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Why HR 'Ghosting' Wastes Company Resources

A woman is sitting at a desk looking at her phone.

Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR.

I read your column recently on why people get "ghosted" after interviews. I have had my fair share of that, sometimes because I was clearly not the right candidate, other times because the role was already filled, and a few times because I did very badly in the interview. So your comments all made sense.

My biggest question is why does the HR field feel ghosting is an acceptable practice? Interviewing is a two-sided process. A potential employee will talk with peers and warn them about companies that ghost. I do, and so do my friends. It gives a company a bad reputation. Is there ever consideration that the candidate might not have been right today because someone else was stronger, but maybe the next time the company needs more employees, that candidate could be a prospect again? If they were ghosted, prospects aren't 
going to feel like putting in much effort the next time. So now the company has lost, too.

"Ghosting" causes inefficiency, which affects productivity and managers' success. As a profession, HR should rethink this practice.

Ghosting is not an industry-accepted norm. It could be attributed to laziness, but that's not my experience. More often, it's a result of a lack of awareness, time or follow-through; poor communication; and poor prioritization of potentially valuable resources.

Lots of people just don't realize that a good candidate who isn't right for this job could be perfect for a job just down the road. In a data-driven world, past job candidates can be a valuable resource, and they are a resource that shouldn't be squandered.

A Single Source of Truth

The hiring function is moving away from unconnected silos of information toward the concept of "a single source of truth." A single source of truth is essentially one massive central database holding all company data to be used as needed by whoever needs it. With a tweak to HR information management systems enabling them to talk to customer resource management (CRM) systems, job candidate information could be stored in the HR information system, as well—and notifications could be instantly delivered when a candidate is taken out of the running for a position. 

All candidates hope to be the one chosen, so lessening the trauma of waiting is always appreciated. I've had good luck using a letter that says, in part, "It was a pleasure to meet you on ____ for the position of ______. You were a prime candidate, but in the final analysis, we decided on someone we felt was just a little better qualified for this particular position." There are business benefits to this practice, as we'll touch on later.

Leaving candidates hanging shows a significant lack of professionalism. On the other hand, a friendly but business-focused rejection shows courtesy and caring, and reaching out to candidates with a personalized update on their status is an easily automated process. A rejection letter could finish this way: "With your permission, I would like to keep your resume in my personal database for another time when we might have the chance to work together." A manager should take this database as a valued resource from job to job. Of course, any letter sent to a rejected candidate needs to be checked by company lawyers first.

With the CRM software available today, customized and professionally worded rejection letters, for every stage of the selection process, are just a few short steps away. Such a CRM database could also enable hiring managers to enter every candidate with notations such as "poor references," "good potential" and others, as appropriate to each employer.

Giving out Good Vibrations

Both HR professionals and managers have roles that focus on getting work done through others, so knowing where to find good talent that thinks well of you is important.

I also recommend building personal databases of good potential prospects and building relationships with them.

For example, everyone in a database can automatically get personal notes of goodwill, such as birthday or holiday messages.

Those in "good candidate" folders should be told about opportunities as they open up; get your message out early to good people who likely know good people and who also think well of you. In talent acquisition, I might write, "Hi, Charlene. It's been a while! I don't know if this one's for you, but I wanted to share that we are currently looking for a …." Apply this thinking to a companywide HR/CRM communications system, and add a new layer to recruitment technology.

Leveraging data doesn't stop there. A single source of truth for all data about company contacts and activities means that everyone in an organization can, as appropriate, gain access to all information the company possesses. From this perspective, even those candidates unlikely to ever be suitable as an employee might be worth reaching out to for other purposes—customers, perhaps?

At the very least you'd be dramatically increasing the organization's sphere of influence, and today, isn't that what it all comes down to?

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book, The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions, is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today!



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