Have We Lost the “Human” In Human Resources and Recruiting?

Perhaps we have all been in this situation: You are a job applicant. You take time out of your busy day/life to update your resume. Review the job boards/LinkedIn/websites/companies/etc. You navigate an often cumbersome company applicant tracking system (ATS). You apply to a position of interest. You receive an automated email response from the ATS thanking you for your interest and said company will be in touch should there be further interest. You receive an email response from a Human Resources professional or hiring manager asking you to schedule a time/date to discuss your job search and their open position. You take time off work to do the phone interview at their convenience. You have a first interview. Thirty-minutes or an hour. You receive another email to schedule another phone interview with the next level of management. More time off perhaps. More time interviewing. With some companies, you may go through three to four different rounds of phone/video interviews alone. Maybe you travel to the company for an onsite interview visit. Hours and hours. And, you are interviewing with four different companies at the same time. Your job interviews are now almost like a second job. And then? Poof. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Ghosted. You never hear back from the company. Has this ever happened to you? I hear these stories far too often these days.

As an industry (media) and as a corporate central functions silo (Human Resources), we need to do better. According to a recent report, a staggering 65% of people said they didn’t hear back from a position they applied for. And the chances are there was nothing these candidates could have done to change things. We need to absolutely put the “Human” back in Human Resources. Yes, that is correct. Humans are interviewing. Flesh and blood and busy and anxious and emotional and all the good and all the bad. Humans. And get this…You, as the hiring manager and HR professional, have been through interviews before as well. Think back to how you felt during the process. The professional courtesy of giving time-sensitive feedback and communicate continued interest or not is lost upon so many companies these days. And it is getting progressively worse. ATS. Email. Artificial Intelligence. Text. Very little human touch. And a very large black hole void in which many candidates get lost.

I had one of my candidates reach out to me today after I notified them my client moved forward with another candidate. The candidate picked up their phone, called me and thanked me for letting them know. In this case, the company hiring manager asked this candidate to review their newscast, provide critiques, and ideas for improvement and/or creative ideas for their content. This candidate spent hours doing this. I saw the work and it was solid. And then “poof”…nada. No feedback from the manager, no “yes” or “no” directly to the candidate. No nothing. Except the hiring manager notifying me of their decision to move forward with another candidate. My candidate fell into the black hole of recruiting, never to be contacted again, after all that time and energy. Frustrating.

For the candidates who have been ghosted during a recruiting process…Here are some thoughts on what you can do to perhaps keep this from happening again:

1. Effective follow-up

Do not be afraid to ask for the interviewer’s contact info if you do not have it already. If someone screened you on the phone pre-interview, then get their mail too. Once you have their deets, you need to find a fine line of staying top of mind to the hiring manager without bugging/stalking them. Find the line, toe it, and perhaps lean over a bit. Do not cross it though. Immediately after the interview, send out a “thank you” email or perhaps a written note for a personal touch. You need to do this within a day, tops.

If you receive a typical automated-type reply telling you the recruiter/hiring manager will get back to you in a few days and they don’t – send another brief follow-up to simply check-in. Typically this is not being overbearing – it’s showing initiative. You could even use an email tracker just to check when/if your correspondence is being read.  

Keep emailing the recruiter/hiring manager – maybe one email a week – for the next two-three weeks or so. Continue to express your interest in the company and the position, and be specific. Take note of relevant industry news. For example, if you applied for a job in news management, check out any recent breaking news. Use your expertise/knowledge/networking ability to show the recruiter/hiring manager you are a candidate who is absolutely ready to take the reins in your new position. 

Most recruiters will find it hard to ignore this kind of politely persistent follow-up. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? Even if you do not get the specific job, you may get a reply and an answer as to your status. And, if it turns out you didn’t get this job, they may keep you in mind for a future position. Follow up but do not become a nuisance. There is the line.

It is worth mentioning the obvious here though…There simply comes a time when you need to cut bait and move on. And try to not go overboard or use accusatory language like “It’s been a long time since our interview and I have not heard from you”. Do not burn a bridge in our very small media industry!

2. Try other social media/networking channels

If you’re not getting a reply to your emails, try another channel. LinkedIn is a good place to start. Send a polite message along the lines of “I really enjoyed our meeting last week and would like to know what the next steps are”. 

Start with one channel and don’t focus on one point of contact – if your efforts aren’t paying off, try another member of the recruitment team. If you can see that the position has been filled, it could still be worthwhile to reach out to another hiring manager.

By reaching out to another member of the HR team you may gain insights into the hiring process or learn if you should be following up in a different way. 

3. What to do when you are constantly being ‘ghosted’

As mentioned, this happens to 65% of candidates today on average. So, odds are that everyone stands a decent percentage chance of being ghosted. However, if this is happening to you time and time again, perhaps it is time to do a deep dive internal inflection as to why. Think about how you come across in interviews, and whether you have the skills and aptitudes for the position…both technical and behavioral competencies. Do extra research to truly see how you align with those competencies. 

Reflect on your interview techniques – have you adjusted these in light of remote interviewing and working? These days it is more likely you will meet with recruiters on the phone or via video calls. 

It may seem unfair and inhuman, but many recruiters/hiring managers have little to absolutely no incentive to give feedback to “no” candidates. The simple and brutal reality is they have already moved on. If you feel you’re getting ghosted consistently, find a trusted person to give you honest feedback. Maybe consider doing a ‘mock’ interview with an HR mentor. Practice, practice practice! Research behavioral interview techniques and star answers. Train as if you would when you physically workout. It takes time and practice to become good at this.

Ghosting is always an emotional experience on both a personal and professional level, but do not let it define you. Reflect. Be honest with yourself. Adapt and overcome. And do not be afraid to ask for professional help and get yourself back in the game. 

So, why? Recruiters could be ghosting you for a number of reasons

Ghosting may not always truly be ghosting. The hiring manager could be on vacation, be out on sick leave (COVID?), or the media company/station simply moves slowly and they may not have effective recruiting/collaborative practices in place. It could also be that managers are on the fence about which candidate to choose or have offered the job to someone else but haven’t received an official acceptance with a confirmed start-date. 

Recruiters/hiring managers are human also. And, some humans have difficulty being the bearer of bad news. Another reason they didn’t get back to you could even be that they feel bad about letting you down. This may be true if the interview process was lengthy…perhaps they are embarrassed.

I have heard some companies decide to go silent instead of chancing discrimination charges/accusations. I find this hard to believe, but I have heard of this. Unfortunately, unlike in the public sector – where employers are legally obliged to inform applicants they were not selected – no such laws surround the private sector. Recruiters/hiring managers only do so as a courtesy.

Maybe it is simply time to move on

When all else fails as a candidate and you have reached out several times without finding an answer, it may be time to get up off the ground, dust yourself off, move on and pick up where you left off. Start sending out more applications – and bear in mind the previous tips around following up post-interview. Activity and networking during your job search may cure all.

And true, you may always wonder why a particular company ghosted you. But in the end, why would you want to work for an employer who displays so little consideration and professional courtesy for candidates anyway?

So what now…?

So what do we do as an industry and where does this go? As a third-party recruiting firm owner and self-anointed expert in the field with thirty-years experience, I suggest hiring managers give honest, open, and immediate feedback to each and every candidate. Be respectful of their time and treat candidates as human beings. How you treat your candidates in your recruiting process is a direct reflection of you… and speaks loudly and clearly as to your corporate culture. And with media companies devouring each other at a rapid acquisition rate these days, this could come back to bite you one day. Our industry is small, ladies and gentlemen. There is no Kevin Bacon “Six Degrees of Separation” within our media industry…It is two to three, tops. By “ghosting” a candidate as a hiring manager and/or recruiter, you may be losing out on a great opportunity to keep a close runner-up candidate in your recruiting pipeline for future consideration. Regardless, be a good human. Deliver bad news when needed and bring the “human” aspect back to Human Resources.

About the Author: Ty Carver has over 30+ years of recruiting, HR management, sales, and leadership experience…including the last 10 specific to the broadcast media industry. He is the Founder/CEO of Carver Talent, a local broadcast media management recruiting firm. As the former Director of Recruiting for Raycom Media, he has deep industry relationships. Have a media corporate executive or television station management recruiting need? Contact [email protected] for more information.