The hiring experience can feel like a no-win situation for candidates and recruiters alike. Sifting through piles of resumes, multiple rounds of interviews, indecisive hiring teams, flighty prospects, getting ghosted by top talent and an increasingly competitive job market is an emotional rollercoaster.

A friend of mine (we’ll call her Marin), a recent graduate job hunting in the tech industry, could relate. After five interviews over three months (plus a skills test and dozens of back-and-forth emails), she got an unwelcome message from HR: Would she be interested in a sixth and final interview?

She didn’t have a job yet, but she felt burned out, angry and embarrassed. In the end, Marin decided to not do anything: “I just ghosted them.”  

Marin’s experience echoes a growing trend of candidates ghosting recruiters — one thrown into starker relief and greater urgency by the ongoing labor shortage. It’s important for recruiters to understand what tensions are primarily fueling the problem:

Employees Are Re-evaluating Their Professional Priorities

Professionals between the ages of 30 and 45 had the highest increase in resignation rates in 2021. The desire for people to refocus on human connection is a major theme driving shifts in priorities for talent.

While some companies have moved to prioritize employee wellness, more conservative organizations are struggling to adapt to changing employee expectations.

It’s a Candidate’s Market

Companies and recruiters are presently operating in a context where jobs outnumber viable applicants. Candidates are empowered to demand differential treatment from employers and recruiters.

A fast hiring process, minimum interviews, compensation transparency and clear communication are increasingly expected. Good is no longer good enough when people can walk out the door (or the Zoom lobby) for something better.

Recruiters Are Overtasked

Talent acquisition pros are managing these changes while also stumbling through an increasingly decentralized and disconnected world, with more unpredictable hiring outcomes.

Forging human connections, maintaining lines of communication and qualifying talent looks different now. As hiring remains an utmost priority for scaling companies, recruiters are challenged to carry out a big mandate without being overwhelmed or getting stuck playing messenger between overwhelmed hiring teams and impatient candidates.  

If candidates are increasingly seeking authentic employee-employer relationships, and employers are anxious to demonstrate those relationships then it’s up to recruiters to establish those connections. 

Redistributing Work

No matter how on their game a recruiter may be, they can’t do it all. When they do try to do it all — sift through hundreds of applications, screen dozens of prospects and finally shepherd five or so candidates through a long and emotionally charged hiring process only to have talent run to a competitor — it’s defeating. There’s not enough interpersonal bandwidth and candidates who don’t feel valued will walk.

The reality is that candidates are just giving employers the same treatment they’ve been used to receiving — vague expectations, slow responses and ghosting without a proper explanation (aka the average hiring process). That passive, lazy approach to recruiting isn’t enough to stay competitive today.

No hiring strategy is perfect, but making a couple of key changes to streamline processes and maximize meaningful interaction can make a huge difference and lower the odds of getting ghosted by top talent.

A Better Interview Process

If the way you plan, coordinate, communicate, or facilitate interviews hasn’t changed recently, you’re going to lose a lot of candidates at the door. Rethink what interviews are necessary and how to change the interview process to be less intimidating or repetitive for candidates and less of a coordination nightmare for your team. 

Recruiters today don’t have time to send a dozen emails to schedule each interview. Candidates can’t make time for a painful experience (and like Marin, they won’t). One-way asynchronous interviews can help simplify logistics early in the hiring process and make qualifying talent more efficient.

This isn’t a new idea, but the shift to remote work has people more accepting — if not more preferable — of talking on camera. At the least, it’s a more flexible, less cumbersome way for talent to formally introduce themselves to decision-makers.

Companies must understand that candidates today have options, so they need more options to engage with employers on their terms. Plus, asynchronous interviews allow talent to think longer about their responses.

It gives hiring teams better insight into their skills, communication style, personality, interests and needs, which can help save everyone time by determining if a candidate is a great fit earlier in the process.

There’s no reason scheduling interviews should be a hassle, either. Using modern recruiting tools to sync with candidate calendars and share real-time availability is essential to prevent booking time from being an obstacle, and turning talent away.

Smarter Sourcing

Inefficient sourcing eats up valuable time where recruiters should be building relationships. If half your day is spent flipping through faces on job sites, you’re doing it wrong.

There are not enough hours in the day to manually review profiles across multiple functions and locations — and that should be OK.

By leveraging AI-powered sourcing technology, recruiters can save valuable time searching for, evaluating and identifying top candidates who meet evolving company needs and organizational culture, providing much-needed support for harried hiring teams.

For one, it accelerates the qualification process by more rapidly screening applications and profiles, and identifying fits for company needs and culture, with less cost and without sacrificing rigor.

For another, AI can manage greater volumes of applicants, and can assist hiring teams to handle more candidates while surfacing more diverse and qualified candidate pools.

For example, the ability to source by specific skills, or by using keywords, helps to mitigate issues with more traditional sourcing methods — such as searching by job title or role — which can differ from company to company and not always match the qualifications a recruiter is looking for.

Saying More With Less

Top candidates cringe at impersonal, shot-in-the-dark messages. When competing for their attention, recruiters have to be more thoughtful. Rather than praying for responses to an elevator pitch on the first message, proactively think about the value provided with a follow-up, or a follow-up’s follow-up.

Consider asking questions, take interest in learning about what the candidate finds important about a job opportunity and keep messages brief.

To scale a more proactive, nurturing approach, look for candidate engagement tools that connect directly to sourcing platforms and provide the ability to create custom campaigns for outreach to all of your targets.

The best tools today can equip recruiters to increase the quality of candidate conversations — while saving time — by sending bulk emails, cataloging templates or setting outreach reminders.

Lastly, talent acquisition teams need to get comfortable with measuring engagement. There’s a reason sales and marketing pros live and die by metrics.

Tracking email opens and response rates when engaging or sourcing gives recruiters an understanding of where and when to refine outreach, what send times work best, which messages are most likely to get candidates’ attention and at what point talent typically drops off — or ghosts — when being nurtured.

It seems obvious that waiting for talent to apply to job postings, sending canned messages to applicants and asking candidates to jump through hoops to be interviewed are bad practices. Unfortunately, those negative experiences are still prevalent, as evidenced by great candidates like Marin.

But that truth creates opportunity for hiring teams willing to take a more proactive, outbound recruiting approach and embrace change to create a better candidate experience. For every recruiter who gets ghosted by top talent, another gets closer to making a great hire.

Shannon Pritchett

Shannon Pritchett is Head of Marketing and Community at both hireEZ and Evry1 (which she co-founded in 2021). Prior to joining hireEZ, she served in a variety of recruiting roles and later leveraged her industry experience and expertise to hold leadership positions at Moxy, SourceCon, CareerXroads, and beyond. As a talent acquisition leader, she remains passionate about connecting companies with their most valuable asset — people.