How to identify a fake ‘ghost’ job offer

Job searching is a process filled with so many downsides that when you find a position that matches your skills and It sounds interesting, it feels like a minor victory even before you apply. But that feeling usually doesn’t last long, after days and eventually weeks go by, and you haven’t heard anything from the company, not even a rejection.

Perhaps a friend will try to console you by telling you that in all likelihood you will always be an internal hire, but that you were asked to post the job. And while that may have been the case, it’s also possible that the opening (or even the role itself) never existed in the first place. Also known as “ghost” jobs, a recent survey from Resume Builder found that 40% of companies posted a fake job opening this year so far. Here’s how to spot nonexistent job ads and why companies post them in the first place.

How to identify fake job offers

To be clear, when I talk about “ghost” job ads, I’m not referring to ads that are actually scams aimed at getting job seekers to hand over money and/or their personal information. (But if you’re looking for tips on how to spot them, you can find them in previous Lifehacker articles.) Instead, I’m focusing on ads for nonexistent jobs at legitimate companies. Here’s how to spot them.

1. Look for details

Sometimes companies post ads for jobs that don’t exist to become more familiar with the talent that exists and identify potential candidates in case there are real positions to fill in the future. For this reason, ghost job postings are often quite vague, both when it comes to the specific qualifications they are looking for and the responsibilities associated with the position. If in doubt, contact the company’s human resources department and ask for additional details about the position to help you determine if you would be a good fit.

2. Check the date

As a general rule, it’s best to apply for a position within a week of it being posted. Of course, reposting a position (so that the posting has a new date) takes little effort, so a recent date is no guarantee that the position is real. However, if a position has been posted for more than a month or two, that’s usually not a good sign.

According to a 2023 report, it takes an average of 44 days to fill a vacant position, so if you find one that has been advertised for that period of time or longer, you may want to contact the hiring manager or department. from human resources and ask if the job is still available. Another possibility is that at some point the position was for a real job and, intentionally or not, was not eliminated once it was filled.

3. Search for duplicates

In an attempt to attract a broad pool of talent, some companies create two (or more) slightly different listings for an open position, career coach and former hiring manager Mandi Woodruff-Santos told CNBC earlier this year. To avoid wasting time applying for both and have more realistic expectations about opportunities with the company, review their full list of openings and look for potential duplicates.

Why do companies post fake job offers?

So why do companies pick on job seekers? It turns out that one reason is to boost morale among current employees by making them believe that new hires will soon be joining their team to help ease their workload. Along the same lines, according to the 649 hiring managers who participated in Resume Builder’s recent survey, posting fake jobs also helps convince employees that they are replaceable and should be grateful to have a job. Other times, it’s to stockpile resumes for potential future openings. Finally, it could be for optics — in other words, the company wants to make it look like it’s growing and thriving, and someone decided that posting fake jobs was the best way to do that.

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