Tell me if this sounds like you: You find a job listing for a position you would be perfect for. Perhaps the job listing was just posted, or maybe it has been up for some time. Regardless, you apply with high hopes. Weeks, even months, go by and you don't hear anything from the company. You try calling and emailing to get their attention, but nothing!

If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. There is an epidemic in job market, and it is being haunted and plagued by "ghost jobs."

What is a "Ghost Job," and How to Spot Them in New York?

"Ghost jobs" refer to listings by employers that either aren't real or have already been filled but never lead to an actual hire. Some of these are simply not-yet-removed adverts for jobs that have been filled – but some were never meant to be filled at all.

Canva / Billion Photos, Africa images, fizkes from Getty Images
Canva / Billion Photos, Africa images, fizkes from Getty Images

Versions of ghost jobs have long been part of the employment market. Job fairs, for example, have a reputation for attracting businesses that set up booths simply to serve as promotional tools or to collect resumes en masse without a clear role to fill. The issue gotten worse in the digital era, despite technology that should theoretically improve the job-hunt process for all parties, especially as the sheer number of applicants for each role has spiked across the globe the past several years while the economy has tightened.

Revelio Labs, a US-based workforce intelligence firm, showed that the ratio of hires per job posting fell below 0.5 in 2023, meaning that more than half of listings did not result in an employer turning an applicant into an employee.

Canva / Cojanu Alexandru from Pexels
Canva / Cojanu Alexandru from Pexels

A recent study confirms this growing trend. In a survey of over 1,000 hiring managers, 68% admitted keeping job postings active for more than 30 days. In addition, one in 10 respondents has had a job opening for more than six months. When asked why they aren’t actively trying to fill these roles, the top three reasons included:

  • Wanting to be open to new talent
  • Keeping current employees motivated
  • Giving the impression that the company is growing

More than 40% of hiring managers said they list jobs they aren't actively trying to fill to give the impression that the company is growing. A similar share said the job listings are made to motivate employees, while 34% said the jobs are posted to placate overworked staff who may be hoping for additional help to be brought on.

Canva / fizkes from Getty Images
Canva / fizkes from Getty Images

When looking at a job listing, here are a few things to keep in mind when reviewing it to determine if if might be a ghost job:

  • Research the Company: Don't just trust a listing you find on Indeed, actually research the company. If the organization just announced a hiring freeze, they will unlikely fill new positions immediately. Checking the company's social media channels or website is also an excellent way to confirm whether a job posting is authentic. If they are actively hiring, employers often post about their open positions.
  • Reach Out to Company Directly: Just like I said to do your research, find out how to contact the company's hiring department directly. Visit the company's website for emails and/or phone numbers. Not just that, but you can use resources like LinkedIn to connect with business professionals to learn if the position is open or not. Even if it's not, that initial contact could lead to another discussion about another role.
  • Check the Timing: When applying for jobs, first check the date it was posted. If it has been open for two months or more, there’s a good chance you’ve found a ghost job.
  • Look for Well-Written Descriptions: Authentic job postings usually include details about the qualifications and responsibilities of the role. If a job description is vague, it’s usually a red flag. Many ghost jobs don't even include a position description. Instead, they highlight a long list of perks to encourage candidates to apply. Ultimately, if the listing reads like a generic template, you can count on it being a fake job posting.

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