headless business man with laptop in chair in front of grey wall

ArtFamily/Shutterstock (Licensed)

Ghost jobs: Job hunters say companies are posting listings for jobs that don’t exist

What is a 'ghost job' and how do you spot one?


Braden Bjella


Posted on Jul 13, 2023   Updated on Jul 20, 2023, 7:02 am CDT

When Allie began applying for jobs about four months ago, she noticed a peculiar trend. 

An employer would post a job listing. Then, thousands of people would apply, including Allie herself. She would not receive an answer, but the job listing would remain active—sometimes for months at a time.

If a job listing was removed, it would occasionally reappear a short time later—the same pay, the same location, the same responsibilities. It’s almost as though it were a newly available position.

“I’m trying to understand why employers are doing this, since it seems to me like it’s almost every company/job posting I find on LinkedIn,” she told the Daily Dot in an email. “It feels like there is some larger, hidden agenda—like they’re personally benefiting in some way from continuously acting as if they’re actively recruiting/hiring for these roles but never filling them.”

Frustrated, Allie satirized the situation on TikTok. Unbeknownst to her, she discovered a relatively common phenomenon in the hiring market—an issue known colloquially as “ghost jobs.”

What are “ghost jobs”?

On Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 of 2022, business financing company Clarify Capital conducted a study of over 1,000 employers.

The study discovered something shocking: While “96% of employers claim[ed] they’re actively trying to fill an open role quickly,” the data presents the opposite.

Sixty-one percent of employers admitted they actually planned to fill a role two months or more after posting it, and an incredible one in five employers polled claimed they weren’t actually planning on filling their open roles until the following year. Eight percent of employers even stated they did not plan on filling the open role until at least six months after it was posted.

Effectively, this means that those seeking employment for such positions cannot expect serious consideration for months—or even years. Those not-so-open positions are identified in the study as “ghost jobs.”

Data from this study served as a backbone for a bombshell Wall Street Journal article in March of this year. Author Te-Ping Chen interviewed numerous workers having a hard time finding companies that genuinely seem to be hiring. CBS News echoed this story in a later article, noting that many employers post the same listing several times either to focus on specific markets for hiring or to expand their pool of candidates.

Indeed responds

In a statement emailed to the Daily Dot, Scott Dobroski, vice president of Global Corporate Communications at Indeed, denied that listings for “ghost jobs” are common on the site.

“Inactive or ‘ghost’ job postings are not a prevalent issue,” Dobroski wrote. “While there are reasons for employers to have evergreen postings and leave postings up as they search for the right candidate, it isn’t in the best interest of employers to post jobs they don’t intend to fill because it damages their reputation with job seekers.”

“Only a small number of job postings on Indeed close without a hire being made,” he continued. “The speed at which job seekers are hired has remained generally consistent and can depend on a range of factors–all of which we constantly examine to help identify ways to shorten the time to hire.”

However, numerous users remain wary of the modern hiring process, and a similar conversation to the one presented by Chen’s WSJ piece has spilled onto TikTok.

TikTokers highlight the phenomenon

TikTok users like Allie reported applying to an incredible number of jobs—76, 80, 100, 300, and even 500 applications, with each TikToker receiving few if any responses. One TikToker went so far as to apply for 557 roles; he was still searching for work at the time he posted the video and claimed that less than a quarter of employers responded to his applications.

Others on the site simply voiced suspicion about how quickly applications were being denied. Two TikTokers went viral after claiming they were rejected from a position in around 20 minutes; another claimed a time of around 4 minutes before they were rejected, though it’s unclear if they were exaggerating for dramatic effect.

As for Allie’s theory that “they’re personally benefiting in some way from continuously acting as if they’re actively recruiting/hiring,” Clarify Capital notes some potential upsides for companies that post jobs they are not actively seeking to fill.

Per the study, 43% of ghost job posters claimed they did so either “to keep current employees motivated” and/or “to give the impression that the company is growing.”

While there are some more understandable reasons for leaving jobs open—27% of polled employers confessed that they simply forgot to delete their job listings, for example—others seem almost malicious in nature. At a time when numerous companies are cutting back staff, 34% of employers said they kept up listings for jobs they weren’t planning to fill in order to “placate overworked employees.”

How to spot a “ghost job”

For those suspecting that they’ve encountered a “ghost job,” Indeed’s Dobroski suggested that one “check that the post date is current and that it includes a detailed description, clear list of responsibilities and schedule for when the role is intended to be filled.”

However, users like Allie demand further action.

“I feel as if there should be some sort of legislation that tells companies they are required to fill a role within X amount of days once posted, and they should definitely be required to give individualized feedback to each applicant who went through their interview process,” she told the Daily Dot. “We deserve that, at the very least.”

Update 8:01am CT, 2023:

In an email to the Daily Dot, Claire Walsh, a spokesperson for ZipRecruiter, noted that, while “there’s currently no set time limit for job postings on our platform,” the company had several procedures in place to prevent illegitimate jobs from being hosted on the platform.

“On the front end, we use proprietary detection software and have stringent client onboarding processes to vet potential posters and deny access for those who fail to pass our screens. And on the back end, we re-run our detection software on job listings as they’re posted and have customer service representatives available seven days a week to investigate and weed out suspicious posts,” Walsh detailed. “If the job is determined to be a fraudulent job or misrepresented, the job is removed from the platform due to violation of our Terms of Use.”

Walsh further noted that “job seekers have the option to report any job ad on our platform.”

“Our dedicated Job Quality (JQ) team, which is part of the T&S team, reviews all complaints concerning job ads that violate our Job Posting Rules and Terms of Use,” Walsh stated. “The JQ team can suppress an individual job, or all jobs posted by an employer, when they do not comply with our Job Posting Rules.”

Share this article
*First Published: Jul 13, 2023, 11:08 am CDT