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If you think ghosting is exclusive to the online dating world, allow me to introduce you to professional ghosting.
That’s when someone vanishes from a professional communication or relationship — poof — without a trace.
Now, I think we can all agree ghosting is poor form in any circumstance. But when you ghost a professional contact, the risks can be a lot more serious than an awkward bar encounter down the road. Here are four professional ghosting mistakes you may be making, and how they can affect your career.
1. Not Responding to a Recruiter
Who among us hasn’t been ghosted by a prospective employer or recruiter during the job search process? At this point, we’ve been conditioned to interpret silence as a rejection. But Ann Vu Ngo, a career counselor at Bethel University, also sees candidates ghosting recruiters, too — and warns that it’s equally unprofessional.
The thought process may be that recruiters have plenty of other candidates to choose from and won’t mind not hearing back from you, but even a brief response is better than nothing. If you’re not in the market for a new role, a simple “I’m not looking at this time” can leave the door open if that changes in the future.
And if you are looking for a new job but the role in question isn’t the right fit, tell them that. Depending on the recruiter, they may have several other opportunities they could connect you with. Exploring this option could pay off big for your career.
2. Not Saying ‘Thank You’
As someone whose career can easily be followed online, I get a lot of emails and direct messages asking me to share my career journey and advice. I’m happy to help, but I’ve lost count of how many times my response is met with total silence.
Similarly, career coach Alyson Garrido often sees her clients ghost people who have offered them help. “If someone has offered help, it's safe to assume that they mean it and you can follow up,” advises Garrido. “If nothing else, the person who has offered help should be thanked. Not thanking someone or following up makes it much more difficult to reach out later if you need something.”
Adds Vu Ngo, “The key here is to know that someone is on the other side of that email, phone call or interview. Humanize the situation and understand that we're moving game pieces for the long game.” The bottom line: If someone took time out of their day to help you, acknowledge it.
3. Not Following Through on a Lead
When you ask someone to make a recommendation or connection for you, you’re asking them to put their reputation and credibility on the line in order to vouch for yours. If they oblige, you need to follow through.
“Personally, I have made referrals and then learned that the person did not reach out or follow up appropriately. That's a guarantee that I won't make another referral,” says Garrido.
Of course, we’re not recommending you take a job that isn’t right for you just because someone referred you, but do your due diligence and be courteous and professional. Thank your contact and let them know the outcome.
4. Not Holding Up Your End of a Deal
In college I took a PR and marketing internship, but when my last day rolled around, my supervisor — and the signed recommendation letter I had been promised — were nowhere to be found. I left with the promise that it would be emailed to me, but several follow-ups later, I never got that letter.
Fast-forward a couple of years and someone I had worked under at that internship reached out to ask for my help. My initial association with her name was that terrible internship experience, and while I didn’t hold it against her, I could have. I tell this story because it’s a reminder of how small your professional network really is. And someone you wronged in the past could wind up being your bridge to a new opportunity in the future.
“Ghosting damages how someone might remember you or speak about you, says Vu Ngo. “This could make or break you. Industries are fairly connected and word of mouth could really offer others a favorable impression of you and also the flip — a bad impression.”