Fake Job Listings Are Wasting Your Time: It’s the New Epidemic


Do you plan on applying for a job this century? Beware of a new, disturbingly absurd trend sweeping the American job market: nearly half of all online job postings are completely bogus. This delightful tactic, charmingly dubbed “ghost posting,” involves companies advertising positions they have zero intention of filling. Recent research reveals this shameless practice is rampant across multiple industries.

A survey by Clarify Capital, encompassing over 1,000 hiring managers, revealed that 43 percent of online job listings are ghost posts. These bogus ads serve several strategic purposes. Some businesses use them to project an image of growth, while others aim to keep current employees motivated or build a pool of potential future candidates.

The consequences for job seekers are significant. Applying for a job often entails weeks of effort, from customizing resumes and filling out lengthy applications to undergoing multiple interview rounds. Yet, many candidates end up chasing non-existent opportunities. According to Insight Global, a staffing company, 55 percent of Americans report feeling completely burned out from the job hunt.

The ripple effects of ghost postings extend well beyond mere annoyance. For companies genuinely looking to hire, the proliferation of these fake ads is a significant obstacle. Job boards become cluttered with phantom listings, making it increasingly difficult for serious candidates to discern real opportunities from the make-believe ones. This not only sows frustration and distrust among job seekers but also undermines the integrity of the hiring process. The result? Qualified applicants are deterred, and employers face more significant challenges in identifying and attracting the talent they need.

Tech companies, recruiters, and staffing agencies are among the primary users of ghost postings. Maintaining a ready pool of candidates is crucial in the tech sector, where rapid project turnovers are common. Ghost postings ensure companies have qualified individuals on standby for new projects or unexpected vacancies.

A significant driver behind the surge in ghost postings is the rise of what’s been dubbed “productivity theater.” In this phenomenon, employees focus on tasks that create the illusion of busyness rather than achieving real productivity. A 2023 analysis by Visier revealed that nearly half of full-time US employees spend over 10 hours weekly on this type of performative work. This culture of superficial productivity has seeped into HR practices as well. Many hiring managers keep job postings active long after positions have been filled, perpetuating an image of relentless growth and recruitment. By doing so, they create a facade of a bustling, expanding company, even when the reality is far less dynamic.

This practice is not limited to large job search websites. Some companies keep job openings on their career sites for months without any intention of hiring. This inflates the perceived number of job opportunities, drains company resources by attracting unqualified applicants, and complicates the hiring process.

Workforce intelligence firm Revelio Labs reported a significant drop in the hires-to-job post ratio in 2023, raising serious doubts about the reliability of job postings as indicators of labor market health. This issue is compounded by the growing trend of recruiters ghosting applicants, resulting in prolonged job searches and mounting frustration among job seekers. As these deceptive practices become more common, they erode trust, making the already challenging job market even more difficult to navigate.

Many job seekers reported that after applying for multiple job listings over a specific period, they encountered scenarios where the same positions remained open for months. They further reported that hiring managers offered vague or unsatisfactory reasons for not proceeding with their applications.

The prevalence of ghost postings shreds any remaining trust in the job market, turning pursuing employment into an exercise in futility. A more transparent and integrity-focused approach to recruitment is desperately needed. But until companies ditch their deceptive practices, job seekers and legitimate employers will be stuck navigating a convoluted, soul-sucking landscape mess. For current job seekers: good luck out there.