The phrase “ghost in the machine” can refer to a consciousness infiltrating and residing in a physical device. It also can mean a studio album released by The Police in 1981 (one of my favorites growing up).

Unfortunately, it can also reference a disturbing trend, infecting the machine of business interactions.

The hunt for the next job is always stressful, even more so if you’re without a current job. This seems to be especially true in cybersecurity, an already stressful field that both 1) touts a lack of available talent and 2) has many who are trying to break into cybersecurity with limited success. That’s an oxymoron I haven’t been able to reconcile, but perhaps that’s for another post.

I’ve been on the receiving end of ghosting. Several years ago I interviewed for (what I thought was) an open CISO position at a credit union. I spent a couple of hours on site, dissecting their security program and providing recommendations. In essence, I provided free consulting. It worked, though, the recruiter said I did a fabulous job and they were impressed.

Then nothing. The recruiter shortly went cold. Would not return calls or email, even though he had been enthusiastic that I would receive the offer.

Have you been there? If so, you know how terrible a feeling that is. Even if the truth is bad, I, and just about everyone else, I’m sure, can handle the truth.

I found out later the reason why – the recruiter lied. There was no CISO position. He was trying to convince the credit union, who was looking to fill a CIO role, to split that into two roles. I don’t disagree that would possibly have been preferable for the institution, but the recruiter should have been up front about that. My “interview” was actually meant to convince the credit union to split the role, and that never happened. Thus, the recruiter ghosted me.

If we are to improve both hiring in cybersecurity and the cybersecurity posture of businesses, we need to stop ghosting and treat candidates with respect. It’s disrespectful, especially when the candidate has invested much time and energy in the interview process. We can do better.