Talent   //   October 23, 2023  ■  3 min read

Are you applying for a job that doesn’t exist?

Job applicants are becoming increasingly exposed to so-called “ghost job ads.”

In other words, the odds of you applying for a job that isn’t an actively open role, are on the up — if job seekers are using online hiring platforms.

Posting “ghost job ads” is becoming an increasingly go-to method for companies that want to build a pool of candidates for hiring in the future — or if they want to keep their options open if a new hire doesn’t work out.

But sometimes they’ll even do it just to make it look like the company is actively growing, according to a report from hiring resource company StandOut CV. Increased economic uncertainty, a tight labor market and shifting interview etiquette post-pandemic are now key factors driving this, said Lisa Simon, senior economist at HR database Revelio Labs.

StandOut CV analyzed over 90,000 job listings in the U.K. over eight weeks, analyzing how long jobs had stayed posted for. When looking at 20 popular jobs, over a third were found to be ghost job listings, according to that report.

Areas that had the highest number of ghost job listings were veterinary nurse roles, followed by posts advertising software engineer roles, per the same report.

“Just looking at job postings is never really enough, because it never really tells you the whole story. You don't actually really know whether someone was hired for a role."
Lisa Simon, senior economist, HR database Revelio Labs.

Revelio also looked into ghost job ads in the U.S. It analyzed job postings and compared that with hiring data, then matched job postings to new positions started within six months of when the ad was first posted.

It found the number of hires per job posting has dropped significantly over the past few years, from 1.2 hires per open job posting in 2018 to below one in 2023, according to internal Revelio data.

That speaks to a key concern about the practice of posting ads for ghost jobs — that they may be painting an inaccurate picture of the current labor market, according to Revelio. 

“Just looking at job postings is never really enough, because it never really tells you the whole story. You don’t actually really know whether someone was hired for a role,” Simon said.

But hiring platforms say ghost jobs aren’t a major concern. Inactive or ghost job postings “are not a prevalent issue,” said Scott Dobroski, a career trends expert at Indeed.

“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,” Dobroski said.

“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."
Scott Dobroski, a career trends expert at Indeed.

Only a small number of Indeed job postings are closed without a hire being made, and the company tracks data around hire-time speed which has remained generally consistent, he said. 

“If you’re concerned you may have encountered an inactive job posting, 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,” he said.

According to StandOut CV’s report, anything up for more than 30 days is more likely to be a ghost job, and some job boards don’t indicate exactly how long roles have been up, though label them “30+ days.”

Another tip for job seekers is to contact the hiring manager and confirm they are actively hiring for a role when applying, Simon added.