Why candidates are not showing up for interviews and what you can do about it

candidates-job-interviews-450x350px-2Post-pandemic, a new trend emerged that’s been driving hiring managers insane — and that’s candidates not showing up for interviews. Mind you, these aren’t simple screening interviews or phone interviews; they’re scheduled interviews taking place with qualified job seekers who have already applied and been contacted.

According to a 2021 report by Indeed, 28% of applicants had ghosted a job interview within the past year. Additionally, 76% of employers reported candidates ghosting them, and 57% said that candidate no-shows were more common than ever before. This was back in 2021, and the problem has only gotten worse as time has gone on.

More recently, some recruiters have reported up to 90% of their job candidates aren’t showing up for interviews, and they never reach out to reschedule.

Why are employers having so much trouble getting job seekers to show up for in-person interviews?

It’s a question that’s been on recruiters’ minds since the pandemic, and it’s not an easy one to answer. Yet, all hope is not lost, as there are actions human resources professionals can take to reduce candidate ghosting as much as possible.

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Tightening up communication with applications, improving company culture, and using applicant tracking systems are all ways to improve your candidate experience.

Read on to learn more about the candidate no-show problem, as well as what you can do to reduce ghosting at your organization.

When did the ‘no-show’ epidemic begin?

The Indeed report shows that the major spike in interview no-shows occurred shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic, as only 18% of candidates failed to show up for interviews in 2019. It’s no secret that the pandemic forever altered the way people work, not only through how they carry out work tasks but also how they view work in general.

The emergence of remote work during 2020 and 2021 gave a lot of employees a breath of fresh air, and they were hesitant to return to the office after getting a taste of the flexibility it offers. That prompted many organizations to adopt remote work positions permanently due to the increased demand from workers. In fact, 64% of employees report that they’d consider quitting if they were asked to return to the office full-time.

As a result, potential candidates searching for new jobs place hybrid schedules (being able to work from home at least a few days of the week) as one of their top demands from an employer (placed right behind being able to earn more money, according to a survey by Employ Inc.).

Besides an increased demand for hybrid/remote work, job seekers also want more extensive mental health perks from their employers. According to HSA Bank’s 2023 Health & Wealth Index, mental health coverage has increased from 23% in 2022 to 27% of employers in 2023.

Popular mental health benefits job seekers are after include:

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

  • 24/7 Help Lines

  • Positive and inclusive company culture

  • Counseling via telephone, video chat, and in-person sessions

  • Referrals for specialized care or long-term counseling

Including these benefits as part of your employer brand can help you attract top candidates in today’s age.

What’s causing employees to ghost employers?

What does all of this have to do with candidates not showing up for interviews?

Since the ‘no-show’ epidemic kicked off around the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s highly likely that all the changes to the workforce had something to do with it. If modern candidates aren’t impressed with your job offer due to full-time office work, poor salary, or lack of mental health benefits — the chances that they’ll ghost you increase significantly.

The Indeed report discovered that the top reasons why candidates don’t show up for interviews were:

  • They received a better job offer in the meantime (20%).

  • They were dissatisfied with the salary (13%).

  • The job didn’t feel like a good fit for them (15%).

In addition to these reasons, here’s a look at other reasons why job applicants may choose to ditch you at the last minute.

1-Click apply causes oversaturation

Make no mistake, the job market favors candidates right now, as widespread resignations and low applicant counts make the hiring process extremely challenging for recruiters. Pair that with the fact that employees are demanding more from employers in light of the pandemic, and it starts to become easier to see why candidates aren’t showing up for interviews.

With the competition for top talent as high as it is, quality candidates are likely to receive several offers at a time, enabling them to pick the position that provides them with the most benefits. While that’s great for the organization that hires the candidate, there will be quite a few recruiters left hanging in the wind.

Also, online job applications are relatively easy to fill out, especially with the advent of ‘one-click apply’ features from LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter. Instead of having to carefully fill out an application, write a cover letter, and provide references, job seekers can now apply for jobs with a single click of their mouse.

The result?

It’s extremely easy for candidates to apply to positions en masse, even for jobs they’re only vaguely interested in. To make matters worse, job boards send emails to candidates every single day containing a fresh series of open positions they can apply to (usually with a single click).

It’s common practice to apply to as many jobs as possible whenever someone’s out of work, but these ‘one-click apply’ features are actually backfiring. For example, say a candidate passively applies to 20 positions via one-click apply during their lunch break. They get a callback and come interview time, they realize that they’re not even interested in the position, so they decide not to show up.

Low salary/lack of appealing benefits

The survey by Employ Inc. showed that earning more money and remote/hybrid work are the most important factors to candidates when considering job offers. In fact, getting more money (34.4%) and the ability to work remotely (21.3%) were ranked much higher than other factors, with career advancement only at 12.6%.

That’s why it’s crucial for your recruitment strategy to include competitive pay and flexible scheduling where possible. To sweeten the pot even further, you can advertise mental health perks, PTO, and attractive employee benefits.

The past ghosting habits of employers

Candidates not showing up for interviews have recruiters feeling the heat in recent years, but that wasn’t always the case. In the not-so-distant past, the current situation was reversed — employers would constantly ghost candidates they weren’t interested in hiring without so much as a courtesy rejection letter.

It was a common occurrence for job seekers to invest in nice clothing, take time off work, and brush up on a company’s history before engaging in the interview process – only to not hear a thing from the employer after that.

Alison Green, owner of Ask a Manager, says she’s heard about employees being ghosted after interviews for many years now.

In fact, one professional who wrote to her had this to say on the matter:

If it’s unprofessional and rude to ghost someone in business communications, then why have employers been doing it for years? It seems rational to conclude that since they’ve been ghosting applicants for years, therefore ghosting is a normal and accepted business practice.”

Going off this sentiment, if business owners want to set a good example for interview etiquette, strengthening communication with candidates is a must (like making it mandatory to send follow-up emails to all rejected applicants).

How can employers minimize no-shows?

The news isn’t all bad for recruiters, as there are steps you can take to minimize candidate ghosting.

Improving communication with candidates during the recruitment process, offering competitive benefits, and using applicant tracking systems (ATS) are all ways to increase the chances of applicants showing up for an interview — so let’s take a closer look at each one.

Better communication during the hiring process

Improving your communication with potential hires will help redefine the standard for interview etiquette. It’s crucial to practice what you preach, so employers should put an end to ghosting applicants if they want candidates to show up for interviews consistently.

That means keeping candidates informed of where they are in the hiring process, even if you don’t plan on moving forward with their application. While rejecting someone is never easy, sending a polite rejection letter shows that you respect each candidate’s time.

Additionally, do your best to respond to candidate follow-up messages, questions, and voicemails. It’s also a good idea to send periodic update messages letting candidates know that they’re still being considered.

Is the sheer volume of applications you’re receiving making it nearly impossible to respond to all candidates manually?

That’s where HR software programs come in handy, as programs like Dovetail contain features for automating email responses, which is perfect for handling your hiring process emails. For example, you could arrange it so all candidates who aren’t being considered will automatically receive pre-written rejection letters. The same is true for sending out follow-ups after interviews, which will save your team of recruiters lots of precious time.

Using ATS programs to flag no-show candidates

Speaking of HR software, applicant tracking systems are invaluable tools for sorting through hundreds (or even thousands) of job applications. Not only will they help you pinpoint the most qualified candidates, but ATS programs will allow you to flag candidates that leave you hanging.

That means once a candidate decides to ghost a scheduled interview, they’ll no longer be eligible to apply for open positions at your organization. The same is true for any hiring firm that represents them, which will make it more difficult for them to find job opportunities in the future.

It’s for this reason why it’s not wise for candidates to no-show job interviews, as it’s highly likely it will negatively impact them in the long run.

Offer competitive pay and desirable benefits

candidates-job-interviews-450x350px-1Lastly, you should also take a close look at the pay and benefits associated with your open positions. Does the position pay a wage that’s in line with similar roles at other organizations? Do you offer flexible scheduling and mental health benefits?

If the answer to either question is no, you should consider bumping up your wages or adding more benefits (as long as you have the budget to do so).

How do you know if you’re offering competitive salaries?

There are a few ways to find out.

First, you need to pinpoint the type of position you want to research, such as if it’s an entry-level or experienced position. From there, check out the compensation packages offered by your top competitors to see how they stack up to yours.

To get a clearer picture of the industry standard for each position, you can look up the median salary offered online. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides wage estimates for a variety of occupations, which can come in handy during your research.

Concluding thoughts: Candidates not Showing up for interviews

The ‘no-show’ epidemic is yet another way that the workforce has changed post-pandemic, and it’s clear that employers and employees need to redefine interview etiquette if it’s ever going to stop.

Whether you’re on the employer or the employee side, nobody enjoys being ghosted after a job interview, so it’s time to put an end to it.

My suggestion?

Lead by example by always making an effort to follow up with candidates and employers alike.

Have you been ghosted by candidates at your organization? Let me know in the comments.