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What are ‘ghost jobs’ and why are there so many of them?

What are ‘ghost jobs’ and why are there so many of them?
Posted at 2:06 PM, Sep 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-26 10:06:43-04

Is it true that everybody’s hiring but nobody wants to work, or could there be another reason that so many companies have ongoing openings? Industry experts point to a phenomenon known as ghost jobs.  

Job seekers have complained about applying for countless jobs and receiving little to no response. For some of those postings, the job might not really exist — which is leading to a lot of frustration for applicants.  

“I’m seeing all of these articles about how companies cannot recruit people fast enough and how there’s all these job openings,” a job hunter (whose name was withheld) told Business Insider. “But I’m also seeing [in] my own personal experience and seeing other highly qualified candidates who can’t get interviews or can’t get jobs and I’m like, ‘Something is wrong with the system.'”

The employment seeker gave up reading job descriptions and researching companies after applying for more than 300 positions over six months with no response.

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What Are Ghost Jobs?

Ghost jobs are positions posted by companies and recruiters with no intention of filling them, at least in the near future.

An employer may leave a posting active after hiring someone for the position. Or, ghost jobs may also be careers that will be available in the future. And in some cases, the employers are uncertain when or even if they will fill the position at all.

Business lending firm Clarify Capital surveyed more than 1,000 managers involved in the hiring process and found that 68% had job postings active for more than 30 days, and one in five managers don’t plan to fill open job positions until 2023.

Why Do Employers Post Ghost Jobs?

Workforce screening company Accurate Backgrounds notes that ghost jobs are not a new practice, although the hiring and recruiting industry doesn’t refer to it as such.

Recruiters say there are many reasons to post job vacancies without any urgency to fill them.

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Companies often purchase contracts with job boards and may post openings that don’t exist to use up their allotted postings.

“Advertising roles on a job board can be expensive and time-consuming,” Theresa Balsiger, VP and recruiting consultant of staffing firm Carex Consulting Group, told Accurate Backgrounds. “Many times, hundreds of candidates apply to the job post and few, if any, are qualified.”

These companies may keep resumes on file as potential backups in case an employee makes a sudden exit or is let go.

“That way they have a pipeline to leverage when they’re ready,” Allyn Bailey, director at SmartRecruiters, told Insider.

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Employers can also use ghost job postings to gauge the talent pool. For example, they may use the information to determine how easy it would be to replace an employee or to estimate an appropriate salary.

“Ghost recruiting is essentially headhunting — something which has been around for a very long time,” business owner Teri Shern told Accurate Backgrounds.

Many companies are rethinking their approach to running a business successfully and aren’t clear on their needs.

“The companies I talk to are struggling with how they think about how to get strategic work done because the contours of their business are changing rapidly,” Pat Petitti, CEO of Catalant, a platform that helps match consultants with large corporations, told Insider. “They don’t understand who or what they need — and so they’re hesitating when it comes to hiring.”

Companies may even post ghost jobs to give the illusion of success, growth and stability, especially during uncertain times. They may fear committing to hiring with the impending threat of recession.

“That’s why you have some managers thinking, ‘My boss told me to hire someone, but am I going to have to lay them off in three months?'” Petitti told Insider.

How to Avoid Applying for Ghost Jobs

So how can someone trying to land a new job feel confident that a posting is legitimate? While there’s no guaranteed way to bypass ghost jobs, you can take some steps to increase your chances of finding genuinely available positions.

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First, stick to job search platforms that show you when positions were initially posted.

“Despite 96% of employers claiming they’re actively trying to fill an open role quickly, 40% of employers don’t expect to fill their active job posts for 2-3 months,” Joe Mercurio, project manager at Clarify Capital, said in a statement. “This can happen for many different reasons, but checking to see when a job was posted could help prevent job seekers from applying for ghost jobs. A job that was posted 48 hours ago is more likely to be actively hiring than a job that was posted 3 months ago.”

You can also check the company’s LinkedIn profile to see whether you have any existing or potential connections that work there. Then, send a polite message asking whether the company is experiencing a hiring freeze or if they might have more information about the position.

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In the long run, posting ghost jobs can hurt employers who eventually try to fill positions.

“A lot of businesses don’t understand the impact that a negative hiring process can have on future applicants,” William Stonehouse, president of Crawford Thomas Recruiting, told Insider. “If your listings are a graveyard of old positions and candidates are uploading applications into a resume black hole, it doesn’t set a good tone. People want to be treated with dignity and respect.”

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