‘Ghost Jobs’ Are on the Rise—And They Are Hurting More Than Just Job Hunters | lpstrkl.com

‘Ghost Jobs’ Are on the Rise—And They Are Hurting More Than Just Job Hunters

Justin Marcus is a professional recruiter and the CEO and co-founder of the accounting and financial recruitment platform Big 4 Talent. When it comes to hiring and recruiting, he’s seen it all. “When I started with a Fortune 500 recruitment company, which I won’t name, there were people there that encouraged posting positions that were not totally real,” Marcus told Observer. With more than ten years of experience in the field, he said ghost jobs and spam jobs, or jobs that don’t actually exist, have increased. He was particularly surprised when his wife recently got recruited for a ghost job as a graphic designer. Someone posing as a recruiter had reached out about a fully remote position with a company based in Utah. They did two rounds of phone interviews with her and offered her the job. When she accepted, the recruiter then asked for her to fill out a W9, to get started. But the strange construction of the email address the request came from tipped her off. She reached out to the real company and confirmed with HR that they did not actually have that position open. When she went back to the fake recruiter to find out more, the scammer disappeared. 

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Ghost jobs and spam jobs are not a new phenomenon, but there’s evidence that they are on the rise. One widely cited survey from 2022 revealed that 68 percent of employers had listings that were active for more than 30 days, and 10 percent of those listings were up for six months or more, with 20 percent of managers not planning to fill those positions until the next year. Another more recent survey conducted by the Business Standard found that 73 percent of more than 1,000 respondents had fallen prey to a ghost job or spam job offer. In late March, NBC News reported that there were more than 1.8 million jobs on LinkedIn that had been posted a month or more ago. Observer reached out to LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed to find out how these platforms address such listings but did not receive any responses, though Indeed does have a 2023 post on their platform about the topic. 

The term “ghost job” encompasses everything from jobs that don’t actually exist to jobs that remain open for long periods of time (typically more than a month), and those uninvited solicitations that you get via text message or WhatsApp (a popular tool for scammers), to apply for a non-existent job. While Marcus pointed out that “sandbox” jobs, or jobs that remain open because they have high turnover or need to be filled frequently even if there is no matching job requisition, are not new, there are a number of new nefarious layers to the job posting game. Some of these ghost jobs, like the one that Marcus’ wife landed, are tools that scammers use to steal personal and banking information, others are used as marketing tactics to keep companies at the top of job seekers and investors lists. 

The rise of ghost jobs muddies labor data

There are a few ways to categorize the types of ghost and spam job listings out there, Marcus said. “The first is data harvesting, where this posting may be a non-existent position where that data is sold to marketers to send unsolicited offers. There’s the labor market dynamics.” He noted that many open jobs have hundreds of applicants right now, “which you can look at that pipeline creation, or perhaps they’re doing it because of internal policies, with DEI.”

“Or it’s even market visibility. Where they’ve got 16 jobs posted under their name, and their brand is being posted on, LinkedIn or indeed or somewhere, and people are seeing it,” Marcus added. Companies also get a tax write-off for recruiting expenditures like advertising a job on various platforms, which can be a boon to their bottom line. With the proliferation of online job platforms, recruiters are taking more time to sift through resumes, according to a recent story at Marketplace. In 2023, the average length of time that a job remained open hit a record high of 44 days

This trend isn’t only troubling for job seekers, it’s troubling for the wider U.S. economy since the Federal Reserve looks closely at the monthly Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) as one of the many factors it uses to determine how to manage interest rates and inflation. Stacey Standish, a press representative at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), told Observer that job openings data is collected directly from establishments and must conform to three standards: The position has to “exist,” it could start within 30 days (whether or not the employer can find someone to fill it), and the company has to actively be recruiting for it. Data for the report is collected on a voluntary basis from a collection of “sampled establishments,” according to the BLS. Ghost jobs and spam jobs muddy the data collection and make it unclear just how robust the job market is. 

The rise of A.I. and the already standard use of machine learning (ML) in recruitment processes has also complicated things. “There are a lot of automated postings right now, and automation is kind of a double-edged sword, because from an employer standpoint, it makes it very easy to just go in and type in one job one time and post the job listings across multiple platforms,”  Marcus said. “The systems are designed specifically for HR departments, not necessarily for the candidate experience.”

So, what is a job applicant to do?

In truth, there’s not much out there to protect job seekers when it comes to ghost jobs. Marcus said they flagged the fake job his wife got to the real company, but beyond that, there’s no governing body that oversees these kinds of things. 

Marcus suggests that applicants pay close attention to job listings and look for clues that they might not be real. Jobs that have been open for more than 30 days or reposted could be a reason for pause, and if you get contacted out of the blue by a recruiter or HR department, double check that their email address matches the real company’s website. Never pay for an application or to get a job, and do your due diligence if you do get an interview. 

“The impact that spam/ghost jobs have on candidates, I’d imagine, is a bit discouraging,” Marcus said. “If candidates are applying to roles and expending effort to just get spammed, they are either less likely to find them via applying, they are more diligent in researching, or the majority start looking toward companies whose brands are a household name.” While there’s no promise that you won’t get ghosted during the interview process (a common and frequent job applicant experience), there’s some comfort in knowing that you didn’t get a call back because the job didn’t exist in the first place. 

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