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Why Nearly Half of US Online Job Postings Are FakeAmid complex hiring processes, a shadow is spreading in the American business world. Companies are using fake online job openings to project an image of growth, keep existing employees motivated, and cultivate a pool of possible future candidates with no intention of hiring, according to research.

The practice is commonly known as “ghost posting” and it accounts for 43 percent of online job openings across multiple industries.

A Clarify Capital survey of more than 1,000 hiring managers showed that, beyond fake growth metrics and productivity drivers, one third of professionals claimed they used ghost posts to placate overworked employees.

The phenomenon has caused universal frustration on both the applicant and hiring side. On average, it can take up to eight weeks for a job seeker to receive an offer after submitting an application online, according to job listing site Indeed. The process often includes resume tailoring, lengthy applications, and multiple rounds of interviews. That means applicants are wasting hours trying to get hired by companies that aren’t actually looking.

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Consequently, it’s not surprising that 55 percent of Americans say they’re “completely burned out” from job hunting, according to staffing company Insight Global.

Many hiring professionals say ghost posting hurts businesses that are actually trying to recruit new talent. Creating a pre-qualified pool of candidates for future openings is why 37 percent of surveyed hiring managers say they ghost post, but some argue it’ll have the opposite effect.

“Ghost job postings are definitely problematic for companies legitimately trying to hire people,” Ben Lamarche, general manager at Lock Search Group, told The Epoch Times. “Not only do these clutter job boards and make it more difficult for candidates to find and apply to genuine job openings, they also cause frustration and mistrust among candidates.”

Working at a recruitment and consulting agency, Mr. Lamarche has witnessed the rise of fake job posts. A former recruiter friend of his confessed to posting “ghost jobs” to impress clients and boost his performance metrics. Mr. Lamarche noted the recruiter didn’t seem concerned about the candidates’ quality or level of interest, he was just looking for contact information.

He’s also seen incidents where professional candidates with perfectly matched skills suddenly face radio silence from hiring managers, only to find the exact job with the same ad posted on repeat every few weeks.

Tech companies, recruiters, and staffing agencies are among the biggest ghost posters, according to Stephen Greet, the CEO of BeamJobs.

“Tech companies are often cited as major users of ghost postings,” he said. “With how fast the industry moves, maintaining a pool of potential candidates ready to go is key. That way if a new project pops up or someone leaves, they’ve already got qualified people to consider.”

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A job seeker prepares to meet with recruiters during a career fair in San Francisco on June 4, 2015. It can take up to eight weeks from submitting an application to receiving an offer, according to Indeed. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Productivity Theater

The fake job listing trend isn’t limited to applicants with a broad range of expertise. Mr. Lamarche recalled the case of a colleague with a niche skill set who also fell into this trap. The colleague worked with X-ray systems on machines to determine metal fatigue.

“The company scheduled an interview but then ghosted, and the job posting is still up over a year later,” Mr. Lamarche said. “It’s possible that these fake job postings are used for internal purposes, such as keeping the HR department busy or to avoid discrimination liabilities.”

Some evidence supports this claim. A 2023 Visier analysis of 1,000 full-time U.S. employees revealed nearly half spend more than 10 hours per week trying to look busy instead of being productive. Eighty-three percent of respondents admitted to engaging in busy work over the past 12 months. This is something Visier calls “productivity theater.”
The research and analytics group classifies “productivity theater” as when employees prioritize performative work over productive tasks. Visier asserts the purpose of performative work is to “create the appearance of busily generating product and value rather than contributing to meaningful business results.”
Time spent engaging in this practice can add up fast for hiring professionals. One estimate stated companies spend roughly 30 hours over four weeks to recruit a single employee. This figure is much higher for senior positions, which is around 40 hours over a 6-to-8-week stretch.

“During my work consulting with various HR departments, I’ve heard direct accounts from hiring managers admitting to keeping posts published well after positions were filled,” Conor Hughes, an HR consultant, told The Epoch Times. “Just to give the appearance that those companies were continually hiring and growing.”

Mr. Hughes said fake employment listings aren’t limited to big job search websites. Recently, a hiring manager confessed to him they kept the same job openings posted on their company’s career site for nearly eight months with no plans to interview anyone.

“It seems that for some, padding fake metrics and creating a misleading picture of business activity has become more important than supporting legitimate job seekers,” he said.

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Job seekers converse with recruiters at a job fair in Sunrise, Fla., on Feb. 23, 2023. Hiring managers have admitted to keeping job posts online “just to give the appearance those companies were continually hiring and growing,” according to an HR consultant. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

He believes that with so many phantom listings inflating the true number of opportunities, job seekers inevitably become discouraged after investing significant time into dead ends. “This almost certainly elongates search cycles as trust wavers,” Mr. Hughes said, adding, “Busy HR teams also run the risk of wasting valuable resources sifting through unqualified applicants attracted by postings that don’t represent real needs.”

Like Mr. Lamarche, Mr. Hughes also has friends and colleagues who’ve been affected by likely ghost posts.

“I’ve consoled several discouraged peers of mine who spent hours crafting customized applications and resumes, only to have roles vanish without explanation,” he said.

Mr. Greet of BeamJob, also has customers affected by what are likely fake job posts. One client in particular dealt with sudden silence while in the middle of interviewing for a marketing coordinator position.

“He made it to the final round of interviews but then the process abruptly halted with no explanation,” Mr. Greet told The Epoch Times. “When he searched again months later, that same job was still posted online.”

Mr. Greet recalled another incident with a Ph.D holding client who learned that, months after applying for a job that went nowhere, the company never had any intentions to hire for the position.

“From a company perspective, posting jobs that aren’t actually available could cause problems if it floods them with too many applications from people who may not be the right fit. It might make it harder for employers to find candidates that really match what they need. It risks damaging the company’s reputation,” Mr. Greet said.

Only 39 percent of surveyed hiring managers said their posted employment positions were filled, according to a 2023 Clarify Capital survey. Another 27 percent said they simply forgot to take down their ad.
Generally, online job postings stay open for around 30 days, according to Indeed. However, the company noted that despite a job listing being active, there’s a chance the role was already filled and the hiring manager hasn’t changed the post.
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A “We’re Hiring” hiring sign is posted outside a coffee shop in Los Angeles on Jan. 3, 2024. Workforce intelligence company Revelio Labs observed that applicant ghosting has more than doubled in the past five years. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Joe Mercurio, project manager for Clarify Capital, wrote in an online statement that to avoid falling into a time vacuum, it’s important to make sure the listing is very recent. “A job that was posted 48 hours ago is more likely to be actively hiring than a job that was posted 3 months ago.”

Workforce intelligence company Revelio Labs observed a “sharp decline” in the number of hires per job post in 2023, “bringing into question whether job postings are a reliable metric for the state of the labor market.”

It also observed that job applicants are reporting “increasing rates of being ghosted by recruiters.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hires-to-job post ratio has been in freefall, Revelio Labs noted. Legitimate labor shortages can cause this problem, but Revelio pointed out that sectors not prone to shortages, like management and finance, are also a part of this downward trend.

It also stated that applicant ghosting has more than doubled in the past five years.

“Companies using legitimate job postings could potentially lose out on qualified applicants if their job listing is buried among fake postings. This could lead to  a longer hiring processes and higher recruiting costs,” Mr. Lamarche said.

Bait Advertising

In the Midwest, another day of frustrated job searching begins for John Marsden.

“Most of my recent experience job seeking is: apply for stuff you’re perfect for and never hear back. Then the job posting is still there months later,” Mr. Marsden, who asked to be referred to by a pseudonym, told The Epoch Times.

Working as a technical writer and editor, Mr. Marsden has been actively looking for new employment for a year due to a drastic change in the work culture at his current job. When asked how many times he’s applied for a job over the past 12 months, Mr. Marsden laughed. “Oh around 200, give or take. And that’s just doing it part time.”

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A job seeker fills out an application on a laptop during a job fair at a post office in Inglewood, Calif., on July 18, 2022. Tech companies, recruiters, and staffing agencies are among the biggest ghost posters, according to the CEO of a resume-building service. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

In the early days of his job search, Mr. Marsden said he followed up with many hiring managers who suddenly disappeared in the middle of the interviewing process. “I’ve gotten four rounds [of interviews] deep and then, just nothing,” he said.

Concerned over the lack of communication, Mr. Marsden’s attempts to follow up with hiring managers were mostly met with silence, but a few responded. He said the ones who got back to him offered strange excuses.

“Sometimes they’d come back with stuff like, ‘You don’t have experience on this proprietary software,’ and it’s like, no one does. It’s only available at your company. You knew that when you brought me in for the interview. So why did you reach out in the first place?”

But Mr. Marsden said he’s learned how to spot a ghost post pretty easily these days, which he equates to “bait advertising.” Listings he said job hunters should be wary of include contract gigs advertising “six months plus,” ones that use corporate buzz slogans, or are vague about the job description. Mr. Marsden steers clear of job posts that focus more on selling the business than explaining the position itself. “If there’s three or four paragraphs about the company or slogans like ‘work hard, play hard,’ the answer is nope. Move on.”

Mr. Hughes emphasized that ghost posts can seriously damage applicant morale and make the pursuit of fulfilling employment feel like a “meaningless numbers game with little regard for people’s career goals or time.”

He says that encounters with fake job listings happen across multiple industries and at any company that prioritizes an image of growth over the fair treatment of people.

“No company or department is immune from pressures that might incentivize padding hiring metrics at the expense of job seekers’ experiences. A more transparent, integrity-focused culture is needed across all industries utilizing online recruitment,” Mr. Hughes said.

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