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Do companies 'ghost' job applicants? Ask HR

Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world's largest HR professional society.

The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor's answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.

Question: Last month, I had what I thought was a great interview with a company I'm interested in. I followed up, sent thank-you notes – and never heard back. Do companies often "ghost" job candidates? How can I make sure this doesn't happen moving forward? – Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: I’m sorry you never heard back. However, I want to applaud you for bringing your best self forward and following up. Never underestimate the power of a genuine thank-you note!

This year, business has been anything but usual. For many companies, this has disrupted everything from operations down to the hiring process, too. I’ve seen firsthand how HR staff and hiring managers are working nonstop to help their business navigate a changing workplace – it’s a lot!

This might not be the answer you were hoping for, but your situation is not uncommon. Qualified job candidates can go through many steps of the application process only to be left without closure from the company. Is this a best practice? No. But does it happen from time to time? Yes.

That said, there are a few reasons why you might have been “ghosted.” For one, it’s quite possible they simply don’t have the time or resources to respond to every candidate that applies.

Second, there are many moving parts when it comes to recruiting – trust me, I know. Given today's climate, business circumstances may have changed, causing businesses to freeze hiring for this specific position (or hiring in general) until the economy stabilizes a bit more. I wouldn’t count your application out just yet!

You did the right thing by expressing your gratitude for their time and consideration. From what you’ve told me, it also sounds as if you made a good impression during your interview, and the company may keep your resume on file for future opportunities.

Ultimately, though, don’t wait for a response if you need a job now. Keep your head up and your eyes peeled, and hopefully you will find the right role and company for you soon.

Question: I was recently offered a promotion. It's more money but a lot more responsibility. I'm currently juggling an already heavy workload as well as supervising my children, who are doing virtual learning. I want this promotion, but I don't think I have the personal and professional bandwidth at the moment. Can I defer my promotion, or will it hurt my chances of getting promoted in the future? – Anonymous

Taylor: First, congratulations on your promotion offer! I know your apprehension about it is a drag right now, but it truly is a success worth celebrating: Your manager very clearly values your talent, work ethic and personality.

In the roughly seven months since the coronavirus pandemic upended the workplace, many of us have been stuck juggling personal and professional commitments and obligations. So I totally understand your reservations about taking on more when you already have so much. These arrangements that, initially, felt temporary are increasingly feeling more eternal in nature.

But these struggles will pass, so I would encourage you to refrain from passing on this opportunity without first carefully weighing your options. After all, if you defer for today, there’s no guarantee another promotion will be lying in wait for you right around the corner.

While I don’t know the specifics of your situation, many managers are increasingly sensitive to the mix of personal and professional strains weighing on their people. So, before making your decision, speak up and start a transparent conversation with your boss. You may be able to brainstorm ideas and solutions to make this promotion work for you and the company.

When you do, try not to let your worries overwhelm the tone and mood of the conversation. Lead with, and emphasize, your enthusiasm and gratitude for the offer, and then weave in the practical concerns and limitations on your mind. Keep things bright and energetic to show you really want this to work, not only for yourself, but your manager and the organization, too.

If flexible scheduling isn’t an option, you can also respectfully negotiate job details with your manager. That could include changing the official start date or working out a slow transition into your new position.

Of course, the only way you’ll really know what’s possible will come from a conversation with your manager. Congrats, again – and good luck!




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