Question: What can I do so candidates stop ghosting me? Laurie, Chicago

It all starts when you are conducting the initial presentation, and they say hello; this is Bob. When you present to a candidate, whether it is a discovery to see if they are open to making a change or you are presenting a specific opportunity, the yes’s will start. Yes, I’m open. Yes. 

And you start your assessment. 

After years of training recruiters as a firm owner and 15 years of coaching other recruiting firm owners, there’s one critical mistake typically made in the early stages of a new candidate relationship. Many recruiters do not spend enough time uncovering what a candidate wants in the next step of their career or revealing the candidate’s frustrations with their current employer. 

There is no such thing as a perfect job or opportunity. Everyone has complaints about where they work. I own my company and have complaints about where I work! Part of the art of reducing the likelihood of a candidate ghosting you is to take them through the whole process. Uncover exactly, specifically, and precisely what those pain points and consequences are if they stay there. 

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You want them to future pace their frustration. For example:

So, if nothing changes, Bob, a year from now, tell me what you think about your current organization and opportunity.  

Mike, if it’s a year from now, it is just another year where I haven’t progressed in my career.  

How so? Say more. 

Most recruiters do not understand why people do not call us back. The reason people do not call you back is they are not motivated to call you back. Why aren’t they motivated to call you back? Sometimes there is no real urgency for them to change jobs, or they aren’t excited by your opportunity. When candidates are so hard to find, recruiters often do a horrible job uncovering motivation to make a change. So, as I said, it starts with the first phone call.  

Ask these three questions as soon as possible:

1.What are the things you want in the next step in your career?  

2. Specifically, why is that important to you?  

3. What will that allow for you in your life that you do not have now?  

Then you back it in with… 

What are your frustrations with your current opportunity? 

And you discover the gap between their vision for themselves and where they are now. Those two areas have to be fully developed.  

You might think the candidate already knows all that, and they should be motivated to make a change. Honestly, most of us go through life raising kids, doing multiple things, volunteering, and going to work. The frustrations sit in the back of your brain. When you bring them forward is when they have an impact. 

Let’s assume there is alignment between your opportunity and your candidate’s aspirations.

So then I can say: 

Alright, Bob, here is what is going to happen. I am going to present you. I have a good relationship with this client. I am 90% certain they will want to talk to you. Here is how the process is going to go… Now some of the stuff we can do via text, email, you know, coordinating interviews, but I am going to want to talk to you before I bring you to an interview. 


Because I know this hiring manager, I want to set you up to win. I want to set you up so that at each step in the process, you can decide if you wish to move forward or not, versus the client being in decision. I want you to wow them, and I think you can for these reasons… 

Here is what is going to happen. If you do not return my calls, you are out. 

Most recruiters will not do that. Because when somebody does not return my calls – I have been doing this a long time, here is what I know – they are not really interested.  

As tough as this market is, and you know, Bob, you do not need me. You can get a job on your own. I respect that, but you will not get my job if you blow me off.  

Is there anything I need to do or be aware of, Bob, over the next few weeks where it might be difficult for you to get back to me within 24 hours of leaving you a message?  

And I flush that out. 

They might say, I am going to be in Antarctica in a spot where there is only satellite service, and I do not have a satellite phone from this date to this date. I am just giving an obscure example.  

Give them the full opportunity to tell you when they are not available. Then I go for their commitment.  

Here is the commitment, Bob.  

I always lead with my commitment first.  

Bob, I will return any call, text, or email in kind within 24 hours, and I am asking you to make that same commitment in return. Is that fair?  


Then I say,

Two, do I have your commitment?  

Yes, you have my commitment.

Here is why it is essential. Once we get started in the process, let’s say you go out on the interview, I need to talk to you before I speak to the client. Here is why that is important to you.  

(They never care why it is important to you as a recruiter. Remember that. Always put it in their best interest.)

When the client calls me, he will say, what did Bob think? I really like Bob. What did he think?  

And if I say…

I haven’t talked to Bob yet. I have done this, again, for X years. Here is what I have heard from clients many times. Then he is probably not that interested. The hiring manager’s brain will shift to an ego-mind standpoint and start finding flaws in your background, preparing for the worst. 

Does that happen every time? No. But I like to tell a candidate, so they understand the psychology of the whole interview process.  

This is a dating process.

If you start dating somebody, and both of you are excited, what if they do not get back to you? Ghosting. That is where it came from. Or that movie, He’s Really Not That Into You. You have to convey that to the candidate.  

Continue the conversation with your candidate with…

Look, if I do not hear back from you, I will give you a warning, and I will call the client and say I have not heard from him. Our agreement was if I did not hear from him, that indicated to me that he was not interested, and we would pull him from the process.  

Bob, I am okay if you do not want to attend the next interview. I will not try to change your mind if, after the first interview, you do not like it and do not want to move forward. I simply want to ask why and what was missing for you so that I can fine-tune that alignment in a future opportunity. Does that make sense, Bob?  

Here is what is going to happen at the offer stage. You will have at most 24 hours to decide, and it will likely need to occur on the same day. At that point, you will not have much time to think about it, so our job over the next 3 or 4 weeks is to ensure you get all the information you need to make a decision that is a hell yes or a hell no. So, with each step, I want to know what is missing. I want to know where your thoughts are and what else you are interviewing on. If the best opportunity that comes across your desk is not from me, that is totally okay because you have to live with it. But again, I need all that data. 

Now, some of you might think that this is a little unrealistic. Well, that is a mindset issue. And there are ways you can negotiate around that, by the way. But it is always in an exchange. Well, I am going to want to see it in writing. Okay, if I get it in writing the same day. We will get it to you in email, in Adobe, or whatever; we will get it to you the same day. By the way, have your clients set up for all of this.  

I want the candidate to think about it. I want them to explore other opportunities. Sometimes I would say it like this: 

This is the start of the journey. You have three weeks to think about it. In the end, you will have collected all the data and know yes or no. I am okay with a no; I love a decision. But, I hate maybe’s. Maybe’s mean no to me.  

Recruiters have trouble with candidates because they do not set boundaries and manage expectations early on.

It is a business decision on your part whether you are going to work with a person who just says, get me in front of them, and I will let you know. I am not going to say do not do it. I just never did it because they are tire kickers. Would they accept offers once in a while? Sure. Life is too short, and I know my metrics. For every 15 candidates, I talk to, one goes on an interview. For every 6.54 interviews we arrange, we make a placement. I know I am 15 conversations away from another candidate. Included in the 15:1 ratio was disqualifying candidates who would not agree to my process. I had very few turndowns, and in a $3 million year, we had two or three counters taken. 

I agree, it is more challenging now. But if you do this, while you will not eliminate ghosting, you will mitigate it. Then you have a business decision. What direction do you go with that candidate? Do you choose to continue to work with them? The ball is now in your court.

P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways I can help you grow your recruitment business:

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