The Ghosting Guide: An Inside Look at Why Job Seekers Disappear

ghosting guide

A truly scary trend has emerged in the last year: employers are getting ghosted by job seekers. From ditching job interviews to not showing up on the first day, candidates are disappearing without a trace — and ghosting during the hiring process is now one of the biggest problems in recruiting. Ghosting originated in the online dating world, where new technology has made it so easy to ask someone out on a date that it has led to an epidemic of no-shows. The effect is similar for hiring: technology and a super-tight labor market appear to have led job seekers to ghosting. It’s easier than ever to apply for a job and then — for whatever reason — vanish without a trace.  

But what are those reasons? Indeed wanted to look behind the headlines and cliches to understand just why people ghost and why it is happening now — as well as how it impacts hiring. So we surveyed over 4,000 job seekers and nearly 900 employers across multiple industries to gauge ghosting’s prevalence. We then zeroed in on those respondents who had either ghosted or been on the receiving end, giving us a detailed look at ghosting on the ground. We now see, for instance, that ghosting is extremely new yet already impacting the majority of employers. And despite the growing buzz about ghosting, only a tiny number of job seekers who’ve done it have faced any negative consequences. We’ll share more of our findings in a series of three posts for Ghosting Week (August 26 through 31). 

Today, we’ll look at the numbers to see if ghosting is on the rise, who’s doing it and when it might strike. In our Wednesday feature, job seekers will talk about why they ghost. We’ll close it out on Friday with targeted strategies to help recruiters and hiring managers prevent ghosting from happening. If you’re tired of getting ghosted — or worried you might be next — read our inside look at the hiring problem everyone’s talking about. 

Ghosting is new, but 83% of employers have already experienced it

Our report seeks to answer some of the biggest questions about ghosting. First off, is ghosting really new, or has it been happening all along?

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Employers who’ve been ghosted overwhelmingly report that it’s a recent phenomenon, and 69% say it started in the last two years. What’s more, a whopping 83% of employers report being ghosted.

Does this mean we’re in the midst of a ghosting epidemic? The answer is more complex than it seems. Yes, ghosting is widespread. But is everybody doing it? No. Among our sample of over 4,000 job seekers, only 18% say they have ghosted an employer at some point during the hiring process. But with nearly a fifth of job seekers admitting to doing it, the actions of this sizeable minority are having a major impact on over four fifths of employers.

Once we identified the 18% of job seekers who have ghosted and the 83% of employers who have experienced it, we dug deeper into the ins and outs of ghosting with these groups. The rest of the data in this report will refer only to these respondents.

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Job seekers ghost at different stages in the hiring process: 50% have skipped on a scheduled job interview, and 46% say they stopped responding to calls and emails from potential employers. Others ditch when they’re farther along: 19% have accepted a verbal offer and disappeared before signing the paperwork, and 22% have not shown up for their first day of work at least once. 

In turn, employers are getting ghosted at every stage of the hiring process, leaving them scrambling to respond. The vast majority (84%) have had candidates not show up for interviews, and 64% say they stopped communicating with no explanation. Nearly 60% report candidates accepting a verbal offer only to disappear. And a stunning 65% of employers report no-shows on their first day of work.

Job seekers have many reasons to ghost, with few downsides

So why would a candidate go to the trouble of applying for a job — or completing most of the hiring process — only to ghost? When respondents are asked, many cite reasons outside recruiters’ control. For instance, over half decided the job wasn’t right for them, and 40% ghosted after receiving another offer. Others say the salary (22%) or benefits (15%) weren’t up to par. 

However, job seekers who ghost also note areas where recruiters could make a difference — primarily around effective and open communication. For example, 26% of ghosters say they simply weren’t comfortable telling the employer they had a change of heart; 13% mention general communication problems with the recruiter; and 11% just didn’t know what to do, so they disappeared. 

Transparency and trust are other important influences on whether candidates ghost, along with the company’s reputation and the candidate’s experiences during hiring. Some respondents feel they were lied to or misled by a recruiter, while others comment on the employer’s rudeness or poor attitude. In today’s tight market, job seekers aren’t willing to put up with bad behavior.

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Another key question: Isn’t ghosting risky for job seekers? It appears not. Some are embarrassed by their ghosting, calling it “rude,” “unprofessional” or “irresponsible.” Others don’t feel comfortable applying to the same employer again, and 41% worry it might negatively impact future opportunities. But strikingly, 94% of job seekers experience little to no negative consequences from ghosting. The question is whether this lack of fallout will continue — or if job seekers’ actions will soon catch up with them.

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Among the recruiters and hiring managers we surveyed, 70% feel “moderately” or “extremely frustrated” by ghosting, but only 29% have strategies in place to stop ghosting before it starts. Some are starting to take measures to prevent repeat offenders: 71% keep records of no-show new hires, and 65% track job seekers who bail on interviews. While few ghosters are feeling the effects now, it’s possible this is about to change — perhaps even before job seekers realize.

Ghosting defies stereotypes, cuts across generations

So who are these ghosters? Media reports often frame them as millennials or Gen Zers, yet our findings contradict ageist assumptions about who is ghosting.

The median age of ghosters surveyed is 34, and 70% are employed full-time. These ghosters aren’t young workers embarking on their careers; instead, ghosting habits are quite consistent across age groups. When asked if they ever failed to show up for their first day of work, 23% of both 18- to 24-year-old and 35- to 44-year-old ghosters say “yes” — as do 20% of ghosters age 45 to 65.

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However, while people of all ages ghost, it seems different age groups do it for different reasons. Ghosters age 18 to 34 are significantly more likely to have bailed because they didn’t know how to communicate effectively — either they didn’t want to hurt the recruiter’s feelings or they weren’t comfortable telling the employer they were no longer interested. 

Younger job seekers are more likely to ghost when they feel the hiring process is taking too long. While 27% of ghosters in the 18- to 34-year-old group ghost because of a lengthy application period, only 18% of the 45- to 65-year-old cohort do the same. This suggests younger job seekers have different expectations of how much time the recruitment process takes, whereas older generations might have a more realistic understanding (or they’re simply in less of a hurry).

Ghosting is part of the hiring landscape but is more complex than meets the eye

Indeed’s ghosting survey reveals important new details about this phenomenon. In this post, we’ve shed light on when, how and why job seekers ghost: Ghosting is new and on the rise, but most job seekers aren’t doing it. While ghosters don’t experience negative fallout from their actions, there are signs this could change. Finally, ghosting is not limited to younger job seekers but is present across age groups — yet age plays a role in ghosters’ motivating factors. 

We will continue to shed light on this emerging headache for recruiters. In the next installment of Indeed’s Ghosting Week, job seekers will share in their own words why they would (or wouldn’t) ghost you. Stay tuned!

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