Bad spooky news this Halloween season: Ghosting is no longer just an unfortunate dating phenomenon. Per the latest research from anonymous company review site Glassdoor, the total share of interview reviews from users that mention ghosting have more than doubled (or grown 112%) since before the pandemic. The findings draw on over a million interview reviews posted by U.S.-based job seekers between 2016 and 2023. Just this month alone, 3.1% of interview reviews users submitted on Glassdoor mention ghosting, representing a 7% year-over-year jump.
It’s an indication of who holds the most power in the job market. During the Great Resignation, when workers had the undeniable upper hand, they often left potential employers in the lurch—even after several interview rounds—if a better opportunity cropped up. Some workers took it a step further, accepting a job and then failing to show up on day one.
Between 15 and 20% of new hires at Southwest Airlines don’t turn up on the first day, a 2022 Wall Street Journal report found, and 15% of new hires at security provider Allied Universal disappear before starting a job.
Now, the tides have shifted, and nearly all (87%) of Glassdoor interview reviews that mention ghosting deemed dealing with the company in question an overall negative experience. “After two years of a hot job market, the balance of power has shifted back towards employers,” Glassdoor lead economist Daniel Zhao tells Fortune. “Ghosting has always been a part of the job search process; we just have more new terminology to describe it today.”
Cooler job markets generally put less pressure on companies to prioritize a candidate’s experience. On the other hand, hot job markets lead employers to invest in the whole interview process, “because they need to maintain a strong employer brand and they want to keep rejected candidates warm,” Zhao adds.
Grasping the ghost
Ghosting is slightly more common in some places than others; candidates who got an interview through a recruiter reported ghosting 1.4 times more than those who applied online. In other words, candidates who had a direct, human interaction leading into the process were more likely to complain about ghosting, “perhaps because they feel even more disappointed or disrespected” to have been ignored, Glassdoor wrote. Candidates with an internal referral, on the other hand, were least likely to be ghosted.
By industry, the share of interview reviews on Glassdoor that mention ghosting were highest in media and communications, followed by pharma and biotech, and then human resources and staffing. Least likely to ghost? Restaurants and food service—evergreen, recession-proof gigs that could always use more hands (after all, they’re still facing a labor shortage).
Even so, these stats don’t necessarily imply these industries are most dominated by ghosting—they “could have candidates who are either more surprised and upset about the behavior or just generally more likely to mention ghosting in their review,” the report points out.
The news is worse for candidates from underrepresented groups, who, according to research from job site Greenhouse, are almost 25% more likely to be ghosted during the interview process (that same data also found that over two-thirds—67%—of candidates have been ghosted at some point during a hiring process.
“If you rewind six months, 12 months, 18 months ago, a ton of people were looking for roles because they missed that whole 2020 employment turnover cycle, but you equally had roles for them to go to,” Greenhouse’s chief people officer Donald Knight told Fortune earlier this year. “Today, most companies have wound down the number of jobs they post, [and they] are still not realizing the importance of the employer brand and the candidate experience.”
Even during harsh economic climates, the candidate experience should never falter to the extent that ghosting becomes an acceptable outcome, Knight added.
Even if companies are certain they may not want an employee, they should ghost at their own peril, Zhao says. “Because when job markets inevitably heat up again, job seekers will remember how they were treated.” And they’re likely to share their spooky experience with their peers.