Long Reads

Ghosted after a job interview? Try this expert advice on what to do next

Have you been ghosted by a potential employer after applying for a new job? You are not alone. Here, Stylist meets women who were ghosted after interviews and applications, and gets advice on how to handle the rejection.

A week had passed since the job interview and, having not heard anything, heightened anxiety levels had me clutching at all kinds of excuses. 

‘Maybe it’s my phone signal’, I wondered, followed closely by ‘what if there’s something wrong with my email?’ After all, the interviewer herself had assured me I’d hear by the end of the week and I trusted her. I hadn’t been rude or performed horribly.

Days went by and still, I held out hope, believing surely that even if it was a ‘no’, they’d let me know. Checking my phone became unhealthily habitual – no missed calls, no new emails. I followed up, but that sinking feeling grew more acute with each moment of radio silence. Finally it became apparent that not only had I not got the job, they hadn’t even bothered to tell me. Yep – I’d been ghosted.

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I’d just moved out of home, so finding a job was my top priority. The hours I’d spent sprucing up my CV, perfecting the art of a cover letter and filling out unnecessarily complex application forms finally paid off when the recruiter for a role I really wanted got in touch and invited me to complete an assignment.

writing a cv
Job hunting can be a time consuming task.

I jumped at the chance and was promptly invited to the next step, which was a Skype interview. The most awkward part was finding a professional-looking webcam angle that didn’t feature the dressing gown hung up on my bedroom door. Over the session I built up a good rapport with the interviewer, and I was then invited to attend an in-person interview at the company offices, too.

Having prepped heavily for this, I travelled across the city, nervous, but armed with knowledge (and my own laptop that I’d been asked to bring for yet another writing test to complete during the interview). Eventually, the long application process was over – let the waiting game commence. And wait, I did…

Ghosting is a relatively new term we typically associate with online dating culture to describe the situation when the person you’re getting to know suddenly disappears, never to be heard from again. Much like in dating, ghosting in the recruitment world involves candidates being left hanging by hiring managers after the application process. The terminology may be new but the phenomenon of being ghosted by employers is unfortunately all too familiar and can happen to any of us, regardless of where we are in our careers.

“After a two-month process of a phone interview, followed by a written test and a coffee meeting, I turned up to a panel interview,” writer Emma, 26, tells Stylist. “I was really proud of myself for overcoming my nerves to answer each question confidently. Given the feedback I received in the room, I came out with high hopes but didn’t hear another word from them. I chased up several times.”

job hunting woman
Job hunting: it can be extremely disheartening to be left in the dark after a job interview.

After committing to a lengthy application process, it can be extremely disheartening to be left in the dark and can result in candidates feeling negatively towards both the company and themselves.

“No response at all showed a complete lack of respect and empathy on the company’s behalf. I was left with a big dent in my self-confidence, but it showed me what I didn’t want in an employer,” Emma adds.

“I felt a little bit despondent [when I was ghosted], like, OK, what happened? Was it me?” says Soma, 36. The founder of The Career Happiness Mentor, Soma was first ghosted years ago, suggesting the phenomenon is an unfortunate ongoing trend that is perhaps being made easier by career and job seeking websites.

Soma explains how, recently, she was ghosted by an employer who initially headhunted her through LinkedIn. “I felt really happy when they reached out,” she says. Following an interview for a freelance careers advice role, she was assured they would be in touch. 

“I never heard back from them,” she says. “I did follow up via LinkedIn but it was just crickets after that.”

Of course, it’s not only the mental health impact that has to be considered. The job application process can be extensive, and the logistical challenges candidates face in order to attend interviews can often be overlooked by employers.

Jade, 27, a graduate geotechnical engineer, tells Stylist she was ghosted after attending an in-person interview that was a four-hour round trip to get to. “I can understand a phone interview, but when someone has actually gone through the effort of a physical interview… just [send] a simple email – ‘sorry, you don’t meet our criteria’, or ‘we found someone else’. It’s just frustrating.”

Attending an interview with a company is an investment. Taking time off from an existing job, preparing in your spare time and travelling to an interview requires a certain level of commitment. While not every interview is going to end in a job offer, being ghosted shows a complete lack of reciprocal respect from employers and it’s time we saw an end to the cruel trend.

Job hunting: what to do if you’re ghosted by a potential employer

Victoria McLean, CEO and founder of City CV, gives her expert advice:

1. Ask specifics. At the interview, when it’s your turn to ask questions, ask specific questions about the hiring process and deadlines so you know what to expect.

2. Follow up. Send a thank you note to each person who interviewed you, the same or next day. This is a great opportunity to restate your interest in the role and what you have to offer the company. If you don’t hear anything by the deadline they gave, it’s perfectly OK to follow up with an additional email. If you still don’t hear anything after one or two follow-ups, assume they either hired someone else or put a freeze on the hiring process.

phone call
Job hunting: try not to take it too personally if you are ghosted by a potential employer.

3. Take it on the chin. Try not to take it personally. You need to keep your confidence high for your next interview. This is where a good support network, mentor or career coach is invaluable.

4. Stay classy. Even though it feels awful when it happens to you, don’t be tempted to do the same thing to another company. Word gets around and you need to keep your professional reputation intact. When they go low, you go high.

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This feature was originally published on 7 January 2020

Images: Getty, Unsplash

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