Candidate Ghosting and Job Seeker Confidence

Candidate ghosting—that is, the practice of candidates cutting off communications with a potential employer at any stage in the recruiting process—peaked in May, according to self-reported behavior in the ZipRecruiter monthly Job Seeker Confidence survey. Job seekers were emboldened in a bustling job market full of opportunities. 

Now, as job optimism about the future labor market outlook wanes, the share of job seekers who say they have ghosted a potential employer is rapidly falling. The survey provides insight into who ghosts employers, when, and why. 

Here are five highlights from our findings:

  1. Ghosting is more prevalent when job seeker optimism is high. Job seekers’ expectations regarding the future availability of jobs is the key factor driving ghosting. When candidates think there will be many more fish in the sea, they take less care to preserve their relationships with each potential employer. In July, as the share of job seekers who believe there will be fewer jobs available 6 months from now rose by 5.4 percentage points, the share of job seekers who said they had ghosted an employer in their most recent search fell by 3.4 percentage points.
  1. Ghosting is more common among first-time job seekers. 31% of first-time job seekers say they have ghosted an employer during their current search, whereas only 12% of experienced professionals say so. First-timers seem to have fewer qualms about burning bridges with potential employers. They may not yet appreciate the long-term value of preserving professional relationships and expanding their networks. 
  1. More aggressive job seekers are more likely to ghost potential employers. There are stark differences between candidates who ghost and those who don’t. 
  • Ghosters apply to more jobs. 47% of ghosters said they had applied to more than 5 jobs in the prior month, compared with only 31% of non-ghosters.
  • Ghosters have more job interviews. On average, ghosters say they have participated in 10 interviews during their current search—vs. six for non-ghosters.
  • Ghosters are emboldened by having more offers. 62% of ghosters say they have already secured at least one job offer, vs. only 45% of non-ghosters.

In other words, ghosting may largely be the result of busy job seekers struggling to juggle multiple job offers and interview opportunities at once. 

  1. People who have themselves been ghosted by employers are more likely to ghost employers. 47% of ghosters say they themselves have been ghosted by a potential employer, vs. only 31% of non-ghosters.
  1. Ghosting happens in both blue- and white-collar jobs, and across all industries. The common perception that ghosting is more common among hourly workers with little education is false. 34% of ghosters say they are pursuing salaried jobs, vs. only 25% of non-ghosters. 

There are four things that businesses can do to minimize the number of candidates ghosting them:

  1. Recruit proactively. Online job posting platforms give employers the opportunity to reach out to qualified candidates to apply for job openings. The overwhelming majority of candidates who were contacted by employers (77%) say they responded to that outreach. Generally, outbound recruiting is a highly effective way to get high quality candidates and fill open positions. According to a ZipRecruiter’s survey of more than 2,000 hires, conducted in early 2022, 37% of workers hired in the prior 6 months said they had been recruited to their positions.
  1. Create a clear communication channel with candidates, keep them posted with their job application status and make the hiring process more transparent and predictable. Candidates are more likely to ghost an employer if they do not hear back from the employer. 15% of job seekers complain about hiring timelines not being clear. Making the hiring steps predictable helps to keep the candidates engaged throughout the process.
  1. Make the hiring process fast and efficient. Longer-than-expected hiring processes can be anxiety-inducing for candidates. Hiring managers should streamline hiring processes and limit the number of interview rounds. Given that 47% of job seekers surveyed by ZipRecruiter say they have already secured at least one job offer, the longer an employer takes to make a decision, the more likely they are to lose the candidate to another employer.
  2. Personalize your hiring process and build professional talent acquisition teams. When your talent acquisition team members are friendly and upbeat, they foster a positive candidate experience and increase candidate engagement. 

Written by

Sinem Buber is an economist at ZipRecruiter with a focus on US labor market insights and trends. Previously, she worked at ADP Research Institute where she published the ADP National Employment Report. She holds a PhD in Economics from The Graduate Center, CUNY.

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