Why your interviewees ghost you (and how to stop them)

Tom Smith

Sorry, my mum’s said I’m grounded

What’s the weirdest excuse you’ve been given for someone not turning up for an interview?

We’ve seen:

  • Just been arrested
  • Pigeon’s just flew in
  • Got a crap haircut

More importantly, when you get these types of excuses, do you believe them?

Might have been true? Might not.

Either way, these no-shows are a pain. Time wasted. Not just the block booked out for interview, but the organisation, the preparation – both physical and mental. Plus, it’s reducing your chances of getting that role filled quickly.

And some of these no-shows, many of them, could have been avoided.

Because they’re not always about the candidate’s excuse. They’re about the underlying reason they don’t want to attend. 

And that reason is often fear. 

Interview ghosts feel fear, apparently

In our last blog, we talked about improving your interview processes.

In much the same way, it’s improving your processes that’ll drive down no-shows.

Partially because it’s a side effect of some of those points. Completing the process quickly means they’re less likely to get offered a job elsewhere and therefore pull out, for example.

But also because the “fear” candidates most often feel is fear of the unknown. Fair enough, it’s not Hallowe’en fear, but it’s enough to turn them off. Keep them venturing outside their comfort zone.

They’re scared of what they don’t know. Like they’re not suitably prepared for the interview. They don’t know what’s coming. 

Or they weren’t sure whether they were right for the role, because they didn’t know enough about it.

Or they were never right in the first place, but weren’t sure how to tell you.

But you can fight fear. Here’s how:

5 tips for reducing interview no-shows

1. Qualify properly

You really should know your candidate – and their motivations – well before you interview them. Ideally, you’re looking at a screening call.

How you’ll arrange this depends a lot on your processes, but if you haven’t spoken to them – in depth – before your interview, somebody should. I’m not saying a recruiter, but I’m not not saying it either. 

Besides this saving you time not interviewing people who never would have been right anyway, you can assess why they’re interested in the first place, give them a reason to want to attend. What’s more, you can sniff out and handle any reasons they might be reticent.

2. Don’t oversell the role

If you’re not selling the role to candidates, either in the screening we just mentioned or in the job ad, you should be. You’re giving them a reason to want to show up.

But don’t bullshit. Your job is what it is. And you should be able to sell it on that. If not, it’s the scope of what you’re offering that needs changing, not your pitch.

So in your ad, and any subsequent chats, give your applicants the full info. Spin it positively, sure, but honestly. Be transparent. Don’t let there be any nasty surprises. Let people who really don’t want to come, not. If it weeds out people who wouldn’t have accepted, or lasted, anyway, so be it.

3. Keep in touch

Obviously you don’t want to overwhelm or otherwise stalk these applicants. Doesn’t mean you can’t check in. Make sure everything’s okay. What’s new?

Make sure everything’s agreed. Get commitment – they tell you they’re definitely going to be there. But don’t force them. If they don’t or can’t commit, why? Is it something you can resolve?

Set reminders, or get them to. You can automate a lot of this process, but the personal touch is nice too, if you get time. Again, a recruiter can take much of this off your hands, just saying.

4. Explain the process

The more your candidate knows about what’s going to happen in the interview – the format it’ll take, the kinds of things they’ll be asked, who they’ll be meeting – the fewer unknowns for them, and the less they have to fear. 

You’ll need to balance this against what you want them to know innately versus what they can research, but the likelihood is you can winkle out genuine knowledge/skills with follow-up questions.

And overlap with interview process here, but make sure they can attend, make it easy for them to be there. Be flexible with times. Provide clear directions for a face-to-face, or make the links and instructions simple for a remote.

5. Reassure regarding criteria

You may have seen me bang this drum before, but women are less likely than men to apply for roles if they don’t meet 100% of the criteria. Don’t have people put off  because they’re not the “perfect” fit.

Firstly, make sure the criteria you set out are critical for the person to do the job (from the get-go, as in you won’t be able to cost-effectively train them), or that the “nice to haves” are clearly designated as such.

Obviously these tips aren’t bulletproof. Maybe one time your candidate will have a car crash on the same day their budgie dies. But with these practices in place, you’re more likely to get these interviews rescheduled than drop off entirely. And if your candidate does no-show, be empathetic. Try and find out the real reason – maybe it is what they say. Either way, can you salvage it?

These isn’t an exhaustive list of tips, either. So much depends on the situation you and your candidate are in.

But if you’d like advice on how to tailor your own processes to waste less time on no-shows, book a 15-minute call with me.

I guarantee it’ll be less frustrating than getting ghosted.