Before You Fill Out A Long Application For Nothing, Here's How To Tell If You're Looking At A "Ghost Job"

Ever since the Great Resignation began, the job market has been pretty weird and wild. There's still plenty of hiring going on, but a mismatch in what kinds of jobs are open and what kinds of jobs workers really want means that many folks are applying for hundreds of jobs with no response while employers claim that "nobody wants to work."

sign in a restaurant window saying they are short staffed because nobody wants to work anymore
u/stemlord_tech_bro / Via reddit.com

And there's another factor that could be complicating your job search: "ghost jobs." These are postings for open positions that aren't really hiring at the moment, and they're pretty common. The length of time a job posting has been open can indicate that you're looking at a ghost job. Jobs that have been up for more than 30 days are more likely to be ghost jobs, and a survey of managers found that about 68% had postings active for more than a month.

a ghost on Scooby Doo
a ghost on Scooby Doo

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There are a variety of reasons why businesses might keep job postings active even when they aren't really actively hiring. They might be trying to appear to be doing better than they are, or in this uncertain economy, they might not know whether they can actually afford to hire for a role or not. And in some cases, they might have even forgotten the job posting was still up. But on the workers' side, ghost job postings are a time-wasting pain in the butt.

job application form on a laptop screen
Khanchit Khirisutchalual / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Recently, résumé writer Morgan Sanner, MHRM (@resumeofficial) shared another way to spot ghost job postings before you spend an hour filling out an application for nothing.

Morgan is a 25-year-old in Columbus, Ohio who has recruited in three different industries and written more than 1,000 résumés working with Indeed.com. She has a master's degree in Human Resources and five years of experience working in HR.

In a stitch with a user saying the job market is bad right now, Morgan explains that some companies are keeping job postings open online even though they're in a hiring freeze. She goes on to say, "I've even seen recently there have been some companies that will announce that they're doing a layoff; and then, if you go to their LinkedIn or Indeed profile, they still have dozens, if not hundreds, of open job applications that are still accepting applicants."

Morgan talking in her TikTok video
@resumeofficial / Via tiktok.com

Then, she offers a clever way to double-check the likelihood that a company is actually hiring. "Before you go and apply to any of these jobs, especially if you are interested in the tech space, I recommend going to this website here; it's called Layoffs.fyi, and they cover the smallest to the largest layoffs that you can think of. They'll tell you how many people were laid off, what percentage of that workforce they were, and it can give you a better idea on if the job posting that you're seeing is one that is actually going to lead anywhere or if it's just there for show."

Morgan showing a screenshot of layoffs dot fyi
@resumeofficial / Via tiktok.com

Basically, the idea is that if a company just cut a bunch of positions, you should take their current openings with a big grain of salt. Layoffs don't necessarily mean a company isn't hiring at all — there could be positions already open that still need to be filled or new roles being created to pursue new initiatives. But they can indicate that hiring is slowing down and are a sign to look even more closely at the dates when job postings go online.

man leaving an office with a box after getting laid off
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In the comments, people shared their own frustrating experiences in the current job market and other sites where people can check to see if employers have recently let folks go.

I just wasted my gas on going to an interview to be told they aren't hiring anymore I've applied to 1,000 jobs since May
@resumeofficial / Via tiktok.com

Sadly, here at BuzzFeed, we recently lost many talented colleagues in a round of layoffs. So, I put Morgan's tip to the test and looked up our company on the website she recommended to see how accurate it is. It immediately pulled up the date of the layoffs, how many people were let go, and a link to a news article where I could find even more information. It all checked out.

screenshot of the BuzzFeed entry on the layoffs dot fyi site

Morgan told BuzzFeed that there are three big reasons she sees companies posting ghost jobs. First, some jobs are "evergreen." She explains, "This is a job posting that is nearly always available — this is likely a high-turnover role (such as sales associates, restaurant workers, etc.), and it's easier for companies to leave these postings up so they can collect more résumés since they know they'll likely be hiring for it again soon, even if that isn't right now."

dishwashing staff working in a sink
Gcshutter / Getty Images

In other cases, she says companies may have an internal candidate already picked out, but they want to see who else is potentially out there. To suss out if this is the case, Morgan says, "I recommend checking out websites such as Glassdoor or Comparably to see how people have rated the interview process. How many reviews say that they weren't selected and the role was instead given to an internal candidate? Every hiring manager is different, but company trends are important to pay attention to."

woman at a job interview
Sdi Productions / Getty Images

And finally, as she mentioned in her video, ghost jobs might just be there for show. "Businesses that have stopped hiring can send a red flag to stakeholders; they may be wondering why they're not growing and bringing on more talent."

business people looking at graphs
Courtneyk / Getty Images

"Additionally, in areas where teams are understaffed, the appearance of a job posting can serve as a sense of reprieve for current employees who have absorbed the work of that role. Oftentimes, this role has a very low salary for the skills and experience they're asking for, and the company is not willing to pay the market rate for the talent they want in that role. A good indicator of this is if the role has been posted multiple times, but they never seem to fill it."

stressed out man sitting at a desk while coworkers hand him various tasks
Charday Penn / Getty Images

When it comes to polishing up your résumé for 2023, every field has different standards and practices you'll want to research. But Morgan has one tip that works for everyone. "My motto when it comes to résumés is to write for the job you want, not the job you have, and don't be afraid to brag about yourself!"

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Finally, she says, "Every business is different, so if you're really interested in a job, just apply! It can be tough to get a feel for the company on the outside, and it never hurts to throw your hat in the ring."

Morgan smiling with the text new year new resume
@resumeofficial / Via tiktok.com

Follow Morgan on TikTok and Instagram.