Help! I'm Being Ghosted by Job Applicants

How to Adapt to Get the Results You Want

When I first sought work, in 1987, life was simple.

I decided upon the companies I wanted to work for (four of them), I printed off my CV and a covering letter from Mum's word processor onto lovely, high-quality paper and posted them.

Or I would have found a job advert in the newspaper to apply to in the same way.

Several days later, if I was lucky, I got a reply. In writing.

Interview preparation was going into the company premises to ask for literature to read in advance and making sure I had enough hairspray to keep my interview 'do' in place for my 45 minute walk to the venue.

These were the heady days of work coffee breaks, boozing at lunchtime, ashtrays on desks and women banned from wearing trousers in many workplaces (including mine).

I say these days were simple because they were. Manual. Slow. Slightly ridiculous.But simple.

The world has got a whole lot more complicated since then so job hunting has too. And as hirers, we need to better understand the challenges for job applicants and why they might not be responding to us, rather than berating them.

The expectation of being available 24/7

In the old days, we had a family phone, in the hall. It didn't ring much because people wrote to you if they wanted to communicate about business. It was used to keep in touch with Gran or for parents to call the school or work in an emergency.

Now, we all carry a very powerful computer with us and we're expected to be available to ANYONE on the planet, friend or foe, when they wish, on their time, in their mind frame.

That's when we're in the middle of a Tesco's shop, having a nap, driving, grieving, feeling unwell, eating our dinner. Hell, even in the middle of our favourite box set.

We don't get any rest from it, it's rude, it's irritating. But when we're job hunting, we're expected to be 'on it' in case a potential employer calls.

What happened to arranging an appropriate, mutually convenient time to call?

Consider using software like Calendly to allow people to book time out of your diary, when it suits them. When they have a quiet space to talk and when they've had time to prepare.

There are seemingly endless ways to reach someone

You like email, I like WhatsApp. You like Facebook Messenger, I uninstall it frequently because I hate it. Once having had a job that required phone calling all day, I now like those appointments to be booked so I can allocate sufficient time to do a thorough job.

I saw a poll recently suggesting lots of people don't check their voicemails anymore. That they find them incredibly irritating and that if you want to reach them, you'll call again.

As for texting? Mum, if you're reading this, only reminders for appointments text me. And spammers.

So, your choice of communication might be the one I avoid if at all possible. Trying to reach me just got more complicated, not easier.

I've heard myself say it. "In a time where there are so many ways to communicate, why are people so difficult to reach".

Because I don't use the mode of communication you do. Don't force me to.

If an attempt to initiate a conversation by email doesn't work. Send a WhatsApp. For example.

Your core hours are not my core hours

I'm in the midst of a second summer working on a recruitment campaign for Video Games Testers. The shifts are 8 am to 4.30 pm and 5 pm to 1 am.

When the company first approached me about helping them source people for the late shift it was the middle of the pandemic and I thought it was worth a try. I didn't have much else on, but I expected it to be pretty frustrating, because who wants to work until 1 am?

Plenty of people, it so happens. Plenty.

And those people need me to call them to discuss their application late in the day because they sleep in.

Offer to make yourself available at a time to suit the applicant. That one hour inconvenience to yourself could result in a successful hire.

The ease of applying

No more 'jobs day' in the local newspaper.

The internet is a cornucopia of jobs. And job seekers can apply all day, every day, in every sector imaginable, across the entire planet.

They not only can. They do.

Humans are emotional creatures and that means applying when fed up, bored, angry, upset.

In 1987 if your boss gave you a hard time you bought a packet of cigarettes and smoked them in the pub whilst drinking two pints of beer, at lunchtime, with a colleague. And you were fine for the remainder of the day.

Now, people scour the internet and apply for other jobs. Happy in their job at 8 am. Sure as hell getting out of that dump by midday.

Maybe I like my boss today and that application I sent to you yesterday is no longer relevant.

Accept that occasionally this happens and, after failing to reach the applicant twice, by two different methods, reply to the application saying that you tried to each them, that you were unable to and can only assume therefore that they are no longer interested and you are discounting their application.

If they just got tied up with something else and missed your communication attempts or don't work at the same pace you do and are still interested, this communication will help them to understand the urgency, where you are concerned.

There's too much noise

With so many communication platforms, keeping in touch is complicated enough.

Add to that the fact that companies can reach you now for free through those channels. So they do.

I scratch my head every day when the same retailers email me EVERY DAY trying to sell me another x. EVERY DAY.

When your inboxes get full of rubbish, any meaningful communication gets missed.

A recruiter friend of mine said her daughter has hundreds of unread WhatsApp message because she's muted users and groups. She found the constant interruption annoying.

Be aware that to cut through this noise you need to be clear on your purpose for your communication to grab attention. Use attention-grabbing headlines.

We are being manipulated

Have you seen The Social Dilemma? Well worth a watch.

Why is this relevant?

Just because people are on their phones all day and there are two ticks on WhatsApp or you've had a read receipt on an email, it doesn't mean they have read and digested the contents.

And if they have read the contents and they're still on their phones it's likely that whilst they were reading it they chose the dopamine fix of a ping on Instagram or Facebook. Another like, a post by a celebrity, a message from a friend.

Distraction? Manipulation? You decide.

But we all do it, to some degree.

So you might want to try again .....

Clare, if someone's interested in the job vacancy they'll reply. I shouldn't need to chase.

I hear you.

But, the world has moved on from the times of women having to wear skirts only, ashtrays on desks and it being OK to have a couple of pints and go back to work.

You've recognised that much, right?

So why not recognise that other things have changed too and someone up the road who's fishing in the same pool of people as you has changed and you're the one struggling to hire because you refuse to.

The girl who first applied for work in 1987 and had Go West posters on her bedroom wall has changed. And my client's benefit from that attitude, flexibility, adaptability and persistence.

I have placed many excellent candidates who needed a nudge. Noone dragged them to the job interview and they got the job on their own merit. They are not lesser individuals.

So, don't be so quick to judge, but step into the shoes of another human being and find a way.

Want more from me? Here are some of the other articles I've put together for you.

Why are job applicants so hard to find?

Make your job advert more appealing:

My Top Tip for Hiring in 2021:

Contact us now for a free, no-obligation chat. Contact Clare here.

Clare Wight is the founder and Managing Director of Clarity Appointments, an independent recruitment specialist. She served as a Regional Director for The Employment Agents Movement, supporting other independent recruiters.

She remains an active member of Recconnect (formerly Members Only), a recruitment leadership network promoting high ethical standards, collaboration, diversity, equity and inclusion.

She believes business owners are more fulfilled and higher-performing when they provide emotional and professional business support to other business owners, even those they deem to be competitors. She does this actively, whilst challenging and updating her skills and knowledge of the recruitment sector, enabling her to offer the best advice to firms looking to make their next hire.