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Employers Ghosting Applicants | What to Do If You Don’t Hear Back

Angel Eduardo

An illustration of a young woman standing in front of her laptop, with loose leaf paper ghosts coming out of it
Illustration by Marian Blair

So, you had a great job interview. You communicated confidence and competence, fielded every weird interview question, and sent a follow-up email thanking your prospective employer for their time.

And then, nothing.

If this sounds familiar, you may have been ghosted—the term for when either party in an exchange (texting, interviewing, even dating) stops responding. And you’re not alone. According to a study by Indeed, employers ghosting applicants has affected 77% of surveyed job seekers since March of 2020.

While nobody wants to be ghosted, it’s important to know what actions you can take if it happens to you. Here’s what to do if you don't hear back.

Make sure you’ve really been ghosted

Job hunting is challenging enough without the anxiety added by jumping to conclusions. If you haven’t heard from your interviewer for some time, don’t automatically think the worst. There are many possible explanations, so try to keep these points in mind as you evaluate your situation:

  • You may not be far along enough in the process. If you’ve only just submitted a resume or application, you haven’t reached the stage where many employers feel required to respond. And while this practice is discouraged, it unfortunately still happens. If you’re really interested in the position, you can try these other ways to stand out after applying. But if you get no reply after that, it may be best to move on.
  • You (or they) may have been sent to spam. Be sure to keep an eye on all your inboxes when awaiting correspondence from potential employers. Also, avoid things that might land you in their spam folder, such as using exclamation points and all caps in your subject lines.
  • You haven’t given them enough time. At some organizations and for certain positions, the hiring process is often protracted, sometimes taking weeks or even months as a result of red tape, PR emergencies, vacation schedules, or other delays. The wait can be nerve-racking, but make sure you’ve allowed enough time to pass before assuming you’ll never hear back. In most interview situations, we suggest you wait at least three weeks before reaching out again.

If you’re still concerned, there are a few telltale signs that you’ve been ghosted. If the job listing you applied for has been taken down, then it’s possible that either the position has been filled or they’ve changed course and are no longer hiring. If you notice that the listing has been reposted or revised, the employer may have realized their initial description was imprecise and attracting candidates better suited for a different role. This, combined with radio silence in response to your application or post-interview email, makes it more likely that they may not have plans to reconnect.

What to do about employers ghosting applicants

It’s easy to take it personally when you’re ghosted, especially if you were excited about the opportunity. But here are some more productive ways to look at your situation:

  • The organization might have done you a favor. Keep in mind that the failure to adhere to hiring etiquette may reflect larger issues within the organization itself. Whatever the reason for not getting back to you, consider taking their lack of response as a signal that maybe you’re better off elsewhere. However...
  • One hiring manager’s actions don’t necessarily reflect the entire organization. If you’re pretty sure you’ve been ghosted but are still interested in the organization, reaching out once more may be a good move. In your message, politely acknowledge that they’ve likely found or are pursuing other candidates, but you’d appreciate being considered for any future opportunities. Just remember to allow ample time before doing this. If it turns out you’re still in the running, sending this message prematurely may hurt your chances.
  • This is an opportunity for growth. Being ghosted doesn’t automatically mean you did anything wrong (even Meryl Streep isn’t perfect for every role), but if you find yourself in this position often there may be some areas for improvement. Whether it’s ideas for how to conduct yourself during an interview or crafting the perfect post-interview thank-you email, this can be a chance for you to self-assess and level up.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking for help with your professional development, try Designing Your Dream Career! In this free virtual course, we guide you through a variety of tools and resources for self-assessment, skill building, and personal branding—giving you actionable advice and concrete next steps for advancing in your social-impact career.

Don’t contribute to “ghosting culture” 

Unfortunately, employers aren’t the only ones guilty of ghosting. The aforementioned Indeed study also noted that 28% of surveyed job seekers failed to touch base with an employer in 2020, up from only 18% in 2019. Keep in mind that cycles like these can never break unless someone makes that first move—and there’s no reason it can’t be you!

If after an interview you’re no longer interested in a position, or if you’ve received another offer elsewhere, reach out and let your prospective employers know (here’s a handy template you can use as a starting point). It’s the right thing to do, and everyone involved will appreciate it. Plus, you never know who you might cross paths with in the future, and your professionalism in moments like these won’t go unnoticed.

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Looking for ways to up your interview game? Check out our post, 4 of the Toughest Interview Questions, and How to Respond.

Angel Eduardo

As Career Content Coordinator & Writer for Idealist, Angel uses his skills as a storyteller and designer to craft and edit everything from blog posts, marketing copy, email campaigns, landing page layouts, and more.

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