Whether you're searching for your first job out of college or are currently employed but seeking a better role, now's a pretty good time to be looking for work. The job market is relatively healthy, and as a candidate, that means you might end up with your pick of companies to choose from. As such, you have the right to be reasonably picky about who you work for, which means that if you get turned off at any point during the application process, there's no reason to go through with it.

But there's a difference between withdrawing from the application process gracefully and disappearing without a trace as far as the company talking to you is concerned. It's the latter tactic, however, that a growing number of candidates are employing, and that's hardly a smart move.

A woman with a snarky expression sits on a chair, holding a cell phone

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What's with the disappearing acts?

You've probably heard the term "ghosting" in the context of dating, but these days, job candidates are doing it to the companies that are interested in hiring them. Ghosting can take on several forms. In extreme cases, it can mean accepting a job offer but not showing up on one's start date. But often, it means going through the interview process, reaching the point where an offer is presented, and just plain never responding.

Why do candidates think this behavior is acceptable? Some of it ties into the fact that jobs are indeed plentiful these days, so there's no real obligation to act courteously if one isn't so inclined. It also ties into the awkwardness factor. Just as it's never easy to tell a bad date you don't want to see him or her again, so too is it tricky to tell a company that while you appreciate its offer, you're no longer interested. Going silent, therefore, might seem like a cleaner break.

Here's a news flash, though: It isn't.

When you go so far as to not respond to a job offer, you send the message that you not only lack common courtesy but also don't really care about your own professional reputation. And that's a mistake that could hurt you, because while you might have no interest in working for a certain company, you never know who at that company knows people at other companies. Sometimes, it's a small world within industries, and if you treat one potential employer poorly, word could get out. Once it does, you might find that other companies are hesitant to talk to you, or withdraw job offers for fear that you're the type to say yes but not show up when something more enticing comes along.

A better bet? Be candid if you find that a role or company just isn't for you. If, during the interview process, you learn things about a given employer that don't sit well, bow out. Write a follow-up email thanking your interviewers for their time but explaining that you've determined that the role is a poor fit. If anything, they'll appreciate your honesty and will then know to focus their efforts on other candidates. Similarly, if you receive a job offer you don't want to accept, say so. You might need to explain why you're declining, but if you do so tactfully, there shouldn't be any backlash.

No matter how you look at it, ghosting potential employers is imprudent and downright rude. The next time you're in that situation, let the company in question down easy, kind of like how you'd treat a date who was perfectly nice and polite, but just didn't generate a spark.

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