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The Paradox of Professional Ghosting

2 February 2024 at 9:00 am
Tracey Montgomery
It is the digital equivalent of sticking our heads in the sand, hoping the problem will magically dissolve.

Tracey Montgomery | 2 February 2024 at 9:00 am


The Paradox of Professional Ghosting
2 February 2024 at 9:00 am


Hi, thanks for your call, I’m not 65 so I don’t check my voicemail, please send me a text.”

Look, I’m no rebel, but when I heard this candidate’s voicemail message, I did the only thing I knew what to do, I left a voicemail.

Then I sent a text.

Before you roll your eyes at my ‘not my generation’ attitude, allow me to preface what I’m about to write and say that the above mentioned voicemail belonged to a candidate who was communicative, smart, capable, delightful and who also ended up being the successful candidate for a role I was recently working on.

Don’t judge a person by their voicemail message is my first lesson of the day.

The same week that I was working with this particular candidate, I received emails from two entirely separate candidates that I am working with, but with a very similar message and theme. On both occasions, the candidates were seeking my advice on how best they approach a scenario in which neither were able to establish contact with a Recruiter. Which sounds like the recruiters were working remote on the moon thus explaining why the candidates had lost radio contact.

Each had applied AND interviewed for roles and were simply seeking an update on the decision making process. Not at all unreasonable given that the roles were still being advertised and both had met with the respective recruiters but were yet to hear back after a full week post their interview.

One of the candidates was painstakingly deliberating about whether she should ring again, leave a message, not leave a message, send an email, or should she message via LinkedIn? Her email read to me as though she was tying herself into knots trying best to work out how to speak with the recruiter without – and I quote – “annoying her and making her think I’m needy”.

I can guarantee that in 30 years of recruitment, I would not have returned every single phone call I have received. I am not so self-righteous in the belief that I get it right all of the time so to be very clear this is not about perfection. It is all about intent.

My intention is to respond to people promptly. It is not always possible and to be honest, it can be a real challenge. Back to back interviews might have a recruiter away from their inbox for a few hours, only to return to a long list of unread emails with ‘phone message’ in the subject line which can be tricky to manage especially when said Recruiter needs to leave in 20 minutes for school pick up. Where possible, I prefer to take the call in the first place because, and this is the ground breaking aspect, it’s what recruiters ought to be practicing. It’s disheartening to see my industry still have its reputation tainted because we have lost the ability to talk to people.

To be fair to my peers and to be clear, there are no doubt several factors at play here and I understand calls get missed and messages disappear in the office abyss but, this is not about that. I’m talking about what is seemingly becoming more and more common and that is some recruiters suck at this part of the job. When someone knows that they should ring someone back to give them news on a role that they have interviewed for but choose not to. Blatantly choosing to ghost someone because it is the easier option. Telling someone they are unsuccessful for a role they interviewed for is never not hard and unpleasant but always necessary and it’s the way the recruitment cookie crumbles.

This is also not about calling every single applicant who applies for a role. There can be hundreds of those so of course it isn’t practical much less possible. Which is why an automated email is perfectly fine because at least it is communicating to the candidate the status of their application. I’m referring specifically to ghosting AFTER an interview. Unfortunately, it happens both ways and I can’t imagine there are many recruiters who have not been ghosted by a candidate. It’s a very busy two way street.

Before I get cancelled by my industry I am quite certain there are many exceptional recruiters who agree with me and are as equally frustrated when they hear similar stories and feel similarly tarnished by the same brush.

This is not a problem exclusive to the recruitment industry of course, have you ever rung to make a personal appointment only to be told by a human on the other end of the call that you need to hang up and book online? Godspeed to us all.

The thing is though, this is something that is no longer just about missed calls, poor time management or over worked, under pressure recruiters, but a societal problem that runs deep and wide.

Ghosting in any form (relationships, dating, business) has always existed, it’s just that we now have a name for it. Phones have become double edged swords; they are an essential part of our existence, but they are the source of many problems. Spammers and scammers have put us on high alert and No Caller ID makes us want to break out in hives.

The psychology behind ghosting is actually quite complex. It is not just about a fear of commitment or an aversion to uncomfortable conversations. It is also anchored in a primal urge to avoid confrontation and protect our own feelings. In modern life, where we juggle work, relationships, and binge watching Netflix, ghosting can feel like the easiest escape from an emotionally charged situation. It is the digital equivalent of sticking our heads in the sand, hoping the problem will magically dissolve. Unfortunately I fear as though it has almost become a socially acceptable behaviour. If the pandemic taught us anything, it was the value of human connection, it is how we are wired and cannot be understated.

Ghosting, the act of abruptly cutting off communication without explanation, erodes the foundations of these connections. It’s a habit that we must somehow learn to consciously break. We need to choose to engage in open and honest communication, not shy away from having difficult conversations, teach our children not to be afraid of having difficult conversations. It is how we will build trust and create a society where compassion and empathy exist.

This article was originally published at

Tracey Montgomery  |  @ProBonoNews

With over 25 years of experience in recruitment across various sectors including business support, finance, education, executive and not-for-profit, Tracey brings expertise to her role as co-owner of Brisbane Recruitment firm, Pure Source Recruitment.


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