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Job Seekers of Color Are Being 'Ghosted' at Alarmingly High Rates

A businessman shakes hands with a woman in an office.

​Despite a tight labor market in the U.S., a new report shows that some employers are not using best practices in hiring applicants of color.

A recent survey of about 1,200 employees by Greenhouse, a New York City-based software company, revealed that 67 percent of job seekers have been "ghosted" after an interview—never hearing from the employer again.

The data showed that a significantly higher percentage of candidates from historically underrepresented groups (78 percent) than white candidates (62 percent) reported having been ghosted. "Historically underrepresented" was defined as having an Arab, Asian, Black, Hispanic, Latino or multiracial background.

"The finding that historically underrepresented candidates face a higher chance of being ghosted in the interview process is damning and points to the negative experiences of racism that [these groups] face," said Donald Knight, chief people officer at Greenhouse.

Octavia Goredema, a career coach and founder of consulting firm Twenty Ten Agency in Covina, Calif., said the survey findings mirror the feedback she's heard during coaching sessions with professionals from underrepresented groups who are job seeking right now.

"More times than I can count, I've heard stories of [these] candidates moving through the recruitment process, having multiple interviews, and never hearing from the hiring manager ever again," she said. "No closure. No feedback. No follow-up."

Why Ghosting Is a Bad Business Practice

Goredema explained that few workers of color are in the corporate pipeline. They often have to psych themselves up just to apply for a role that might already feel like it's out of reach.

"I always remind the professionals I coach to be confident, because if you've been called to interview, you can do the job," she said. "That means that employers should be treating candidates who are called to interview with respect."

Goredema denounced ghosting as an unacceptable practice that reveals a lot about that company's culture.

"It's a basic professional courtesy to let someone know the status of their application," she said. "In the long run, it's best to avoid organizations that think ghosting is acceptable."

The job application and interview processes aren't easy, Goredema noted. Many candidates spend time:

  • Creating a cover letter.
  • Refreshing their resume.
  • Completing online assessments.
  • Preparing for multiple phone or in-person interviews.

It's mentally taxing for candidates to wonder if they're still being considered for a role, only for them to slowly realize that they've been completely disregarded, Goredema said.

"Right now, for so many BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color] job seekers, the stakes are high, and opportunities already feel scarce," she noted.

Employers Risk Damage to Brand

Ghosting can also be bad for business. A 2021 survey by scheduling platform Cronofy found that 77 percent of senior-level applicants said a bad recruitment experience influences their perception of a prospective employer, and 64 percent said they would be less likely to recommend the company to others.

"Ultimately, how an employer treats candidates in the hiring process will leave a lasting impression on their branding," Knight said.

In the Greenhouse survey, more than 60 percent of respondents indicated that receiving feedback during the interview process—even if they did not receive a job offer—would make them more inclined to apply for other jobs at that company.

"Candidates talk," Goredema said. "And building a reputation for unprofessionalism won't do your recruitment cycle any favors in the long run."

The Need to Become a 'People-First' Company

Previous Greenhouse research has shown that people of color routinely face discrimination in the interview process:

  • Nearly 43 percent of candidates have had their names mispronounced in a job interview—an issue foreign-born individuals routinely experience.
  • Nearly one-third of candidates have faced discriminatory questions in the interview process.
  • Black interviewees were 25 percent more likely than white interviewees to receive discriminatory questions.

"Leaders must address racial equity in the workplace head-on, and that starts in the hiring process," Knight said. "Companies need to be more structured, thoughtful and deliberate about hiring to reduce bias and discrimination."

He explained that employers should strive to become "people-first" companies, which look at ways to be allies and "create oxygen in the room for all people."

People-first businesses work to:

  • Drive meaningful connections.
  • Inject a human aspect into policies.
  • Eliminate bias.
  • Increase transparency.

Ghosting is the antithesis of a people-first company, Knight said, while noting that the prevalence of ghosting against people of color indicates that unconscious bias is pervasive and that employers should take action to stop it.

"It also shows that, even in an era where companies have begun to focus on diversifying their top-of-funnel pipeline, they still aren't considering the influence that the interview process and overall candidate experience has on whether prospective employees from underrepresented groups want to spend their future days in that environment," Knight said. "We have to be intentional in our actions and find ways to create a hiring process that eliminates discriminatory practices systematically."


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