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Interview Ghosting – It May Come Back to Haunt You

I suppose there are a lot of recruiters and hiring managers who had it coming. For years job applicants have experienced the discomfort of being interviewed and told to expect a decision within a certain timeframe, only to hear nothing. And now the shoe is on the other foot.

While it might seem like karma, do you really want to define your professional behaviour based on the negative business practices of others?

For the most part, the job market currently favours the employee. There are more opportunities than ever, employers are competing for critical skill sets, and in some instances, current employers are making counter offers when receiving a resignation. Being pursued by multiple recruiters and negotiating competing offers is all very heady stuff, but we all know a shift is coming and with a recession on the horizon it could be sooner rather than later.

I completely understand that difficult conversations are uncomfortable, and it may seem like disappearing is the easier option, at least in that moment. But long-term it can work against you.

Early in my career a wise person once told me to always be good to people on my way up the ladder because I would meet all the same people on the way back down. Same principle here. As you move through your career so will the person you’re avoiding today, which means that person you’ve been ghosting may well reappear when you’re considering future career opportunities, attending a conference, joining a professional association, etc. You will only have delayed the discomfort to a future time when you may not have as much control over the outcome.

If you’ve been invited to an interview or have attended an interview and no longer want to consider that particular position, that’s fine. Just be sure to handle it professionally. Think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Do you prefer to communicate in writing or through a phone call. If it helps, prepare a script.

  1. If you’ve changed your mind and no longer wish to interview for a particular job, let them know that upon further reflection you don’t feel this is the right position for you. Thank them for the opportunity and wish them success in their search. In case you’re asked for feedback, prepare in advance and know what and how much you want to share.
  2. If you have concerns about anything that was discussed in your interview, be up front and ask for further clarification. If you don’t like the answer, then you can thank them for their consideration and let them know you don’t see yourself as the right fit for this opportunity.
  3. If the issue is salary, again be transparent about it. Let the potential employer know you’re aware of current market realities and the range you’re prepared to accept. In some instances there may be a little wiggle room in the stated salary range but if there is a significant gap it’s unlikely you will be able to negotiate much higher. As well, we all have living expenses that must be met and if the salary being offered would create financial difficulty for you then let them know you can only accept a certain salary range. If they can’t offer that to you then it’s not the job for you. You can then decline graciously letting them know you’re open to future opportunities.
  4. If there is another organization you’re more interested in and you’re waiting to hear from them before responding to another offer, then set a time limit to hear from your preferred employer. An organization making an offer will wait a few days while you consider accepting or not, but going silent without having that conversation and setting an agreed deadline could result in the offer being withdrawn and closing a door for future opportunities with them.

These are just a few examples. Every situation is a little different. While it may be a difficult conversation, it’s better to have it as soon as you know the job or organization is not for you to preserve a valuable connection you may be very glad to have in the future.

Janice Wooster, CHRL, is a Senior Search Consultant with crawfordconnect, a successful senior HR executive and former VP, Human Resources & Organizational Development with World Vision Canada. You can reach her at janice@crawfordconnect.com.