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Published: 2 month

\"Ghost jobs\" are all over the job portals - but what's the point of fake job ads?

Employers advertise seemingly open positions on job portals or exchanges that they never intended to fill. What's in it for them? What do employers stand to lose and why are jobseekers badly off?

According to bbc.com, the labour market is tightening and the number of open positions is also declining due to economic impacts and layoffs. In addition, open positions often show a label that says "posted 30 days ago", which could be a bad sign. Label or not, job seekers are usually not deterred from applying and assume that the recruitment process is active. The truth is more complicated than that. Some of these are simply uncancelled vacancies that have already been filled - but some were never intended to be filled. These are the "ghost jobs".

Various varieties of ghost jobs have long been part of the labour market. Job fairs, for example, are notorious for attracting companies that set up booths purely for promotional purposes, or collect CVs en masse without the possibility of winning specific positions. The problem has become increasingly acute in the digital age, despite the fact that technology should in theory improve the job search process for both parties, especially as the number of applicants for roles has soared globally over the past few years as the economy has slowed.

Despite the flood of applicants, however, a staggering number of advertisements do not result in a recruitment offer. Revelio Labs, a US-based analytics firm, has shown that by 2023, more than half of all advertisements will not have led to the hiring of a single applicant.

Clarify Capital, a New York-based business lending provider, surveyed 1,000 recruiting managers and found that nearly seven out of 10 jobs remain unfilled for more than 30 days and 10% for more than six months. Half of the respondents reported that they keep job postings open indefinitely because they are "always open to new people". More than one in three respondents said they keep their ads active to gather enough applicants in case of turnover - not because the position needs to be filled in time.

The benefit of advertising positions is more than just collecting CVs. It is also part of employer branding. More than 40% of hiring managers say they list jobs on ad sites that they are not actively trying to fill, in an attempt to give the impression that the company is growing. Similar proportions said they use job ads to motivate employees, while 34% said they use job ads to reassure overworked employees who may be hoping for more help.

"There are ghost jobs everywhere,\" says Geoffrey Scott, chief content manager and head of recruitment at US firm Resume Genius. "In the US alone, we've discovered 1.7 million potential ghost jobs on LinkedIn"," says Scott. In the UK, StandOut CV, a London-based career resources company,found more than a third of job ads in 2023 were ghosted, all of which were listed as having been posted on the portals more than 30 days ago.

A big time-waster

Experts warn that not all ads that appear to be ghostwritten are. \"I don't think it's a widespread practice for companies to advertise jobs they don't intend to fill,\" says Annette Garsteck, a US career consultant. It could also be that a lack of recruitment resources and the staggering number of applicants per role means that the hiring process cannot move quickly.

However, ghost jobs or not, the result is the same: job seekers eventually get discouraged, burn out and give up.

"Ghost ads are a big waste of time for job seekers," says Scott. \"Filling out a single job application can take several hours, as a serious applicant takes the time to research the company, personalize their resume and cover letter."

Because of the market - and despite the sacrifices it can take - some candidates continue to send out as many applications as possible in the hope of getting a response. Other jobseekers say they have changed their strategy because of the abundance of ghost jobs and are now only applying to the "sure-fire" ads.

Ghost posts can give employers an opportunity to boost their image and gather CVs in the short term, but the benefit may not last. A potential employee may be disenchanted with a company that has not responded, and the company may lose out.

Why employers skimp on feedback at interviews - read our previous article!

photo: freepik

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