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Updated Oct 06, 2023

Boo! The Scary Reality of Employee Ghosting

Job seekers and employees are ghosting employers more than ever. Learn how to stop this trick from happening to you.

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Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
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Have you ever experienced the job-hunting nightmare of submitting an employment application, getting called for an interview that seems to go well and then never hearing from the employer again? If you answered yes, you’re in good company. A recent Greenhouse survey shows more than 75% of job seekers have been ghosted after an interview.

While businesses have committed their fair share of ghosting job applicants, the tables are now turning, with the potential employees themselves pulling off the disappearing act. In 2021, Indeed found that 28% of job seekers have ghosted an employer, up from only 18% in 2019. With a hot labor market favoring workers, applicants are being more selective when it comes to their employment, with many of them ghosting current and potential employers in the process.

What is employee ghosting?

Urban Dictionary defines ghosting as “the shutdown/ceasing of communication with someone without notice.” Although the term typically refers to cutting off communication in a personal or romantic relationship, the concept has wormed its way into the business realm. Ghosting an employer happens when a job seeker or employee suddenly cuts off communication with the organization without any explanation or warning. They simply stop engaging with their company and go MIA.

In the recruitment process, ghosting commonly takes place after initial digital communication or a phone screening, during or after a series of job interviews, and even sometimes after the candidate receives or accepts a job offer. Just because a candidate signs your offer letter doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. A Visier survey found that a rising number of employees are ghosting companies during the late stages of hiring and onboarding, with 31% of people admitting they would even ghost an employer after their first day on the job. Poof – talent vanished.

Why are job seekers and employees ghosting employers?

So, we know some job seekers and employees are pulling fast ones on employers nowadays, but the question is why. It largely comes down to leverage and opportunity, but let’s dive a little deeper. Visier uncovered the top five reasons why job seekers and new employees ghost their potential or current employers.

  1. The salary is too low (according to 29% of survey respondents).
  2. They received another job offer that was more attractive (28%).
  3. The job description was inaccurate (27%).
  4. The company has a poor reputation or negative online reviews (26%).
  5. They disliked the perceived company culture (22%).

These may be the underlying reasons for quitting, but why are job seekers and employees disappearing into thin air instead of giving employers the courtesy of a breakup email? There are a few possible explanations for employee ghosting and the silent treatment, such as job seekers being uncomfortable telling the employer they changed their mind. Others may just not know what to do in such a predicament, and still more may place the blame on the company if they can’t get ahold of human resources. This trend also seems to be rising as younger generations become a more substantial part of the working world – you can draw your own conclusion there. [Read related article: Managing Tips for a Multigenerational Workforce: From Baby Boomers to Gen Z ]

How can you avoid being ghosted by job seekers and employees?  

Recruiting and onboarding a new employee is expensive. One bad hire can cost your business 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings or more. To make sure you don’t get ghosted, spend your time and efforts on recruiting the right people and providing enticing opportunities to make them stay. Here are seven ways to do that.

1. Maintain a positive business reputation.

Your brand and company reputation play an important role in the success of your organization. Customers, clients, employees and job seekers all pay attention to what other people say about you, so you need to do your best to ensure it’s all good things. As job seekers work their way through your recruitment process, they are bound to read some online reviews about the business. Build a positive online reputation, respond to online reviews and commit to remedying any of your organization’s shortcomings. People want to work for good companies that do good things.

TipBottom line
If your brand needs some improvement, follow these strategies to strengthen your company's reputation.

2. Build an undeniable company culture with great leaders.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “People leave managers, not companies.” GoodHire found that 82% of workers would potentially quit their job because of a bad manager. Keep that in mind when you’re trying to attract and retain talent. Create a great company culture that is diverse, equitable and inclusive, with supervisors who share your organization’s values. 

Train your managers to be great leaders who foster a positive work environment, and your current employees will soon become advocates for your organization. That can be enough to stop a potential new hire from pulling a Harry Houdini. Don’t be afraid to boast about how great your company culture is online as well. This will encourage talented job seekers to want to work for you instead of the competition.

3. Write clear and accurate job descriptions.

Clear job descriptions may seem like a no-brainer, but when job seekers are ghosting employers because the role isn’t what they were told it would be, there is obviously some misalignment happening. In all listings, include essential elements like the company description, job title, roles and responsibilities, necessary qualifications, perks and benefits, compensation, and an unmissable call to action.

Write the job posting in a way that not only is easy to read, but also gives the applicant a feel for your company culture. This can help reduce the number of applicants who eventually ghost because the job or business wasn’t what they were expecting.

4. Offer competitive salaries and employee benefits.

This is one of the key ingredients to attracting and retaining top talent, especially in today’s job market, where workers have the upper hand. Do a little competitor analysis to see what the average compensation is for each open role at companies like yours. Offer competitive employee compensation, including salary, equity and bonuses, as well as employee benefits like affordable health insurance, mental health support, flexible work arrangements, professional development opportunities and financial services. A candidate is less likely to ghost you if the package you’re offering is highly valuable.

5. Recruit quickly and efficiently.

Sure, this may be easier said than done, but it’s important that your recruitment process is quick and efficient. If you’ve spotted a highly skilled job seeker, there’s a good chance other companies have too, and the candidate won’t stay on the market for long. Move them through your recruitment process by responding quickly and scheduling phone screenings and interviews as soon as possible. Understandably, you will still want to thoroughly vet the applicant, but try to avoid those dreaded hiring processes that take months on end. Otherwise, you just might find your top candidate disappearing along the way.

FYIDid you know
Give each applicant a clear outline of your hiring process with anticipated time frames. This will keep them informed so they know what to expect from you as your talks continue.

6. Build personal connections ASAP.

People tend to gravitate toward people and organizations with which they feel a shared personal connection. If you’re excited about a candidate or new employee, make it known. Try to build an authentic relationship with them as early on as possible. People are more likely to stick around if they feel wanted, connected and included. Some ways you can build connections with new hires are by creating a welcoming committee, assigning peer mentors and implementing an effective onboarding process.

7. Don’t ghost candidates.

Ghosting has been an unfortunate part of the recruitment experience for a long time, but it used to be that employers were the primary culprits. Now that you know how awful it is to be on the other end, that’s all the more reason to stop engaging in ghosting yourself. We know it can be tough to respond to every candidate throughout the recruitment process, but it’s always a good idea to reply, even if it’s simply to say, “We’re pursuing other applicants.” This helps stop the cycle of ghosting, and it’s a good way to earn goodwill and a positive reputation for communication. If you can’t engage with everyone personally, there are plenty of applicant tracking systems and other HR technology solutions that can help automate the process. [See our picks for the best HR software.]

What should you do when an employee ghosts you? 

Ghosting is rude and it hurts. It’s hard not to take it personally when someone seems interested in you and then suddenly disappears, but perhaps it’s for the best. If a candidate ghosts you, they’re displaying traits you probably don’t want in a team member anyway. Cut ties and move on. Continue with your recruitment process so you can find the best employees for your organization.

If you notice that a significant number of potential and new employees are leaving you high and dry, it may be time to reassess your recruitment strategy and company culture. The tips above can be used to enhance your organization’s appeal and employee retention.

author image
Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
Skye Schooley is a dedicated business professional who is especially passionate about human resources and digital marketing. For more than a decade, she has helped clients navigate the employee recruitment and customer acquisition processes, ensuring small business owners have the knowledge they need to succeed and grow their companies. In recent years, Schooley has enjoyed evaluating and comparing HR software and other human resources solutions to help businesses find the tools and services that best suit their needs. With a degree in business communications, she excels at simplifying complicated subjects and interviewing business vendors and entrepreneurs to gain new insights. Her guidance spans various formats, including newsletters, long-form videos and YouTube Shorts, reflecting her commitment to providing valuable expertise in accessible ways.
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