Break bad interview habits by going back to the basics

by Teresa Whitacre

An increasingly common trend in the hiring cycle is ghosting. It’s defined as stopping all communication and contact with another party without warning or justification. Typically, it’s done by employers, but now has extended to job candidates. Basic etiquette and common courtesy have disappeared.

Some common examples of ghosting are:

  • Not hearing from an organization after applying for a job.
  • Not hearing from an organization after interviewing. I once drove two hours for an interview and found out when I got there that the organization offered the job to someone else the day before. A contact of mine spent months going through interviews and assessments, only to never hear back from the organization. Robynn Storey, CEO of Storeyline Résumés, reported on one of her clients going to 11 interviews only to be ghosted by the employer.1
  • Candidates not showing up for their interviews. I have arranged interviews for potential candidates only for them to cancel or not show up.
  • Candidates not showing up for their first day of work. I also have hired people who didn’t show up on their first day—without any type of communication.

Do some ghostbusting by bringing simple, common decency back into the hiring process.

Employers: Be respectful of candidates’ time. If you need more than two or three interviews to decide on a candidate, don’t blame the candidates—look at your hiring processes. If you take the time to interview, assess and test a candidate, let him or her know whether he or she is going any further in the process. A simple, “We decided to pursue other candidates” is a clean, no-risk way to do so. Everyone is busy, but taking a few seconds to demonstrate kindness will be remembered indefinitely. And in the world of social media, such impressions travel quickly, and word of mouth carries a lot of weight.

Job seekers: Show up to your interviews. If you can’t make it or change your mind, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell the interviewer. It happens, and it’s much better to notify the organization upfront than to waste its time. The same holds true if you’re offered a role and decide it’s no longer a good fit. It’s always better to communicate than to just disappear.

Bust those ghosts

Communication is key to busting these ghosters. Talk to each other—whether it’s via telephone, email or some other means, communicating your reason for turning down a candidate or job is a long-lost nicety. Too often, we—employers and candidates—are so worried about risk and liability that we are afraid to communicate even in the most simple, unassuming way.

Today’s economy, with unemployment at less than 3.7%,2 makes ghosting easy. There’s always someone else to fill the position or another position to fill. Bust these ghosts by remembering that bad times often follow good, and some day the unemployment numbers could turn.

Your reputation matters, so remember that those guilty of ghosting—candidates and organizations—will be remembered.

It’s simple: Communicate. Have manners and etiquette. Consider others, and respect their time. These simple life skills will help bust the ghosters. Don’t be like Goliath and overpower the work world. Be like David—use small tools and take small steps to make big gains.


  1. Robynn Storey, https://www.linkedin.com/in/robynnstorey.
  2. National Conference of State Legislatures, “National Employment Monthly Update,” http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/national-employment-monthly-update.aspx.

Teresa Whitacre is a senior quality engineer and principal at Marketech Systems in Pittsburgh. She holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership and an MBA from Ashford University in San Diego, CA. She is an ASQ-certified quality auditor, engineer, Six Sigma Green Belt and manager of quality/organizational excellence. An ASQ fellow, Whitacre is an instructor for ASQ’s Pittsburgh Section’s certified quality inspector refresher course and past deputy regional director for ASQ Region 8.

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