Having been in the recruitment game for over 25 years, I’ve seen my fair share of dodgy practices by companies when it comes to hiring. But few things get my blood boiling quite like “ghost jobs.”

What are ghost jobs, you ask? They’re job postings that companies put out into the world with little to no actual intention of filling the role. The postings might be for positions that don’t currently exist or won’t be opening up anytime soon. Or they’re listings that somehow just linger on job boards long after the spot has been filled.

Whatever the reason, ghost jobs are a major time-waster and morale killer for job seekers. You spend hours crafting the perfect application, tailoring your resume, psyching yourself up for interviews…only to be met with deafening silence from the company. No response, no feedback, nada. It’s hugely disappointing and disrespectful to candidates who’ve invested real time and effort.

The rise of ghost jobs seems to be driven by the uncertainty companies faced during the pandemic’s Great Resignation. With so many people quitting and economic conditions volatile, some companies started posting “open” roles as a just-in-case scenario rather than an immediate need. According to one survey by Clarify Capital (in October 2023) who questioned 1000 hiring managers, a staggering 68% of them had job posts up for over a month with one in five having no plans to fill the roles anytime soon.

Other companies are keeping listings open for different reasons – around 50% do it because they want to always have a pool of potential candidates on tap. Another 43% admit to leaving postings active just to create the impression that the company is growing and stable, even when a hiring freeze is actually in place.

I get that hiring is challenging, especially in this crazy market. And yeah, companies want to build robust talent pipelines so they’re ready when needs arise. But purposefully deceiving and misleading candidates is not the way to go about it. It’s unethical and underhanded at best. At worst, it’s a shady practice that damages your brand reputation and discourages top people from even applying to your open roles down the line.

Just last week, I saw a post on Threads from Maureen W Clough who works as a hiring manager. She was being pressured by her company to keep interviewing candidates despite them being in a hiring freeze. Thankfully, Maureen had the integrity to refuse, saying she wouldn’t waste candidates’ time like that. More hiring managers need to take a stand against ghost jobs!

Unlike Maureen, far too many companies fail to show that basic level of respect to job applicants. It’s maddening how little some organizations seem to value candidates’ time, efforts and emotions. Applying for jobs is stressful enough without having to deal with corporate ghosting.

Thankfully, there are ways job seekers can try to suss out ghost jobs before investing too much effort. Pay very close attention to posting dates – generally, anything older than a month is suspect for being a potential ghost. Check the company’s website and LinkedIn to see if roles actually exist and are being actively recruited for there as well.

You can even try reaching out to employees you’re connected with to politely inquire about openings before applying. A simple, “Hi, I saw your company had this role posted. Is it still an active search?” can go a long way towards sniffing out ghosts. Just don’t be pushy or rude – corporate recruiters talk, and you don’t want to get a bad reputation.

As for companies, here’s my plea: Can we please ditch the ghost jobs? Only hire for actual, approved roles you genuinely need to fill. Update your job board postings regularly and take down old ones instead of leaving them to rot. And for god’s sake, have the common courtesy and basic human decency to respond to applications! I don’t care if it’s just a standard rejection email – radio silence is unacceptable behavior in the year 2024.

Natalie Harper

Author Natalie Harper

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