Why there are so many "Ghost Jobs" haunting hiring websites

Originally published at: Why there are so many "Ghost Jobs" haunting hiring websites | Boing Boing


It’s so cynical. On LinkedIn, I see a constant stream of jobs that have been advertised for ages… they even say “X# of people have applied” or “be one of the first # applicants”… funny thing is, there are even postings for provincial government positions on this list. I think there is a similar mechanism at work there - government (at least in Canada) wants to be seen publicly as hiring, but there is really a functional hiring freeze on.


A previous boss with a temper chronically has ads up on Craigslist, partly because he liked to say “we’re always growing”, but also because the frequency of quitting and firing was so high. As in, for the last 15-20 years, every time I’ve checked, he’s had an ad up.


Without naming the highly-litigious company by name, a company I used to work for consistenly had many many jobs listed that they had zero intent of filling. The reason for this is they were a company manufacturing medical devices and one of the things regulators look for is if you are staffed to the right levels. You can get a finding on it. So the unofficial way that several companies do this is ensure they have open positions listed. If the auditor goes “hey, you have 100 actions that need to be done and your current staff only allows you do to 80 in the required timeframe” they can counter with “oh, we know. We have a position we’re hiring for and have several good candidates in various stages of interviews now.” Which is, of course, a lie. But it works. I have friends at other companies who’ve done the same. Or another way is to hire and then eliminate the position in a reorg after a year.


More evidence that HR always serves the interest of the bosses and investors. I doubt that hiring managers are ever directly asked for their input on these job postings. This is why they’re so often a kitchen-sink hodge-podge of buzzword-larded requirements and never offer an adequate compensation range to the handful of individuals who could actually fulfill them


Dystopias gotta dystopiate.


A staffing version of “the check is in the mail…”.

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:: nods sadly ::

Reminds of me when I was actively looking to get out from under the Bad Boss I had , and went to one of the better known recruiting/staffing companies. They had me interview for a high level SQL admin position that knew how to debug stored procedures and other super advanced stuff that I just didn’t know or have the skill set for- I apologized to the interviewer as the staffing company had mis-represented what I’m capable of to him, we had some polite chat, and we went our separate ways. I also stopped responding to that staffing company as well. (especially after I found out that Bad Boss was actively using them to try and fill positions as well…)


Could be worse, could be those job listings that exist purely so that the company can ask interviewees questions that they want answered, thereby getting free labor out of applicants without ever intending to hire them. Sometimes executives admit to this, sometimes it’s just obvious from what the company does (asks for detailed samples/proposals that they then implement themselves). That’s incredibly shitty, as it’s straight theft of labor.

That seems like a recruiter issue, too - my experience is that they’re incredibly happy to waste your time in the hopes that if they have enough hooks out, eventually someone will land a job they can make money off of. (And, for internal company recruiters, they look busy, even when ultimately accomplishing nothing.) When I was new to LinkedIn (i.e. before I ignored it completely), I connected with a number of recruiters who would try to get me to apply to jobs where I didn’t meet basic requirements. Don’t know if they hadn’t bothered to notice that (because they had so many job-seekers they were hoping to profit off of), or didn’t care (in the hopes I’d manage to get a job anyways) - either way, they were clearly offloading their labor onto their “clients.” (Maybe if I made a lot more money, it would have been worth it for them to expend some effort, and therefore have some value to me.)


Once did a huge interview process with a household tech name. Went through their (notoriously difficult) technical assessment from Australia.

At the outset, I had let the recruiter know that the job title they were forwarding me for was related, but not actually a match to the job responsibilities, and that while the responsibilities matched my experience and skills, their title put me through methods I hadn’t developed in a while.
They said it wouldn’t be a problem.
I failed by one component, the specific bit I was worried about, in the very last stage.

They froze me out of applying to more appropriately categorized roles… and then relisted the job under the correct title a week later.


The weirdest ghost job I ever saw was one on tor.jobs, early 2000s. They kept posting it for years, gradually changing the wording and changing the company name.

Apparently they did interview people, and then they’d have them work on the code for a couple hours as part of the “testing”, but they never hired anyone.

They couldn’t have been doing their development with the suckers working for free, a couple hours at a time, could they?


OTOH, I’ve had temp job postings up for some time, and while we got a couple of valid applications, many of the people applying we knew were ones we didn’t want. I’ve had people come in and ask for an application falling down drunk, so filthy they seemed to have come directly from shoveling out a byre, or we had seen them standing outside screaming at passersby.

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Yep, I’ve even requested this practice for my positions (or future positions): “Ugh, there’s a hiring freeze right now, lets’s keep the position up so if that changes, we have a pool of candidates to call on.”

Sometimes it’s not that open-ended though; if I know I have a position coming up in, say, the next quarter or half of the year, I may open it a few weeks (or months, depending on the position!) early to get some candidates in the pipeline so we can hit the ground running.

I wish there was a better way to surface the sentiment of “Hi! We don’t have any positions open now but we almost certainly will soon. If you’d like to work with us, leave your business card in this hat” sort of thing. Because if you’re unemployed and looking for work, vs just making a change, I really don’t want to waste your time that could be better spent on positions that are actively hiring!

In thinking about this role, I think if I keep positions up in the future, I will talk to HR about modifying the job posting to make it clear it’s not currently open. They may not want to do that for some reason, but I’ll give it a shot.


Actually, I think that happened to me. Fresh out of (art) school I applied to a jewelry making place, the type that turns out tourist wear by the ton. They had me come in and spend a couple of hours cutting off sprues and polishing rings, told me ‘thank you’, and I never heard back from them.


Yep, a recruiter told me they call those requests “unicorns.”

I actually got a 2-month contract job by appearing to be a unicorn (underpaid, of course). I pointed out to the agency that, in 2 months, no one could spend more than a day or three on each type of task (she agreed and said the list came from the hiring manager).

The hiring manager did indeed complain to my agency employer that I insisted on a few paid hours to catch up on the latest in Google AdWords (which changed almost daily). I said “no one could have been doing every one of his requirements on they day before they started the contract.”

FYI: my unicorn list included design & production & custom graphics for web site, print ads and emails; Google AdWords and search engine optimization; writing proposals for his bosses; and coding in HTML and PHP. (As a 1099 person from 2000-2015, I’d learned to lard my resume with buzzwords even when I didn’t meet my own high standards, and I never got “unmasked” on the job.)

The boss had been patching the PHP for years with amazing ignorance – he was afraid to let me remove demonstrably dead code. That made it nigh unreadable, but I’d used a machete and pith helmet before in my 13 years as a software developer (before becoming a graphic designer).

They kept me for a few months more even after the main employee came back from maternity leave. She and I worked well together, but that boss shot up to second place on my toxic list.

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That’s pretty standard in my industry where we do a lot of government contracting. We advertise positions that will be available if we win the contract, and we’re often required to show the government who we’re planning to hire for technical or financial positions.

Everyone is much happier that way.


I got laid-off from a high tech engineering job and have been in job search mode for about 10 weeks.

It’s damned frustrating and a complete waste of my time when I apply for jobs only to find there are 1230 applicants before me. I still apply, even if they are fake because my state’s unemployment requires you to document two job applications and three “other” job seeking activities each week you file a claim.

This past week, I applied to five jobs to make the required quota. Other activities, such as job networking group meetings, haven’t restarted post-Covid. My other activity is usually learning Microsoft Project via online tutorials.

I’ve applied for 26 jobs, mostly remote, which has resulted in just one HR phone screening. This is discouraging, especially since I’m 64-years-old and need 2.5 more years of work before I can consider retirement. Age discrimination is real and may have been why I got laid-off.

Sorry for the venting….


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