Ghosting might work in the dating world…but not in your career.

Back in the Great Recession of 2008 and the subsequent years of slow economic recovery, there was one thing everyone could agree on: the job market was absolutely brutal. Most people applied to a vast many positions before landing an interview.

If you were just out of college, the start of your career was likely tinged by a genuine hustle that yielded little to no results. And if you were an experienced pro, you were probably shocked by how the market shifted from boom to bust, making the job search process unbearable.

In fact, employers were so inundated by the waves of applicants, they often left them hanging; never getting back to them, never following up, and leaving the applicant biting their fingernails in anticipation of communication that would never come.

But now the tables have turned.

It’s possible that professionals who endured many years of companies’ bad behavior are now committing the same faux pas: ghosting.

Peter Cappelli, a management professor and director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources is quoted in this LinkedIn article saying:

“Candidates — scarred from years of applying for jobs, spending hours preparing for interviews, only to get form rejections back — may not be to blame for going cold. I think they have learned it from the employers…[sic] they were notorious for never getting back to people, and only letting them know what was going on if it turned out they wanted them to go to the next step.”

In that same article, LinkedIn managing editor Chip Cutter explains further:

“Where once it was companies ignoring job applicants or snubbing candidates after interviews, the world has flipped. Candidates agree to job interviews and fail to show up, never saying more. Some accept jobs, only to not appear for the first day of work, no reason given, of course.”

It goes without saying that the job market has done a complete 180. Applicants have the upper hand—and for some it’s the first time they’ve ever needed to communicate effectively to many different potential employers, hiring managers, and recruiters—plus show-up throughout many stages of concurrent interviews. Chip Cutter writes:

“Some of the behavior may stem not from malice, but inexperience. Professionals who entered the workforce a decade ago, during the height of the Great Recession, have never encountered a job market this strong….Presented with multiple opportunities, professionals face a task some have rarely practiced: saying no to jobs.”

Unfortunately, no matter how badly a professional has been burned…there is no excuse for ghosting a recruiter or potential employer—at any point in the job search process.

We get it: saying no to a position might feel awkward at first. Maybe you’ve developed a rapport with the hiring manager, your recruiter, or the employer themselves. There may be feelings of anxiety because you don’t want to let anyone down. And some of us are just not as great with confrontation than others.

However, leaving those involved hanging is far more disrespectful than just being upfront and honest.

When it comes to your career, there is no excuse to ever be less than exceptional when it comes to communication—not when you’re trying to land a job, leave a job, or any moment in between. Beyond basic etiquette, there are extremely good reasons for this, the biggest one being this:

The world is small and your career is long.

By that, we mean that it’s truly not hard to get a reputation of flakiness within an industry, and especially within a niche. The truth is that within industry circles everyone is a few degrees of separation of everyone else (this is great for when you’re looking for a job and want to do it right – check out Dream Job Toolkit for a free course on how to do just that!) however….the potential negative aspect of this fact is that once you mess up, you could be giving yourself a bad rep for life—and that risk is just not worth it.

In the new job market, relationships are everything and we are more connected than we have ever been. To see evidence of this, just go on your Linkedin profile and see how many people you are connected to on a second and third degree basis. Etiquette mistakes that you make now could haunt you 2, 5, and even 10 years down the line. There’s no reason to hurt your future career when you can easily just communicate professionally.

Here are some other very compelling reasons why you should make sure your interview process communication and decorum are top-notch:

  1. You will stand out among the rest. According to this CNBC article by Jill Cornfield, Just a quarter of entry-level job applicants typically sent a thank-you note after completing a job interview in 2017”
  2. You will be more memorable—especially if you send both an email and some snail mail. In the article cited above, Cornfield quotes Vicky Salemi, a career expert from NY: ““Snail mail takes more time to get there…it’s rare for jobseekers to send them, and it sits on their desk and reminds them of you.”
  3. You help them recall why they liked you. By personalizing your note and making sure the hiring manager feels your gratitude, you are not only helping them recall who you are as a person, you’re showing them who you’re going to be as an employee. And that just might be what tips the scales in your favor.

Need a cheat sheet? We’ve got that for you.  Here’s our list of BIG NO’s and BIG YES’s when it comes to the process of landing and a position.


Flaky, disrespectful, ultimately unemployable professionals do the following…

  • They don’t show up to interviews, or they are late
  • They don’t reply to emails
  • They don’t return phone calls
  • They go dark in the middle of the interview process and either pop back up months later, or are never to be heard from again
  • They don’t explain that they’ve accepted another position—they leave everyone hanging
  • They don’t follow up after an interview to say thank you

Professional, reputable, smart job seekers ALWAYS…

  • Show up to an interview on time with several minutes to spare
  • Reply to all emails sent from recruiters and potential employers about the position.
  • Return all phone calls from all involved in the hiring process
  • Explain when they’ve found another position promptly and politely
  • Follow up after an interview to say thank you.
  • Treat everyone along the way with respect and thoughtfulness

Remember: the market conditions don’t determine your personal behavior or integrity—you do. When you’re playing the career game correctly, you’re maintaining your relationships with professionalism and gratitude. This effort alone will catapult you to the top percent of candidates who don’t follow basic etiquette, or go the extra mile.

PS – If you want to learn the new rules in a tech-forward, modern job search, check out our free course, Dream Job Toolkit. We can’t wait to share our hard-earned wisdom with you!