March 22, 2023
A mystery permeates the job market: You apply for a job and hear nothing—but the ad stays online for months. If you inquire, the company tells you it isn’t really hiring, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Not all job listings are attached to actual jobs, it turns out, the Journal says. The labor market remains robust, with 10.8 million job openings in January, according to the Labor Department. At the same time, companies are feeling budgetary strains—and some are pulling back on hiring.
Hiring managers acknowledge as much. In a survey of more than 1,000 hiring managers last summer, 27% reported having job postings up for more than four months. Among those who said they advertised job postings that they weren’t actively trying to fill, close to half said they kept the ads up to give the impression the company was growing, according to Clarify Capital, a small-business-loan provider behind the study.
One-third of the managers who said they advertised jobs they weren’t trying to fill said they kept the listings up to placate overworked employees.Other reasons for keeping jobs up, the hiring managers said: Stocking a pool of ready applicants if an employee quits, or just in case an “irresistible” candidate applied.
Postings for “ghost jobs,” as recruiters and candidates sometimes refer to them, can be frustrating for job seekers.
“It’s a waste of time,” says Will Kelly, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area and has been applying for marketing and writing roles. Kelly, who has decades of experience as a technical and marketing writer, estimates that when he was job hunting in late 2021, about 20% of listings that interested him were posted and reposted without anyone evidently being hired. Since his layoff from a startup in August, he says he has noticed that most jobs that catch his eye have been up for months.
“I first thought of it as an anomaly, and now I see it as a trend,” he says.
Given the uncertain economic outlook, some job ads may be more wishful thinking than anything else, says Vincent Babcock, a Nashville-based recruiter. Such a strategy, he says, risks turning off applicants who may view the ads as misleading.
“They’re posting jobs with the intention of hiring, but not anytime soon,” he says, adding that some companies posting jobs now might not be aiming to hire until the third or fourth quarter.
For employers, constantly looking for talent can make sense, says Kelsey Libert, co-founder of Fractl, a digital marketing agency. She says her company keeps ads up for associate positions even when they aren’t hiring, because turnover for those jobs is often higher than other roles.
“Otherwise, you’re suddenly in a position where you need to spend a lot of money on LinkedIn ads to quickly drum up interest,” she says.
An employer that hasn’t been collecting résumés along the way might have fewer people to choose from when jobs open and need to be filled quickly, Libert adds. Many college seniors look for jobs from April to June, she says, noting that companies don’t want to miss out on that talent just because they didn’t have immediate roles open.
“It’s better for you to hedge by leaving some of those job openings up,” she says.
Research contact: @WSJ