The Cause & Effect of Candidate Ghosting

07.30.2018 / Zachery Tweddell

Director, Marketing & Innovation

The cause and effect of candidate ghosting

A new trend in the recruitment industry is that candidates are starting to “ghost” potential employers. Now, what exactly is “ghosting” and how does it apply to recruitment? By definition, ghosting is the practice of suddenly ending all contact with a person without explanation, especially in a romantic relationship.

Makes sense in the context of romantic/personal relationships (regardless of how you feel about the practice), but how has this entered the realm of candidate or even employee behavior? The answer is complicated and multi-factored. There are many phases in the recruitment life-cycle, and ghosting is occurring in all of them.

Here are some brief examples:

– A candidate may agree to take an interview and never show up
– They may accept a job and not show up for their first day of work
– Employees may even leave their jobs without any formal notice or resignation

How does ghosting affect an employer’s Cost-Per-Hire?


Meredith Jones, an Indianapolis-based director of human resources for a national restaurant operator, now overbooks interviews, knowing up to 50 percent of candidates for entry-level roles likely won’t show up. With entry-level positions in the restaurant industry suffering from high turnover, the financial ramifications of needing to double the number of qualified applicants per role, knowing half won’t show up, could be crippling for an organization.

Let’s say a national restaurant chain, similar to the one previously mentioned, needs to hire 500 entry-level servers in small markets, nationally.

If the chain currently hires one in every ten applicants, then applying Ms. Jones’ strategy would mean they now hire one in every twenty. Multiply that number by the required number of hires, and the store now needs 10,000 applicants, not 5,000.

Now, let’s associate a cost with the number of applicants. If the restaurant chain pays an average of $10 per completed application for an entry-level server and now needs 10,000 applications, then its advertising cost alone is now $100,000, as opposed to $50,000 – a 100% increase.

Do that math for each role that you hire for, and ghosting is more impactful than you might have initially realized.

Understanding the impact of ghosting is great, but why does it happen and how do we stop it?


According to recruiters and hiring managers, a tight job market, and a sustained labor shortage, as well as multiple opportunities, might have contributed to the trend. That said, many think the explanation for ghosting, as opposed to simply rejecting a job or resigning, is payback for years of recruiters ghosting candidates.

Peter Cappelli, a management Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, shares this view and was quoted as saying “I think they learned it from the employers. Employers were notorious for never getting back to people, and only letting them know what was going on if it turned out they wanted them to go to the next step.”

So, if Mr. Cappelli and many others do have a point, what can employers do to prevent themselves from being continuously ghosted?

There are a bunch, but they typically tie back to two significant factors: how you communicate with candidates/employees and the speed or efficiency of your hiring process.

Here are our suggestions:

Implement the platinum rule.

As we introduce younger generations into our workforce, we must understand that it’s no longer good enough to treat and communicate with people in the way that YOU like. You have to treat them the way that THEY like and expect. It’s increasingly important to learn and understand candidates and employees on a personal level in order to truly engage them. How do you do that? It starts by conducting research into understanding the communication and career preferences of candidates in your desired talent segments. From there you can more accurately define your value proposition to both candidates and existing employees. For more information on EVP development, check out an article written by our VP of Employer Brand Insights, Devin DaRif.

Speed up the process.

Many times, candidates will ghost you simply because you take too long to hire them. In a job market where the power lies with the candidate, it’s time to take a look at your recruitment funnel. If your hiring process takes more than 10 days, you risk losing talent. 10 days may seem like an impossible dream, but it doesn’t have to be. Take a look at some quick and easy ways you can speed up the process.

For more information on how to implement pieces of our suggested remedy, please reach out!