Ask HR: Why Do Companies ‘Ghost’ Job Applicants?

By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP November 6, 2020
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Ask HR: Why Do Companies ‘Ghost’ Job Applicants?

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today. The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor's answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here.

 

Question: Last month, I had what I thought was a great interview with a company I'm interested in. I followed up, sent thank-you notes—and never heard back. Do companies often "ghost" job candidates? How can I make sure this doesn't happen again? —Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I'm sorry you never heard back. However, I want to applaud you for bringing your best self forward and following up. Never underestimate the power of a genuine thank-you note!

This year, business has been anything but usual. For many companies, everything from operations down to the hiring process has been disrupted. I've seen firsthand how HR staff and hiring managers are working nonstop to help their business navigate a changing workplace—it's a lot!

This might not be the answer you were hoping for, but your situation is not uncommon. Qualified job candidates can go through many steps of the application process only to be left without closure from the company. Is this a best practice? No. But does it happen from time to time? Yes.

That said, there are a few reasons you might have been "ghosted." First, it's possible the company simply doesn't have the time or resources to respond to every candidate who applies.

Second, there are many moving parts when it comes to recruiting—trust me, I know. Given the current climate, business circumstances may have changed, causing the company to freeze hiring for this specific position (or hiring in general) until the economy stabilizes a bit more. I wouldn't count your application out just yet.

You did the right thing by expressing your gratitude for the interviewers' time and consideration. From what you've told me, it also sounds like you made a good impression during your interview, and the company may keep your resume on file for future opportunities.

Ultimately, though, don't wait for a response if you need a job now. Keep your head up and your eyes peeled, and I hope you will find the right role and company soon.

 

Question: I was recently offered a promotion. It's more money, but also a lot more responsibility. I'm currently juggling an already heavy workload as well as supervising my children who are doing virtual learning. I want this promotion, but I don't think I have the personal and professional bandwidth to do it well right now. Can I defer my promotion, or will it hurt my chances of getting promoted in the future? —Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: First, congratulations on your promotion offer! I know your apprehension about it is a drag right now, but it truly is a success worth celebrating: Your manager clearly values your talent, work ethic and personality.

In the roughly seven months since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the workplace, many of us have been stuck juggling personal and professional commitments and obligations. I understand your reservations about taking on more when you already have so much on your plate. These situations that initially felt temporary are, increasingly, feeling a bit more eternal.

That said, these struggles will pass, so I would encourage you to refrain from passing on this opportunity without first carefully weighing your options. There's no guarantee there will be another promotion offer in the future.

While I don't know the specifics of your situation, many managers are increasingly sensitive to the mix of personal and professional strains weighing on their direct reports. Before making your decision, speak up and start a transparent conversation with your boss. You may be able to brainstorm ideas and solutions to make this promotion work for you and the company.

When you do, try not to let your worries overwhelm the tone and mood of the conversation. Lead with and emphasize your enthusiasm and gratitude for the offer, then weave in the practical concerns and limitations on your mind. Keep things bright and energetic to show you really want this to work, not only for yourself but to support your manager and the organization, too.

If flexible scheduling isn't an option, you can respectfully negotiate job details with your manager. This could include changing the official start date or slowly transitioning into your new position.

Of course, the only way you'll really know what's possible is to have a conversation with your manager. Congrats, again—and good luck!

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