Global Mobility Professionals: Always Leave the Door Open for Rejected Candidates

Recruiters and HR managers, don’t ghost candidates—even if they ghost you.  

This trend that used to be a lamentable fixture of the dating experience has now seeped into both sides of the recruitment experience. Promising candidates who have made it to the last stage of the hiring process — and who already have a contract in their inbox — suddenly disappear, giving no rhyme or reason why. They don’t return calls to reach them. On the other hand, recruiters who pass on candidates who have made it to certain phases of the process just don’t inform them as to why they have been rejected. The candidates too are left baffled as to why, after a long and even rigorous screening, they were just ignored.

There are also consequences to both sides of the coin. The HR network is interconnected, with managers and recruiters catching up occasionally or networking in events. Candidates who have gathered a reputation for being no-show, will have their CVs sent to the bottom of the pile. Recruiters who frequently ghost their applicants also experience payback—and their companies are affected as well, perhaps more so than the errant candidates.

Grievance postings online can be fatal for a company

Companies that acquire a reputation for having a less than professional approach to candidates they approach can have their employer brand credibility damaged. Or, if the ignored candidate really feels offended, they can find themselves the objects of scathing reviews in Glassdoor or similar workforce-friendly sites.

Statistics from the Human Capital Institute (HCI) bear this out. About 72 percent of candidates who suffered some kind of negative experience during the recruitment process do post their grievances online, naming the company. As a consequence, 55 percent of active job seekers who read those reviews avoid applying to the companies that have been ghosting their candidates.

The number of recruiters who ghost their candidates is increasing. According to HCI, 60 percent of job seekers say that they never hear anything again from an employer after their last interview. Nobody reaches out to tell them the status or the progress of their application. 

They feel disrespected and devalued—making the tendency to post something online as an outlet for their resentments, and warning their fellow job seekers, even more pressing. Negative employer reviews can be both catharsis and an act of revenge for all those weeks of sleepless nights wondering if they still had a chance at the job opportunity.

Is silence less painful than ghosting?

Recruiters do give reasons why they don’t follow up with the rejected candidate. Among them is the desire not to hurt anybody. Silence might be less painful than a “Sorry, we chose another candidate” delivered personally, either F2F or virtually. Another reason is that HR managers simply have a lot on their plate to take time to send individual messages to dozens of rejected candidates.

And while these HR managers are by nature truly caring and compassionate, the new hybrid way of working can lessen the impact of human connection. An HR manager might find it easier to shrug off the discomfort of not following up a candidate that they had interacted with online. It would be more difficult to do the same to someone who they met in an actual office and shook hands with.

Regardless of these reasons, and no matter how understandable, HR managers should avoid ghosting their candidates at all cost. One bitter, resentful, yet accurate comment in Glassdoor about their employer brand can snowball into a bunch of vitriolic remarks from other candidates who had suffered the same experience. Soon enough, no candidate, especially the ones with the most potential, will apply at the ‘ghosting’ company who would then suffer a loss in manpower quality and quantity.

Solutions to ghosting experience

Here are some solutions to avoid the ghosting experience—and instead replace it with a more positive candidate-friendly one.

First, come up with a system of communicating with the candidates as early as possible. Automation is one way to do the trick. Create an email message that informs the rejected candidate that their application has been passed on; Hubspot has a free option, so there’s really no excuse for recruiters to ghost anyone. Do this within a week after the decision has been made, to avoid them waiting for weeks on end for any kind of feedback.

Second, use positive works that will leave the candidate encouraged. Avoid words like “rejection,” “inexperienced,” or “unqualified.”  Many of these candidates did reach the last stages of the recruitment process and are therefore qualified—they just weren’t the perfect fit for the company.  

Build bridges

Instead, commend them for taking time to go through the application process. Recognize their strengths. And then simply say that the company did select a candidate that better suited their culture and requirements. 

End with best wishes for their job search. Leave the door open for them to come back and re-apply again should there be another job opportunity that matches their credentials; that’s easy to say but it’s not too common.

The tone of the email should always be respectful and professional. Finally, follow the golden rule. Treat these candidates as you would want them to treat you. Nobody wants to be at the receiving end of an uncertain silence. 

Communication that can be positive, even if it delivers bad news, can keep lines open and build stronger bridges—which every recruiter needs especially in this time where talent is becoming more and more competitive.