Why Some recruiters ghost candidates (and why it matters)?

In the wild world of job hunting, there’s a phenomenon that’s as puzzling as it is frustrating: getting ghosted by recruiters.  But why does it happen? And more importantly, what does it mean for both the applicants and the companies they’re trying to get into?

According to the 2018 Talent Board North American Candidate Experience Research Report, nearly 70% of candidates received no feedback after being rejected during the screening and interviewing process. Of those who did receive feedback, 77% said it wasn’t useful.

Mirthe Van Brussel on April 16, 2024 Average reading time: 5 min
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Why Some recruiters ghost candidates (and why it matters)?
Companies with a “No Feedback” Policy

There are some big-name players in the corporate game including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft. They are known to not provide detailed feedback to job applicants. The most they’ll give you is a standard “thanks, but no thanks” email and that’s about it.  Why though? Well, we will explore the reasons behind the no-feedback policies in detail, but first, it’s important to note that it’s not just the big companies that follow this practice of not giving feedback. Smaller companies are joining the no-feedback bandwagon too.

Why Some Recruiters Stay Silent?

Let’s talk about why some recruiters keep their lips sealed when it comes to providing feedback to unsuccessful job candidates.

A question on Quora

In a response to this question on Quora, Gayle Laakmann McDowell [Interviewer/ Hiring Committee at Google (2005–2008)] discussed the reasons why major companies like Google or Facebook often refrain from providing feedback to unsuccessful applicants. There may be several reasons:

  • It’s cheaper not to react: Companies aim to hire efficiently, cheaply, and effectively, focusing on their objectives rather than those of the candidates.
  • Legal risks: Providing feedback opens companies up to potential legal challenges, as rejected candidates may allege discrimination based on the feedback received.
  • Decision complexity: Decisions to reject candidates can be multifaceted, with various interviewers having different reasons for rejection, making it challenging to distill clear feedback.
  • Communication disconnect: Recruiters may not fully understand the reasons for rejection, particularly for technical roles, leading to ineffective feedback delivery.
  • Potential candidate reaction: Candidates may become upset or litigious upon receiving negative feedback, creating additional complications and risks for the company.
  • Cost-benefit analysis: Companies weigh the potential benefits of providing feedback against the effort and risks involved, often concluding that the effort outweighs the potential benefits, leading to a reluctance to provide feedback.

McDowell highlights the complexity of the issue, acknowledging that while feedback may benefit candidates, companies perceive it as a potential headache with little return.

Navigating the Legal Landscape – Compliance and Confidentiality

Despite the list of reasons that we discussed above, Employers often refrain from providing feedback to job candidates primarily due to the fear of legal repercussions. Compliance and confidentiality aren’t just buzzwords. They’re serious business when it comes to handling sensitive candidate information. With regulations like GDPR looming large, recruiters must tread carefully to avoid running against the law. In countries like the US and the UK, where anti-discrimination laws prohibit decisions based on factors like race, sex, sexual orientation, or disability, employers are cautious about saying anything that could be interpreted as discriminatory. This fear of legal risk leads many employers to avoid giving feedback altogether, as they seek to avoid any potential allegations of discrimination in their hiring processes.

Jeff Hirsch, a labor and employment law professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, notes that refusal-to-hire lawsuits are challenging to pursue in the United States but still occur. He explains that if the feedback provided to candidates hints at any unlawful reason for the decision, such as discrimination, it could significantly increase the employer’s liability, exposing them to legal risks they would otherwise not face. So while transparency is paramount in an ideal world, sometimes legal constraints dictate otherwise.

How Ghosting Impacts More Than Just Applicants?

When word gets out that a company is playing the silent treatment game, it affects the employer’s credibility. Word travels fast, and if people start hearing stories about how a certain company treats its applicants, well, let’s just say it’s not a good look. Suddenly, potential recruits are thinking twice about applying to a job advertisement from those countries. After all, who wants to waste their time on a company that doesn’t even have the courtesy to give a simple “thanks, but no thanks”? It’s a two-way street, and companies that ghost candidates might find themselves on the wrong side of it.

Forbes Magazine highlights the impact of lack of feedback on job applicants, citing statistics that reveal a negative perception of employers among those who did not receive feedback after interviews. They report that 15% of job seekers had a lower opinion of the employer after being contacted for an interview, while 44% felt worse when they didn’t hear back at all. Additionally, a CareerBuilder survey indicates that 32% of job seekers are less likely to purchase products from companies that don’t respond to their job applications. These findings underscore the importance of communication and feedback in shaping candidates’ perceptions of companies.

The findings from the survey reveal that a significant majority of workers, amounting to seventy-eight percent, are inclined to share their negative experiences with a company among friends and family. Nearly a quarter of respondents express their willingness to extend this sharing to social media platforms or blogs. These statistics underscore the significant impact that negative experiences can have on a company’s reputation, suggesting the importance of addressing and mitigating such occurrences effectively. Another survey’s results indicate that providing feedback to job candidates yields positive outcomes for employers, with 52% of candidates more inclined to enhance their relationship with the employer by applying again, referring others, or influencing purchases. On the other hand, candidates who do not receive feedback are over twice as likely to harbor negative sentiments toward the employer.

The Bright Side  – Companies That Get It Right

But fear not, not all hope is lost. There are shining stars in the recruiting galaxy who get it. Companies like Netflix, Adobe, and Salesforce understand the power of feedback.

They see it as a chance to sprinkle a little kindness in the rejection process. Because hey, even if you didn’t land the gig this time, who’s to say you won’t be a perfect fit down the road? It’s all about building bridges.

How Feedback-Friendly Policies Impact the Industry?

It’s not just about individual companies. It’s about the ripple effect they create in the industry. By giving feedback, these companies are raising the bar for everyone else. They’re showing that it’s possible to balance efficiency with empathy and that treating candidates with dignity isn’t just a nice-to-have thing. It’s a must-have. Other companies are taking notice, realizing that providing feedback isn’t just about being nice. It’s about investing in their reputation and future talent pool. As these feedback-friendly policies gain traction, they’re reshaping the recruiting landscape, making it a more transparent and human-centered process for everyone involved.

Moving Forward  – What You Can Do About It?

For employers and recruiters, we suggest that they should recognize the significance of providing feedback to unsuccessful job candidates, not only for the candidates’ benefit but also for the company’s reputation and future talent acquisition endeavors. By acknowledging the impact of ghosting on candidates’ mental well-being and the negative repercussions it can have on the employer brand, companies can take proactive measures to ensure a more transparent and empathetic recruitment process.

Employers should prioritize communication with candidates, offering constructive feedback that helps them understand areas for improvement and fosters a positive candidate experience. By embracing feedback-friendly policies and investing in their reputation as an employer of choice, companies can attract top talent, enhance their employer brand, and contribute to a more effective recruitment landscape.



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