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Negative Interview Experiences, Discriminatory Questions, And Lack of Communication Cause Candidates To Ghost Employers

70% of talent believe a lack of communication is the biggest red flag in the hiring process

Over one-third of job seekers (34%) have been asked discriminatory interview questions

Company catfishing remains an issue

Greenhouse, the hiring operating system for people-first companies, has released its 2023 Candidate Interview Experience Report, revealing the biggest red flags candidates see in the interview process. The large majority of candidates (70%) believe a lack of communication in the hiring process is the biggest red flag. Other warning signs job seekers have experienced include a negative interview experience (57%), companies avoiding questions about pay (55%) and vague job descriptions (55%).

The report, surveying 1,200 US-based candidates, found that poor interview and hiring practices from employers are causing job seekers to abandon the process. Over one-third (36%) have ghosted employers during the hiring process, largely due to the company being different than what was expected (43%) and poor interview experiences (43%). Candidates’ complaints of company catfishing remain persistent. Over one-fifth (22%) of talent have worked jobs that did not match what was described during the hiring process, while 42% have worked positions that had more responsibilities than initially outlined.

Interviews remain plagued by biases and discrimination

The survey found that discriminatory and illegal questions are all too common in the interview process, harming both candidates and companies. Over one-third of candidates (34%) have experienced discriminatory interview questions, with the most common questions focused on age (34%), race (28%), and gender (24%). Other common discriminatory questions were focused on marital status (22%), religion (20%), ability status (19%), parental status (18%), national origin (19%), weight (14%), sexuality (13%), pregnancy (13%), and genetic information (12%). Such questions are not just disrespectful, they’re illegal and can seriously damage a company’s business with potential litigation.

Furthermore, 30% of job seekers believe they have been rejected for a job because of their age. Although the pandemic caused employers to be more thoughtful about employment gaps, almost two-fifths (39%) of talent say they have experienced a negative interview outcome for having a gap in their resume. Companies are missing out on top talent because of these illegal hiring practices and negative experiences, and rightfully so.

Some applicants are taking measures into their own hands to prevent discriminatory assumptions about them. Close to one-fifth (19%) of job seekers have changed their names on a job application or their resume; 45% to sound less ethnic, 42% to sound younger, and 22% to sound like the opposite gender.

“The results show that many candidates face discrimination, poor interview practices, and a lack of human connection in the hiring process,” said Ariana Moon, Head of Talent Planning and Acquisition at Greenhouse. “Companies have work to do to ensure they’re not asking invasive, illegal questions that discriminate against candidates. Protected classes like your age and race shouldn’t be contributing factors to whether you get a job offer, in any way.”

The modern interviewing process

While take home tests can be a great way for companies to gauge a candidates’ skill set, they can be time-consuming. Close to half of all candidates (49%) said they strongly or somewhat dislike take home assignments. However, of the talent who somewhat or strongly liked take home assignments, those from historically underrepresented groups were 59% more in favor than white workers, signaling a demand for interviewers to focus on their skills and capabilities rather than their background or education.

Take home tests can lessen bias, but they do not necessarily remove bias by themselves. Across a dataset of 384,000 applicants who submitted a take home assignment, Greenhouse found that pass-through rates increase by 6.5-10% when grading is anonymous. When grading is not anonymized, applicants from historically underrepresented groups are less likely to pass relative to White applicants; Black candidates are 7.4-12.4% less likely to pass, while Hispanic candidates are 2-7.5% less likely.

Although some companies are increasingly utilizing personality and/or cognitive assessments, candidates are torn on them, with 43% strongly or somewhat agreeing with employers using them. Candidates from historically underrepresented groups were 21% more likely to favor personality and/or cognitive tests. Automated pre-screening interviews are also on the rise, but of the workers who have completed these one-way interviews, nearly half (42%) strongly or somewhat disliked them. However, of the talent in favor of automated pre-screening interviews, those from historically underrepresented groups were 52% more in favor than white workers.

The survey also found that close to one-quarter (24%) of candidates are turning to TikTok for job-seeking advice. While the large majority (70%) of candidates strongly or somewhat agree with companies filtering through applications based on keywords to find their top candidate, the recent TikTok trend of ‘white fonting’ has taken by storm. Over half (57%) of job seekers said they would use white font on their resume to increase their chances of being seen. But this tactic isn’t as successful as candidates think it is.

“While it’s understandable that candidates are using tactics such as white font, the reality is that many companies don’t automatically filter out candidates that don’t have a keyword in their resume,” says Ariana Moon. “Candidates have a better chance at meaningful engagement with an employer if they reach out directly to recruiters. This can happen in a variety of ways through surfacing a shared contact, making a personal connection during an event, reaching out through social media platforms like LinkedIn and even Instagram and TikTok.”