Ghosted After a Job Interview? Here’s How to Bounce Back.

(Pheelings Media/Getty Images)

A few years ago, multimedia journalist Andrea Kramar connected with a TV network recruiter who thought she’d be perfect for an open role. But before she met with the hiring manager, she needed to submit three local pitches and shoot, edit and produce a one-minute package. Kramar had high hopes when she submitted her work. The recruiter said they’d “be in touch with next steps.”

But it never happened. “I kept following up and they always said, ‘We’re still building the pool for the [multimedia journalist] position. Nothing’s been decided and you’re still a candidate,’ but I never got to the stage of meeting with the hiring manager,” Kramar said.

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Kramar is one of many journalists who have experienced ghosting, or indirect rejection, while job hunting in a tough market. The employment website Indeed’s 2023 Ghosting in Hiring report found that 40% of American job-seekers said an employer had ghosted them after a second- or third-round interview.

Ghosting, or silence, can feel particularly uncomfortable to journalists applying for jobs in a low-supply, competitive market. Daniel Space, a human resources professional who worked with senior leadership at Spotify, Electronic Arts and WebMD, said recruiters are seeing more applications than ever. “Prior to 2020, you could usually expect 50 to 100 good local candidates based on the position and level,” he said. “Now, I’ve had recruiters say that they may get 1,000 to 2,000, and recruiters are having a really tough time trying to narrow down a short list that feels both fair and valuable.”

Andrea Kramar reporting from the Empire State Building in New York on Oct. 10, 2019. (Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Staff)

Hiring managers and recruiters like Space say it’s important for applicants to understand that a lot is going on behind the scenes and not to take rejection personally — which is easier said than done.

“I really feel for candidates who have applied and have actually spoken to someone there — particularly people who’ve been moved on to a second round or more,” said Dina Ross, the former head of digital at financial news streamer Cheddar who had hired many writers for the team. “In this current atmosphere, there are lots of really perfect people all applying for the same job and the hiring manager is getting to talk to several people who are all very qualified. And it’s really hard to pick one.”

Even after a candidate gets hired, many factors go into when and how the other candidates get rejected. Here are ways to cope with silent rejection and possibly turn it into a future job offer.

Understand the process has a lot of variables

After getting laid off from a large newspaper chain in February, journalist Dorothy Pugh got a call from an editor at one of her former employers, asking if she was interested in applying for a remote full-time copy editor role. She said yes and the editor discussed salary with her. Pugh emailed her resume to be formally considered, and the editor said he’d be in touch.

A few weeks went by without a word from him. Pugh followed up via email and the editor responded with an update: The publication hired a candidate who was local to the area. “I hadn’t met this editor, but I’d known of him,” she said. “He seemed very professional, so I was expecting a higher level [of professionalism] than I got.”

Unlike Pugh, many job candidates don’t receive an explanation of what happened after being ghosted for several weeks. Michelle Enjoli, a career coach and former TV and radio news producer, explained that there are many variables at play in the hiring process that the job candidate doesn’t know about. 

“There are these arbitrary laws where, even if a manager has somebody already in mind to hire, they are forced legally to post the position,” she said. “So what ends up happening is this position gets posted, and many young journalists spend time applying and interviewing for it when that position already has someone attached to it. It’s so unfair, but it happens a lot.”

Because of that, some rejections might be delivered outside of a formal email. Recently, two companies added me to their respective Slack messaging systems for trial assignments and then removed me a few weeks later — without ever sending me formal rejection emails about the jobs. Space said that type of indirect rejection likely results from a lack of communication between two internal departments.

“The people who would activate that Slack are gonna be different than the person who processes the rejection letter,” he said. “The IT person might see the news of the rejection before the recruiter and remove you from Slack, not considering that the recruiter has to send that message first.”

As a former hiring manager, Ross often experienced having lots of great candidates for open positions, but could only hire one. “The question becomes what happens with those people who were wonderful candidates, and it just wasn’t the right person at the right time,” she said. “Most of the time, when people don’t hear back it’s because the manager just got completely swamped and it’s out of sight, out of mind.”

Follow up in a professional manner

In January, longtime entertainment journalist Danielle Turchiano wanted to apply for a role at an entertainment and lifestyle magazine in a different city. Turchiano was worried she wouldn’t be considered if she wasn’t local, so she contacted the team and asked about it, and they encouraged her to apply. She submitted her application and got a response asking for her availability the following week for a Zoom interview.

When that week came and went without anything scheduled, Turchiano sent an email. “I followed up to say, ‘Hey, I realized we wanted to talk last week and it didn’t happen. I’m still available and interested if you are,’” she said. “I didn’t want to seem desperate, but I also didn’t like what they were showing me. I didn’t want to work for a company that worked like this.”

In instances when you do get an interview, Ross suggests sending a thank-you email afterward. If you were given a concrete timeline of next steps and you haven’t heard back, it’s reasonable to send a follow-up email, said Scott Williams, NBCU News Group director of talent acquisition.

When it’s clear the job isn’t yours, Enjoli said to send an email in an informational tone either asking for feedback, so you can improve for next time, or to be considered for a future role. She did this once and landed a job at the company nine months later.

“Always keep a positive outlook,” Enjoli said. “That positive demeanor and that willingness to accept a rejection — sometimes that can leave a mark on a recruiter and they might recommend you in the future.”

Don’t take it personally

Turchiano said getting rejected through silence can be tough, especially when you put a lot of time and effort into the interview process, but remember to put it into perspective.

She recommended taking the personal aspect out of it and to “constantly remind yourself they’re not rejecting just me, they’re rejecting a large group of people and I just happen to be one of them right now,” she said. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I just don’t match up with what they’re looking for right now.”

Space explained that recruiters at large companies are often hiring for multiple roles at once, which could make the process take longer. The typical hiring process ranges from three to six weeks, according to LinkedIn News.

“Recruiters are asked to do more and more and more work and not given more resources,” Space said, adding that he’s not defending the practice of ghosting, just offering context. “A recruiter would usually have between 20 to 25 open [roles] at a time, and between 30 or 40 candidates in play, in addition to weekly meetings. So it becomes less and less urgent for every recruiter to try to get back to every single candidate. In many cases, it’s not intentional,” he said.

Ross emphasized that journalists should be patient and professional throughout their hiring processes, approaching it like reporting a story.

“It’s a tedious process for every person involved, including the hiring manager, and it’s never personal, particularly when it comes to journalism,” she said. “You are going to get a lot of no’s while reporting and looking for sources. This is practice for the future and a skill you can learn now.”

Mallory Carra

Mallory Carra is a journalist, editor and USC adjunct journalism professor based in Los Angeles, where she teaches digital and audio journalism. Her bylines have appeared in Cosmopolitan, E! News, Teen Vogue and elsewhere.