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Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

OPINIONOpinionJanuary 16, 2024

Dear employers: stop ghosting me

Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

Jobseekers often put blood, sweat and tears into their applications. For hirers to refuse to acknowledge this effort is inexcusably rude and lazy.

Job seeking is humbling at best, and soul crushing at worst. In that respect, it’s a bit like online dating. 

Both start with a profile; a polished version of ourselves with all the messy, awkward and uncertain bits pruned away. Pitching this curated portrait involves a slew of nerves, coffee dates, feigned enthusiasm and, should the process drag on, grim suspicions that our standards are too high. 

I think we can all agree that failure isn’t the worst part of either process. With rejection comes a sense of closure and a chance to move on; two things we’re robbed of when we’re simply ignored. 

Which brings me to my point. Dear hirers: ignoring job applicants is crap behaviour.

During my most recent stint as a job seeker, I applied for around 20 jobs. I dug deep to write cover letters that I thought spoke to my dreams and passions, proffering them with equal parts pride and self-doubt. Around half of these applications received a response. The rest, well, who knows?

Image: Getty

Having your application rejected is always gutting, but the knowledge that it was at least appreciated separates an encouraging experience from one that leaves you feeling worthless. 

That feeling of worthlessness is all too common to job seekers. In a sense, being offered a job feels like society’s way of telling you that you have value, while failing to find a job has the opposite effect. Some days, the resilience needed to keep sending applications, and to keep telling yourself that you bring value, wanes. On these days, how we’re turned down from a job matters.

Sam, a 25-year-old journalist from Wellington, agrees. She spent months poring over job boards and writing applications before moving to our capital this spring. In one instance, Sam wasn’t just ignored by an employer: she was ghosted. 

“Their recruitment manager emailed me a few weeks after I applied and asked if I was OK with the work and hours,” she says. This was a sure sign she was in the running for the role and Sam felt relieved her exhausting job hunt might be coming to an end. She responded, and the recruiter said they’d get back to her. 

Sam waited. Nothing. Two weeks later, she followed up. 

The recruiter replied saying the company had already filled the role, cheerfully signing off with “Please keep an eye out for future opportunities!” before disappearing back into the void. 

Harry, 18, from Christchurch had a similar experience. He says he’d been in a back-and-forth over email with a restaurant manager regarding his application for a role they had going. The manager discussed pay, hours, and which location Harry could commute to. Eventually, the pair scheduled an interview.

“At the end of the interview they said they can’t wait to get me started, that I would fit in great,” says Harry. He never heard from the manager again. 

Both Sam and Harry’s hopes were crushed, slowly. They felt like their time had been wasted. “It felt disrespectful,” says Sam. “It was that person’s job to keep me in the loop.” Sending a polite rejection “takes seconds”, she adds. “For the amount of work it takes, responding has a huge impact.”

Ian Scott from Randstad New Zealand, Aotearoa’s largest recruitment agency, says laziness isn’t always the reason why some hirers leave applicants in limbo. 

“Every employer, in an ideal world, would be able to respond,” says Ian, who’s been in the recruitment sector since job applications were sent over fax. “But if you’re a busy manager,” he adds, “it can be very perfunctory.”

“They’ll get round to it tomorrow and then tomorrow never comes. That’s just the real world,” says Ian. “I’m not saying it’s right, I’m not saying that’s how it should be done. But that’s one of the reasons.” 

Neil Mythen is an example of an employer who does it right. Director of a forestry business, Neil received up to 80 applicants during his last hiring run. He made sure to email those he declined to interview, and called the candidates who didn’t make the final cut. 

“It takes bugger all,” says Neil. “They’ve put aside time to see me. They’ve made that effort, so I’ll make a phone call. I’ll say thanks for coming into the interview, you didn’t make the cut, then I’ll give them a reason why.” Neil insists this is the “morally the right thing to do”. “Nothing worse than hanging around waiting and not knowing,” he adds. “It feels like your whole life’s in limbo, eh?”

So, hirers: take a leaf out of Neil’s book, please. Exercise empathy and realise the influence your decisions have on the people who’ve offered to work for you. Choosing not to do so, I’m sorry to say, is inexcusably rude and lazy. 

Behind every application is a person nervously waiting for your response. You wouldn’t play with someone’s feelings on Tinder (I hope), so don’t do it in the workplace.

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