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  • Writer's pictureSteph

Overcoming job search ghosting

Updated: Jun 7

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What's with all the ghosting?

If you've been job searching for even a short time, you've had the experience of submitting an application and not hearing anything except receiving the auto-generated confirmation email upon applying. We take that as par for the course (not that we like it!). It's far more difficult to go through interview rounds when suddenly communication stops. This is the version of ghosting we'll chat about today.

Here are some strategies to understand* what's happening and how to bounce back.

*Let me just say, I do not understand nor condone this inconsiderate business practice. I'll share a few common reasons why it occurs, so we're all informed. From there, we can move from frustration to empowerment.

How it happens

We know that multiple people are being considered for any given job opening. A typical recruiter is usually facilitating numerous searches for different jobs. It is possible that due to time constraints, they don't let candidates know that they're no longer in the running. We make the deduction for ourselves they selected someone else after not hearing anything; understandably, it feels incomplete to not receive the official word, a thank you for our time, or even feedback.

Other times, there are delays: positions get put on hold, people get sick, go out of town, or other extenuating circumstances prevent notifying applicants of the status of their candidacy. I recommend keeping busy when interviewing by applying to other jobs, doing self-care activities, and maintaining other parts of your life, relationships, and hobbies, to prevent over-focusing on any one job possibility.

Here are a few examples of delays:

  • Many positions are taking longer to hire, so you may still be being considered, and the process is just slow-moving. You might still be in the running. Hang tight and think positive.

  • Another reason you may not be hearing back is they are continuing the process with other candidates; however, if any candidates were to withdraw it's common to reach back out to other applicants.

  • Or, they won't officially notify other candidates who have been interviewed (and are not moving forward) until the process is fully complete.

  • Also, if a different candidate receives an offer and declines, they may extend the offer to you.

If your head is swimming, it's because there are a lot of reasons why we don't hear back. In a perfect world, we would be informed every step of the way. Instead, we can only focus on positive self-talk and do our best not to internalize the stress. (More on self-care in a minute.)

Another reason ghosting happens is simply a lack of courtesy. Some recruiters or hiring managers may even feel that it is kinder just to let the person figure it out on their own rather than to receive an official rejection. To that end, some people don't like to give bad news, put it off, and eventually, so much time goes by that it becomes a moot point or would reopen a wound to formally let the person know they didn't get the job.

As mentioned, I prefer that candidates receive respectful and timely notice of their candidacy even if the news is not in their favor. With the high number of interview rounds, amount of time devoted to applying, and taking off time from work (and arranging childcare) to compete for job openings with someone's financial livelihood on the line, the best practice is to notify candidates either way, promptly, and with kindness.

What you can do

Let's turn it back to you.

Clients often ask me about when and how to follow up. I feel one follow-up is sufficient and demonstrates interest. For example, if the recruiter said they would be back in touch by a certain day, and you don't hear anything, I suggest waiting a few days after that anticipated touchpoint and then sending a brief email thanking them again for their time and emphasizing your high interest in the role. If you don't hear back after that, let it go and move on to your next potential opportunity.

I know this is so much easier said than done. I understand and empathize. It can be difficult to resist the urge to continue to follow up. Trust me; your time, soul, and mental health are served better by putting your energy towards other opportunities.

If you were a finalist for the position, you could reach out by phone if you have a good relationship with the recruiter and don't hear back within a few weeks to gently inquire about where the decision-making process is at and express your high interest in the role; keep it brief, casual, and polite. Personally, I usually recommend just sticking to email. If this one doesn't work out there are other places that definitely will. Keep your head up.

Again, I take your side here; I cannot emphasize enough how frustrating it is to not hear back especially after investing time and emotional energy into a multi-round interview process. To not notify active candidates is a reflection of company values; it is not personal to you. If they are neglecting to notify you, it's probably happening to others.

Grieving the loss of a dream

Ghosting is unprofessional and hurtful. With so many people out of work right now and experiencing extended unemployment, it almost feels unethical to not simply give a person closure, thank them for their time, and wish them good luck in their search. It can be doubly painful because you also really wanted the job. Take time to attend to feelings of loss, sadness, and maybe even some fear mixed in. What will happen now, you may wonder. Cultivate faith that you will find a great job opportunity or promotion.

Allow yourself to feel your emotions and surround yourself with support through a job search coach, friends, family, a partner, mentor, or resources like a therapist, spiritual guide, or another wellness asset. Job searching is a complex, very personal goal, and it's completely understandable to feel upset, disappointed, and sad when things don't work out. Lean on the people around you so you can keep your sense of self-worth intact. This is crucial for successful job searching and our health.

Self-care and self-compassion

Intellectually, we know that we'll apply to more jobs than offers we'll receive. Still, the nature of the process plus nonresponsiveness can derail our search and personal energy if we're not careful. It's a good idea to build ongoing self-care into your job search season. Starting today or this weekend, you can do nice things for yourself that restore your energy, support your nervous system, and reinvigorate your sense of purpose.

  • Enjoy a relaxing walk or another form of movement

  • Pour yourself a hot cup of tea

  • Take a hot bath or shower

  • Try yoga, tai chi, or qigong

  • Journal

  • Call or text a friend or loved one to feel connected

  • Explore mindfulness through a guided meditation or sit quietly for a few minutes

  • Sleep!

  • Take the day off or a few days off from job searching to restore energy

  • Play with your pet or tend to a favorite plant

  • Spend time being creative through art, knitting, singing, or something else you love

  • What else do you enjoy?

Most importantly, show yourself tons of self-compassion. You're attempting to create a new life for yourself, increase your daily fulfillment, and improve your finances. These are extraordinary goals - give yourself credit for doing everything you can within your control. If you made it to the interview round, congratulate yourself. You were probably one of only a handful of people who made it this far in a sea of hundreds or even thousands of applicants. You're amazing!

Channel resilience and kindness

You deserve the job of your dreams and a life you love. No one likes to be ghosted. It's not you, it's them. Stay strong and know that you will be hired by people who value your time, natural gifts, and treat people respectfully.

Best of all, someday, when you're the one doing the hiring, you can remember this time and go out of your way to make the process easier for others.

Stay strong.

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