Post-Interview Ghosting

Post-Interview Ghosting


Ghosting: the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone (such as a former romantic partner) usually without explanation by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc.

I work as a life coach for a number of high-functioning educators. Some are teachers, some are school or district leaders, and some work in nontraditional roles. Most of my clients are in transition; they are actively seeking new roles or wondering if it is time to leave the role they are in.  We often use this diagram as they decide what their next step might be:

The diagram helps to define the distinct differences and clear connections among profession, vocation, passion, and/or mission. It also helps define why these elements matter for a life worth living.

These folks are professionals. They are thoughtful, passionate, and dedicated. Some of them have spent decades in education, often for the same organization. They are ideal employees, yet more and more of them are leaving. Recently, I’ve noticed a pattern as to why: they applied and interviewed for a job that met many or all of the criteria in the Ikigai diagram and they were not chosen. 

Now, rejection is part of life, but it is usually not the rejection itself that demoralized these folks; it’s the lack of communication as to why they were not chosen and someone else was. These normally resilient and confident professionals start to fill in the blanks themselves and spiral into self-doubt, something they described as the hardest time in their entire careers. They don’t know which part of their skillset is valued, they don’t know what they did “wrong” during the interview, and – if they were rejected for a job within their current organization – they don’t know if they have the approval of their organization’s leadership.

A solution to this problem is simply a phone call from someone on the interview panel to people who did not get the job. This can include some basic feedback on what they did well and what was valued by the panel, as well as some areas where they can grow, and possibly a bit of information to explain why the chosen candidate was a better fit for the job. This seems so simple, yet it happens infrequently. Not doing it has a high cost.

If you conduct interviews, do you call the rejected candidates? Why or why not? Have you ever gotten a phone call after being turned down for a job? How did it make you feel? Have you ever had to make a call just to find out that you didn’t get a job? How did that affect you?

We’d love to hear your story in the comments below!

6 thoughts on “Post-Interview Ghosting”

  1. One superintendent did me a huge favor early in my career. I was on an interview with him, and there were a bunch of other people interviewing for this same position. I was the youngest and least experienced person, but he liked what I had to say in my application so he wanted to interview me, and he thought maybe I had what it took.
    Well, I didn’t get the job, and when he called to tell me (which was another solid relationship-building strategy), he shared with me that part of the reason I didn’t get the job was that I appeared to know how to do everything and that I already had all the answers. I asked him, “Well, isn’t that what you want? Isn’t that what we should be striving for—knowing what to do?” He calmly listened to my question and then taught me a valuable lesson. “Jethro, if people think you have all the answers, they won’t believe that you’ll be open to their answers. Yes, you need a broad knowledge base. Yes, you need to understand things. But if you go into a meeting with someone and you already have it all figured out, what is the point of meeting with them in the first place?” In building a relationship in a short period of time through a phone call to tell me I wasn’t getting a job, he took advantage of the opportunity for candor to help me learn what I needed to learn.
    This was hard to hear for my young mind, but it was very valuable and it helped me know how to approach situations in the future. As leaders, we need to project that we aren’t done growing. We need to be open to feedback from others, and that will help us have success.
    Why would you take the time to build a relationship if you aren’t going to use that relationship in the most positive, and productive way possible?
    Happy ending to this story, nearly a decade later, I was sitting in the living room of this superintendent as he was mentoring me in another facet of my life. How cool is that?

  2. Laurie McCullough

    I was part of an interview team a few months ago, and happened to run into one of the candidates the next day at a meeting- a candidate who had not been offered the position. It seemed like an awkward moment, so I approached her, thanked her for interviewing, and commented on a part of her presentation that I thought was really impressive. I advised her not to be discouraged, and told her that although she had not been selected, she had made a very positive impression on the team. Her eyes filled with tears- quite a surprise to me- as she told me how much my words meant to her. Who knew? I learned an important lesson from her that day.

    1. I am glad you had this experience, Laurie, because I have more regrets than great examples! I plan to not let this opportunity for growth, feedback and validation to pass me by again!

  3. Great post, Meghan!
    Typically, interviewees who are not chosen for a job receive a letter – often a form letter thanking them for their time – but a phone call from an interview panel member is much more considerate and helpful, especially for applicants who are already working for the organization. Like you said, it’s an easy way for leadership to demonstrate that they care about their current employees.
    I’ve never gotten a phone call after an unsuccessful interview, but I did receive courtesy letters every time – with one notable exception. Several years ago, I was one of six people who interviewed for a director’s job with the school district I served during the last 12 years of my career. Two weeks after the interview, I hadn’t heard anything. Someone who was not on the interview panel decided to tell me that the panel believed none of the interviewees were qualified for the job. They also told me the reason I was not considered, which was something I really wanted to know.
    Soon afterwards, the district found a way to avoid the time-consuming and potentially messy business of going through the hiring process for some high-level positions. HR simply created a position and promoted a pre-picked staff member to the job. This is common practice throughout the public and private sector.
    Unfortunately, school districts that ignore proven, legitimate methods of hiring the best people available promote a culture of inbred thinking, which is another thing public education doesn’t need right now.

    1. I wish that sending a form letter was “typical” in school systems. Perhaps this is a tradition our industry has let go of? I do wonder how our current pipeline challenge with teachers and administrators will affect transparent hiring practices moving forward. I will include that in my upcoming post addressing this issue. I imagine clear communication about why someone was hired for a position would be good for all parties, including the person who gets the job!

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