Job Hunting? Beware Of Ghost Jobs

Janet, 57, is a technology manager and a career counseling client who recently lost her position when the company decided to eliminate that sector of their business. We were developing her resume, and she asked me about a job she wanted to apply to. So as I reviewed the opening, I brought up the fact that I thought it was a ghost job. “Ghost job,” she said. “What is a ghost job?

I explained that before the coronavirus, it was employees and job candidates that were ghosting employers. They would talk to the employer about a job, and the prospective candidate would set up an interview. But then the candidate would never show up for the appointment. Worse than that, would be job applicants that were offered the job, and accepted it, then failed to show up for the first day of work. Now, something different is happening. Career Counselors and job hunters alike are reporting that there are many ghost jobs out there. By this, we mean an employer has listed a job they are no longer hiring for.

Janet and I were reviewing a couple of the job opportunities that she had sent to me. She wanted to apply for one from Adobe. It was an excellent position that Janet was well-qualified for. She asked me to write her cover letter, which I normally do for my career counseling clients. But when I looked more closely and read the job description ad, I noticed that the position was posted more than 60 days ago. I shared some insider information that Adobe just recently has enacted a hiring freeze. I have that on full authority from somebody who works there. Also, a job posting over 60 days old but still on the Internet, may mean that the job is currently not being filled by the company. When she and I were job hunting, we noticed that numerous jobs were more than 30 days old. I explained that the longer a job remained posted, the higher the probability of that job being a ghost job. She asked, “What can I do about this? How do I know what are real jobs, and which are ones companies have stopped hiring for?”

Great question. Because of the coronavirus, many jobs might still be on job search sites that companies have paused and are currently not actively hiring for. These organizations are probably at fault for not taking down the old listings. They might not have all their staff working or possibly may hire for that job sometime in the future. Soon? A month from now? Three months from now? I don’t think even the employer knows right now. So much is dependent on the country reopening.

Here is how to avoid applying for Ghost Jobs

Begin by going to a job search engine to look for a position. In my example here, I looked for the job on LinkedIn Jobs. In the search bar, I typed in the job title I was looking for, in this case, “Customer Success Manager.” You can use the second search bar to find the location. If you are looking for something anywhere in the United States, you can put in “United States,” and it will broaden the search. If you’re looking for a specific city, you could type in your city, i.e., “Boston,” and then select 25 miles or 50 miles from the city so that you will be given jobs in the suburbs too. Then using the LinkedIn job listings, you want to pay attention to the job title, the company, and then underneath that it will tell you the location, and how long ago the job was posted.

In my search with Janet, they had a Starbucks position, and it was posted 12 hours ago. That means it’s a real job that Starbucks is actively looking to hire someone for. The job underneath that one was published two months ago and is for a company called TINYpulse. I would suspect that that job probably is not a job that the company is actively looking for at this time. So to avoid positions that are more than a couple of weeks old, you can go up to the search bars, and you’ll see underneath where you search for the job title, there are the drop-down boxes.

The first box is “Sort by,” which, by default, gives you the most relevant openings. The next drop-down box says, “Date posted.” To get more recent listings, your choices are past 24 hours, past week, past month, with “any time” being the default selection. If you were to select the past week, you might miss something that’s two or three weeks old. To make sure you get the most recent jobs, select “one month.” Look at the opportunities that are the most recent time-wise. These are the jobs I would concentrate on applying for first.

Next, look at the positions that are 2 to 3 weeks old. These are unlikely to be ghost jobs. These have been put up after the pandemic hit, so they are probably a real job the employer is still hiring for. After that, when you get to a position, and it is one month old, go to the employer’s website and check to see if it’s still there.

If there’s something that you really want and it’s longer than one month old, again go to the employer’s website and see if it still listed. The easiest way to find the job listings on an employer’s website is to do a google search, then type in the employer name and the word careers after it. So it would look like this, “Raytheon Careers.” Hit search. It’ll take you to the employer’s career job listings. Be careful to go to the actual employer’s website and not to an Indeed or a LinkedIn listed job. Once on the employer’s site, you can search for the job title and see if it is still available. Our search for the job that Janet had seen on LinkedIn was not on the company’s website. And since on LinkedIn it was more than two months old, I informed her that in my opinion, it was a job they were no longer hiring for.

Use LinkedIn to get details on ghost jobs

Go to your LinkedIn connections. Look to see if you know anybody that works at the company you’re interested in. In our Adobe example, I suggested she send a message that politely asks the connection this question.
“Hi Tom, I’m currently looking for a job as a XXXX (name the job title), and I’m wondering if your company is undergoing a hiring freeze at this time?”

Most people will respond to you and answer whether or not that employer is a good prospect right now. Be sure to thank the connection for letting you know. I would suggest that as the country starts opening up, in the next month or two, you would want to reconnect with that person to see if the hiring freeze has been lifted. There are always specific jobs that companies are actively looking for. A good example is programmers, as they are hard to find, and many companies will continue to hire them even if they have a “hiring freeze going on.” For most other people, if there is a freeze in place right now, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Susan P. Joyce, the editor of Job-Hunt.org has put together a terrific list of current employers that are actively hiring. Each week new employers are appearing on the list. Do not make the mistake of thinking only low-level positions are available. Joyce reports that positions are available at every level. That means if you’re looking for a management or a professional position, or if you’re an executive, there are job opportunities available out there right now. You must be strategic in your search. And stay away from the time-wasting ghost jobs.

Forbes, Robin Ryan, Contributor, 28 May 2020.

By Laura Garza
Laura Garza Career Coach Laura Garza