How To Handle Being Professionally Ghosted
“Ghosted”: When someone suddenly disappears or withdraws from your life
Most of us are no strangers to being ghosted. In a study conducted by Gili Freedman and colleagues, one in four participants had experienced ghosting in a relationship, and even more had been ghosted by a friend. Even though it’s common, it’s still hurtful when it happens. The loss, no matter how significant, comes without an explanation or resolution. This ambiguity can then fuel anxiety and self-doubt.
While ghosting in the dating world is talked about more frequently, being ghosted for a job or career opportunity happens often and can cause similar feelings of anxiety and rejection.
Though ghosting can leave you feeling vulnerable, there are ways to learn from the situation so that you can move forward victorious in your professional life. Here’s how.
Don’t At First Assume That You’ve Been Ghosted
There’s nothing wrong with doing your due diligence to advance your career. It’s wise to follow up after an interview or opportunity to express your gratitude. However, there’s a fine line between following up and chasing down a lead that’s likely leading nowhere.
If you’ve sent a lot of unanswered emails and start to become saddened or frustrated with the lack of response, take a minute to pause. Rest assured, there are several reasons why it could be taking a long time to hear back, and the time lag doesn’t always mean bad news.
For example, someone crucial could be missing from the process—they may be on vacation, maternity/paternity leave, or out sick. The hiring manager might be balancing multiple responsibilities and have limited bandwidth to make a quick decision. Or perhaps the other interviews are taking longer than expected.
Give the hiring managers time to breathe and continue your job search elsewhere in the meantime. Remember that a job interview process goes both ways, and you’re also assessing your fit within the company culture. If their reasoning for not responding is due to disorganization or disinterest, it might be a sign that this company isn’t right for you.
So, when you’re contemplating sending that next email or making a phone call, assess the likelihood that it will push you closer to securing the job versus seeming pushy or impatient. You want to avoid coming across as desperate or like you’re pressuring the recruiter.
Once You Realized You’ve Been Ghosted, Investigate Reasons Why
Ghosting usually happens when one party wants to avoid a difficult conversation. It’s not a healthy response, but it saves the ghoster from potentially having to offer criticism for why they don’t want to move forward with you. There are many reasons why a job opportunity or recruiter may disappear without a trace, and it’s rarely personal.
They’re disorganized. They may have intended to get back to every job applicant, but they forgot to do so due to mountains of work to be dealt with. Not everyone is great with multi-tasking and keeping track of the status of every applicant.
They are preparing to send a generic rejection email. They might have stopped responding because they’d like to send an automated email informing all applicants of their status at the end of the hiring process. This could take months.
They’ve had unexpected structural changes. Their budget may have shifted and they’re pausing all hiring for the year. The person in charge of hiring may have been terminated, leaving no one to inform you of your status or that they’ve stopped hiring for the position.
They decided to go with an internal candidate. For legal reasons, some companies have to share a job posting with the public, even if they already have an internal candidate in mind. It’s not fair to lead external candidates on, but some organizations go through the fake interview process to fulfill policy expectations.
An important step in the job process was incomplete. Perhaps after the interview, they asked you to send a portfolio, more paperwork, or submit references, and you may have forgotten this step. Instead of reaching back out, the employer moved on.
After a rejection, sometimes it helps to reflect on what you’d like to try differently next time (if anything). We all make mistakes. If you realized you accidentally sent in an error-ridden resume, don’t fret too much, just take note for the next time. There’s always something to learn from missed opportunities. If you weren’t true to yourself during an interview, make sure to be confident in who you are moving forward.
The next time you go for a job opportunity, have a trusted friend review your application materials beforehand to ensure you’re putting your strongest foot forward. Do as much research as you can on the position and check out Glassdoor to get a better sense of the interview process. Make a list of your accomplishments and strengths before the interview for an extra confidence boost; being prepared and practicing self-love is the best way to remain confident throughout the hiring process.
Move On. Don’t Assign Your Value to Being Ghosted
Lastly, know that you deserve better than an employer or client that decides to ghost you. I was once approached by a publisher to write a book. As a small blogger, I was thrilled and began daydreaming about my life as a published author. When we first began corresponding about the project, emails flowed with ease—until one day, they didn’t.
As the emails slowed and became more ambiguous, I could feel my anxiety spiking every time I checked my inbox. I wondered if I did something wrong and started seeing my life as an author fade away.
But I was looking at it all wrong. I thought I needed a definite answer from this publisher to feel confident in my abilities. I realized that I can be an author and chase my dreams with or without that one opportunity. It’s important not to let external factors (like being ghosted) define how you value yourself. Know your worth and move forward onto the next opportunity—because you deserve better.
Have you been professionally ghosted before? 👻 Share how you handled it in the comments below!
Leah Thomas is an intersectional environmental activist and eco-communicator. She launched the intersectional environmentalist platform to explore the relationship between environmentalism and cultural identity. You can connect with her on Instagram.