What Can Happen if You Ghost an Employer?

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I was interviewing at several companies before I left the Navy. Two came back with offers and I accepted one. For the other offering company, I never actually turned down the job, I just stopped responding to their emails. And, for some of the interviews I was pursuing, I also stopped responding after I accepted the job.

Did I make a mistake not closing the loop with the other companies?

What you describe is called "ghosting" -- where you neither accept nor turn down an interview or job, but rather go radio silent and stop responding. This behavior is concerning to employers who might wonder:

  • Is the job candidate OK? Did something happen to them that they are unable to respond to our interview request or job offer?
  • Did we say something to offend the applicant? We'd certainly want the opportunity to apologize if we were upsetting them.
  • Are they still interested in the job? Did the applicant take another position?
  • Is a lack of responsiveness indicative of the type of person or worker the applicant is? Do they lack the professionalism and courtesy of a follow up email when we've been having a conversation about their possible employment?

While each of these questions produces a scenario that's concerning to the employer, the last one is particularly troublesome to you, the job applicant. If you have established a reputation as someone who's impolite, unprofessional or unresponsive, that could damage your long-term career prospects.

Read: Why You May Have Been Ghosted By a Potential Employer

Consider what happened to Tobin. He ghosted an employer who invited him back for a third interview for a high-level director position in a growing management consulting firm. The company was seeking a director who'd bring leadership skills, excellent abilities to develop and grow teams and who was confident in their career goals.

During the first two interviews, Tobin related his military experience to his ability to fill the job requirements and impressed the interviewers with his ability to align with the company goals and culture. The employer was excited about his candidacy.

But then Tobin stopped responding to their phone calls or replying to their emails. After about a week, the employer assumed he'd moved on (without the courtesy of an update about his candidacy) and pursued other applicants. During the interview process, the human resources (HR) director had personally advocated for Tobin to her peers and talked up his military values and skills. This left her feeling slighted and hurt by his non-responsiveness. Two years later, this same HR director was working at a new company, leading the human resources and recruiting team, and her recruiters were sourcing for a senior executive for the company. Tobin applied. He interviewed with a recruiter who was immediately drawn to his military service, his experience in the civilian sector (albeit limited) and his passion for the company's mission. This recruiter put Tobin's name forward to her director with the hopes of advancing him through the process.

When the HR director saw Tobin's name and resume, she immediately recalled feeling dejected and embarrassed years earlier by him. Instead of responding favorably to her recruiter, she replied, "This guy lacks the integrity to send a simple email when he's moved on. He's not our kind of person."

Sound extreme? Yes. And there may be unique instances where someone's experience and skill set overpower the experience of ghosting an employer previously. But do you want to take that chance? Why risk leaving a bad impression with the employers you'll meet, or the networking contacts who might vouch for you and endorse you as you pursue opportunities, when a follow up email or phone call is all that's needed.

Avoid ghosting an employer at all costs during the job search process to protect your reputation.

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