4 Ways Ghosting Job Seekers Perpetuates Oppression

The practice of ignoring someone who is seeking employment with your company can be very harmful to your company and to the applicant. Here's why. Plus, what to do instead.
4 Ways Ghosting Job Seekers Perpetuates Oppression
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Ghosting job seekers may be one of the most harmful aspects of a company’s hiring process. "Ghosting" in the context of hiring means that someone applied to work with your company, and after days and weeks, they never heard back.

Believe it or not, this is common practice. Most job seekers do not hear back, but it’s also believed that only 2 percent of job applicants even get an interview. That means, your company may be ghosting 98 percent of applicants.

I get it. Your hiring manager might ghost a job seeker because they’re uncomfortable telling them they’re not the top candidate. Or they’re busy addressing the other logistics of the hiring process or business operations.

But know that ghosting an applicant is terrible. It makes your company look inconsiderate, and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth of potential hires. Most importantly, ghosting job seekers can perpetuate oppression in ways you may not be aware of.

Here are four major ways that ghosting and oppression are linked.

1. Ghosting makes marginalized job seekers feel even more invisible

Whether the applicant has been unemployed for some time, they’re low income, or they’re a racial minority, the applicant may already feel down on their luck and unseen. When a person feels invisible in their personal and professional life, it takes courage and confidence to fill out a job application and put themselves out there for employment.

For many people of color, securing a good-paying job is a way to feel important, valued and not invisible. By ghosting 98 percent of your applicant pool, your company is perpetuating the idea that these applicants don’t matter. That they’re not on the radar and they are, in fact, invisible.

Even if the applicant doesn’t have the right qualifications, it’s an important step in DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) to at least acknowledge the person’s participation in the hiring process and to inform them that your company is still looking at other applicants. A mindful rejection can still maintain the confidence and dignity of the applicant and confirm they were, in fact, seen and heard by the hiring manager. Ultimately, this leads to a healthy respect for your organization and the hiring process in the long-term.

Related: 'Ghosting' Is Unprofessional Regardless of Whether You're Taking or Submitting a Job Application

2. Ghosting adds to racial disparities and inequities in the hiring process

Ghosting applicants who are part of marginalized groups can reaffirm their disadvantaged position in society. It’s no secret that applicants with “ethnic”-sounding names have been historically overlooked in the hiring process. According to the Harvard Business School, applicants who “whitened” their names were more likely to get job interviews.

For some minority applicants, not hearing back from an employer may lead them to believe that they weren’t contacted because of their race or identity — even if it’s not true. Ghosting applicants can perpetuate the internal dialogue that the applicant isn’t good enough or that their name, race or identity played a role in not hearing back.

Responding to the applicant, thanking them for applying, and informing them that your company will continue the search can help some folks feel assured that their name, race, gender or identity were not factors that stood in their way of employment. It’s a show of respect and acknowledgment that works to remove racial inequities as a potential part of the hiring process.

Related: Hire Like a Diversity Expert: 5 Key Qualities of Inclusive Employees

3. Ghosting demonstrates a lack of empathy

In the DEI space, empathy and understanding make a huge difference. Imagine how you would feel if you were ghosted by a company you really wanted to work for. If it wouldn’t feel good for you, imagine how it would feel for your company’s job applicants.

As mentioned before, getting a job is a process that takes courage, intention and diligence. People buy expensive suits they can’t afford, get haircuts they wouldn’t otherwise have gotten, and spend hours sprucing up their résumés to impress your company’s hiring managers.

For the amount of effort and diligence that goes into preparing for meaningful employment, the job seeker at least deserves empathy and understanding during the hiring process. 

Ghosting a job applicant demonstrates a lack of empathy and sends a signal to other applicants that this company may not be serious about DEI. If your company wishes to attract and hire culturally competent individuals, it’s a good idea to start by making your hiring process empathic, mindful and respectful.

 4. Ghosting is disrespectful to the applicant 

Whether the applicant is a good candidate or not, it’s important to send a message of respect in the hiring process. Many companies ghost job applicants, and, in turn, it impacts the company’s reputation.

Who doesn’t want to be seen as an inclusive and thoughtful leader in their industry? Inclusive and equitable leadership requires mutual respect and the absence of that can be immediately felt by applicants in the hiring process.

If an applicant is ghosted, why would they recommend your company to a colleague or someone else in their network? Showing mutual respect by clearly informing and acknowledging the applicant is a way to keep the reputation and rapport of the company in good standing.

Related: 3 Reasons Why Your Hiring Process Is Killing Your Company

What to do instead

Instead of ghosting applicants, try setting realistic expectations for when an applicant will hear back from hiring managers. If part of the process is that the applicant will not hear back for two weeks, be clear and upfront about it. Write an automated e-mail that outlines the timeline and expectations for the hiring process and when applicants can expect to hear back.

Your company can also encourage applicants to circle back around if they don’t hear from you first. This component can be included in the automated e-mail with the contact information of the hiring manager for follow-ups.

And if after you’ve received the applicant’s information and decided they’re not the right person for the role, you can always be helpful and refer them to someone else. Just because an applicant isn’t a good fit for your business doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be the right fit for another business. If you have other companies in your network that this applicant could be best suited for, recommend them to your networks.

The idea of following up with job applicants even if they’re not the right candidate isn’t new. But for some reason, many companies continue to perpetuate oppression by leaving job seekers high and dry. Setting up an automated e-mail is a simple way to infuse the hiring process with more respect, clarity and humanity. That’s what diversity, equity and inclusion are all about. The more your company can keep communication with job seekers transparent and informative, the closer your company will be to supporting DEI in the workplace.

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