Recruiter Ghosting: Why It Happens and How To Handle It

Updated January 31, 2023

A person sits on the ground and looks thoughtfully at their laptop screen.

Recruiters are company representatives responsible for locating, attracting, screening and recommending qualified candidates to organizations to help them fill their open positions. When applying for jobs and working with recruiters, there may be times when they suddenly stop communicating with you, leaving you to wonder why this occurred. Learning what recruiter ghosting means and why it might occur can help you respond more effectively and optimize your job search.

In this article, we explain what recruiter ghosting means, why it occurs, and strategies you can take the next time a recruiter ghosts you.

What is recruiter ghosting?

During the hiring process, ghosting means that you no longer receive communications from a recruiter who previously expressed an interest in your application. While recruiters can be a helpful resource for qualified candidates, they may also have a responsibility to the organization that hired them to help with its recruitment process. They may not have time to notify candidates that the company didn't choose them for the position, especially if the company has a strict recruitment deadline. 

Recruiter ghosting can occur during a variety of different points in the hiring process. It may occur after you submit your application and communicate with the recruiter, complete a phone screening or participate in a phone interview. If the position has multiple interview stages, there's a chance that you might experience recruiter ghosting after each interview stage.

Related: 6 Steps To Take After Being Ghosted Following an Interview

Potential causes of recruiter ghosting

Recruiter ghosting can happen for a variety of reasons that may not necessarily relate to your application. Here are some of the reasons why a recruiter might end their communications with you:

Competitive hiring

A recruiter might ghost you if they don't think you're the best fit for the position or if they found a more qualified candidate who better matches their requirements. In more competitive industries with a higher number of candidates, the chances of recruiter ghosting might be higher.

To avoid a recruiter ghosting you, consider having someone you trust review your resume and ask them for feedback to help you improve it. You might also want to work on improving your interviewing skills so you can anticipate and answer recruiters' questions more easily.

Related: Competitive Job Market: Definition and Tips for Standing Out

Internal obstacles

Companies may hire recruiters to help with their hiring processes if they don't have the resources to handle those processes themselves. Some companies experience internal obstacles when hiring a new candidate.

Hiring managers and individual departments might disagree about what they want in a candidate. They might also lack the full approval from leadership that's a requirement for them to hire a new employee. The company might additionally delay the hiring process temporarily to address more immediate concerns or issues.

In these situations, the company might require the recruiter to wait for the internal obstacles to resolve before resuming their communications with you. While transparency and communication are often helpful qualities in a recruiter, they may not always reveal the reasons for their lack of communication. As you wait for the recruiter to resume communications, you can search for other jobs. 

Related: How Long Should You Wait To Hear Back About a Job?

Complicated hiring processes

Some hiring processes take longer than others, especially for more advanced or senior-level positions. Companies can sometimes spend months searching for the ideal candidate.

Even if you're among the first few candidates who completed phone interviews with the recruiter, the recruiter may not necessarily offer you a second interview quickly. The wait time you experience could be due to scheduling difficulties with other candidates or indecisiveness on the part of the hiring organization. 

Related: The Hiring Process: What To Expect at Every Stage

Personal developments

Recruiters can have the same shortcomings as any other individual. They might not respond to your email or requests for more information because they're on vacation or are experiencing a family emergency, a health concern or some other unforeseen circumstance. While some recruiters are honest about potential delays, they may not always offer you this courtesy, especially if they're already busy. 

Related: What To Do When You Don't Get a Response After an Interview

How to handle a recruiter ghosting you 

Learning what to do if a recruiter ghosts you can help you motivate yourself to continue your job search. If you think a recruiter has ghosted you, here are some productive steps you can take: 

1. Ask about the timeline

If you recently had a phone interview or submitted information to a recruiter and have yet to hear from them, consider sending a message to follow up with them and ask for clarification on the stages of the hiring process.

If you've been communicating via email, ask them when you can expect to receive a message from them and what the next steps are. Remember that the recruiter's lack of communication might not be in response to your qualifications or interactions. Instead, there may be internal obstacles affecting the hiring process. 

Before sending your message, review your previous communications with the recruiter and the job post itself. You may learn when they're hoping to decide on a candidate or schedule in-person interviews.

If you asked about the hiring timeline in your initial conversations, or if your existing communications reveal when you can expect to hear from them, wait until after the date or time frame they supplied before following up.

Related: The Typical Interview Timeline and What You Can Expect

2. Wait to follow up

Wait a few days to a week before sending further follow-up emails to provide the recruiter with adequate time to respond to your previous email. If you have positive feelings about your initial conversations and are wondering why the recruit hasn't communicated with you, try to remain patient.

In each email you send, keep your message concise and express your gratitude for the opportunity. If you're nearing or are already past the hiring timeline and you still don't receive any calls or emails from the recruiter, you may assume the company chose another candidate. 

Related: How To Write a Follow-Up Email After Receiving No Response

3. Seek other opportunities

When searching for a job, it's beneficial to optimize your time by improving your application and applying for other positions while you wait for recruiters to follow up with you. Many companies and recruiters never call to explain that they've chosen another candidate, so it can be important to continue your job search even if you feel confident about your application.

Consider creating a spreadsheet of the positions you applied to and your status in the hiring process. You can also include a column containing the contact information of other recruiters.

Related: Job Search: 6 Ways To Find Your Next Job

Tips for avoiding recruiter ghosting

Here are some additional tips to avoid a recruiter ghosting you:

  • Assess your qualifications. Review your qualifications and make sure you only apply for positions to which you're qualified. Try to avoid exaggerating your qualifications or skills and remain as honest as possible on your application so you can increase your chances of appealing to different recruiters. 

  • Review your performance. If you already interviewed or completed the phone screening, consider the answers you provided to determine if there are any areas where you could improve.

  • Thank recruiters after interviews. After you interview with a recruiter, be sure to send them a formal email to thank them for their consideration and express excitement about the position. This can help you demonstrate that you're a serious candidate and allow you to show your respect for the recruiter. 

  • Consider updating your resume. If you notice recruiters ghosting you frequently, you may want to consider reviewing your resume and updating it to display your most relevant qualifications. Be sure to address any employment gaps or potential background check issues early in the recruitment process.

  • Think more positively. Practice positive thinking to motivate yourself, and use recruiter ghosting as a learning experience to help you improve your application and communication skills.

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