evaluation software and online training tools, allowing agencies and in-house HR/recruitment teams to validate the skills of potential candidates and existing employees across a wide range of areas.


"ISV offers us a great capacity to conduct online skills & psychometric assessments" for our #candidates, and offers a great variety of tests in various categories." #recruitment #psychometricassessments #skillstesting


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