How Phantom Jobs Are Sabotaging Job Seekers

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Zerbor /

The complex and often frustrating hiring processes have taken a deceptive turn in today’s job market. Companies are posting fake job openings online to appear as though they’re growing, keeping current employees motivated, and maintaining a pool of future candidates—without any intention of hiring them. This underhanded tactic, commonly known as “ghost posting,” affects 43 percent of online job listings across various industries.

You read that right, folks. Nearly half of the job openings you see online are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. According to a Clarify Capital survey of over 1,000 hiring managers, about one-third admitted using these ghost posts to appease overworked employees, giving them false hope that help is coming.

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Job seekers, already worn out from the grueling process of tailoring resumes, filling out lengthy applications, and enduring multiple interview rounds, are wasting their time on jobs that don’t even exist. Indeed, a significant job listing site reports that it can take up to eight weeks to receive a job offer after applying online. With ghost postings cluttering the boards, it’s no wonder that 55 percent of Americans report feeling completely burned out from job hunting, as per staffing company Insight Global.

Here’s the kicker: while some hiring managers claim they use ghost postings to build a pre-qualified candidate pool for future openings, this strategy often backfires. Ben Lamarche, general manager at Lock Search Group, points out that these fake job postings create unnecessary clutter on job boards, making it harder for candidates to find legitimate opportunities and fostering distrust and frustration among applicants.

Even seasoned professionals with niche skill sets fall victim to this deception. Lamarche shares a story of a colleague with expertise in X-ray systems for detecting metal fatigue who was ghosted after an interview. The job posting remained open for over a year, with no real intention of hiring. Some companies use these fake listings for internal purposes, such as keeping HR busy or avoiding discrimination liabilities.

Tech companies, recruiters, and staffing agencies are among the worst offenders, says Stephen Greet, CEO of BeamJobs. Maintaining a pool of potential candidates is essential with the rapid pace of the tech industry. So, they keep posting the same jobs repeatedly, even if there’s no immediate need to fill them.

And let’s not forget the ultimate insult: applicants face radio silence after rounds of interviews, only to see the same job ad pop up repeatedly. This isn’t just frustrating—it’s demoralizing. A 2023 analysis by Visier revealed that nearly half of full-time U.S. employees spend more than 10 hours a week looking busy rather than being productive. This phenomenon, dubbed “productivity theater,” is about creating the illusion of busyness without delivering accurate results.

Recruiting consultant Conor Hughes notes that some hiring managers admit to leaving job posts up long after filling positions to project an image of constant growth. This padding of fake metrics misleads job seekers, wastes company resources, and tarnishes their reputation.

The trend is clear: fake job postings are making it increasingly difficult for genuine hiring efforts to succeed. According to Clarify Capital, only 39 percent of surveyed hiring managers said their posted positions were filled. Some managers even confessed to forgetting to take down job ads.

A technical writer and editor, John Marsden has faced this frustrating reality head-on. Over the past year, he’s applied for around 200 jobs. Many times, he’s gone through multiple interview rounds only to be met with silence. He’s learned to spot the telltale signs of ghost posts—vague descriptions, overly enthusiastic corporate jargon, and ads focusing more on the company than the job itself.

Ultimately, this deceptive practice of ghost-posting must stop. It wastes the time and energy of earnest job seekers and erodes trust in the job market. Companies need to prioritize transparency and integrity in their hiring practices. Until then, job seekers will continue to navigate a frustrating landscape filled with illusions and empty promises.