Ghost Jobs: How to Spot and Avoid Them in Your Job Search

Ghost Jobs: How to Spot and Avoid Them in Your Job Search

In the competitive job market, it’s important to be aware of the existence of ghost jobs. These elusive positions may seem promising at first, but they often turn out to be non-existent or misleading. If you’ve been working on your resume and cover letter, but haven’t heard back, it might be a ghost job. Learn how to identify and avoid ghost jobs in your job search with our helpful guide.

In this guide, we will cover:

  • What are Ghost Jobs
  • Reasons Why Employers Post Ghost Jobs
  • How Can You Tell if a Job is a Ghost Job
  • Don’t Let Ghost Jobs Discourage You
  • 4 Steps to Avoid Ghost Jobs
  • Tips for a Successful Job Search

Who are we? NESC Staffing is a United States staffing agency, and we’ve been putting people to work since 1984.

What Are Ghost Jobs

In 2022, the business financing company Clarify Capital surveyed more than 1,000 employers on their hiring practices. 96% insisted that they were actively trying to fill a role quickly, but the data said otherwise. 61% of the employers polled admitted that they were posting a job two months or more before they were planning on hiring for it and 8% admitted that they weren’t planning on filling the role until at least six months after it was posted. According to their survey, more than 27% reported leaving job postings up for more than four months. These jobs that aren’t open or closed are considered “ghost jobs”. It’s important to be cautious and do thorough research before applying to any job to avoid falling victim to ghost jobs.

Reasons Why Employers Post Ghost Jobs

The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations have covered how frustrating these job postings are for job seekers because they still take up time and energy while widening the trust gap between candidates and hiring managers. It’s difficult to figure out if a posting is for a ghost job, since some of them sound legitimate and can even include having candidates go through a real interview process. While in some cases a fake job posting can be related to a scam, it’s usually an actual genuine company posting for a position that it’s not hiring for immediately. It weakens company morale within and outside applicants’ trust in the company. So why would they post it?

They are trying to make a good impression on investors.

Of those who said they advertised jobs that they aren’t actively hiring for, almost half said they kept the ads up to give the impression the company was growing, even when it wasn’t. Other times companies might be reluctant to take down ads because it would signal to investors that the business is slowing down.

Managers need to placate their current employees.

Of those who weren’t hiring but kept up job listings, one-third said they kept up the listings just to placate their overworked employees.

They need resumes in case someone quits.

Another reason that some hiring managers keep up the ads is in case someone quits, or the “perfect employee” applies. The idea is to have the applicant’s information for future hiring, but not anytime soon. Employers do this because if someone quits suddenly, then the employer has to spend a lot of money online to drum up interest. Posting ghost jobs allows them to pull from a stack of candidates.

The hiring team can’t keep up.

Other times it’s because the internal company team that takes care of job postings can’t stay up to date along with their other work. If the team is overworked and understaffed, updating job postings is considered a low priority.

Related: If your company needs help hiring, NESC Staffing can handle that for you.

How Can You Tell if a Job is a Ghost Job?

There are three things about a ghost job that you’ll want to look for specifically: One, how long has the job been posted? Two, the job description is vague and doesn’t have many details. Three, it sounds too good to be true. It could be an unusually high salary without much experience, unusual benefits that you’ve never encountered before, or just the tone sounds like a sales pitch.  While earning more is expected at a new job, we mean an especially high salary for your location and industry.

The job post has been up for a while.

This tip depends on the industry. If this job is extremely specific about what they’re looking for and has a long list of requirements, it’s probably a real job that they haven’t been able to hire for. For instance, if the company wants to hire a Fire Protection Engineer with 10+ years of experience, the job might be open for multiple months. However, if it’s an entry-level position where someone only needs a few years of experience using Microsoft Word, that’s going to be significantly easier to find.

If the job post is fairly entry-level and has been up for more than three or four months, it’s either a ghost job or it’s a real job that has a high employee turnover. , they won’t contact you and you’re stuck wondering why. If it’s a real job, then they might hire and fire people quickly. You might get the job briefly, but then either be stuck at a job most people quit or are fired from.

Using job search platforms like LinkedIn can also show you how long the job has been posted and how many other people have already applied. For instance, this remote job post from Meta for a Social Creative Lead posted 23 hours ago shows that it already has over 200 applicants:

They aren’t specific about what qualifications you need to have. 

Scott Dobroski, vice president of communications at jobs site Indeed, recommends looking for detailed job descriptions. A sure sign of a ghost job is when anyone at all can be hired. Even entry-level jobs that don’t require experience usually include a general location, set schedule, and pay rate. For instance, this is a real job that we here at NESC Staffing have hired for in the past:

Production Associate in Massillon, OH
First Shift: Monday – Friday, 6 am – 2:30 pm
Pay Rate: $19.00/hour

      • The position is an entry-level position within the manufacturing area, primarily responsible for performing weigh-up or packaging duties within the production department.
      • You will be responsible for ensuring the highest quality product at the lowest possible cost and meeting customer specifications and delivery requirements in accordance with policies and procedures.
      • Use digital scales to weigh materials (color pigment) and mix them to send down the line for the machine operators


      • Solid Math Skills required (additions, subtractions, decimals)
      • Able to work first shift, Monday through Friday, 6 am – 2:30 pm, and is flexible to work weekends overtime

Do you see how it includes the pay rate, schedule, and requirements? Those are all signs of a solid position that a hiring manager needs to fill. No set schedule might be okay, but there have to be some qualifications. No qualifications at all? That’s a trap.

The job sounds too good to be true.

Do you know the saying: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is”? That applies here. Is the pay significantly higher than you expected? Does the job posting come across as extremely upbeat and cheerful, to the point of sounding fake? Is it thin on requirements, but includes a long list of reasons why you should work there? It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a ghost job is all about selling you on the benefits of the company without a job description.

You know it’s a real job advertisement when it’s listing out what you’d be doing for the day and they’re not trying to sell you on the work culture or workplace. It might even sound boring. It might sound like actual work. The less razzle-dazzle, the more likely they’re actually trying to hire someone.

Related: If you’re looking for work, the job openings at NESC Staffing are updated daily.

Don’t Let Ghost Jobs Discourage You

When searching for job opportunities, it’s important to utilize reliable job search platforms. These platforms can help you find legitimate job postings and avoid falling victim to ghost jobs. Look for reputable websites and job boards that are known for their credibility and reliability. Some popular job search platforms include LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, and CareerBuilder. These platforms often have advanced search filters that allow you to narrow your search based on location, industry, salary, and other criteria.

Companies like Indeed also remove millions of inactive job postings. The Vice President of Communications at Indeed, Scott Dobroski, has also gone on record stating that more companies are proceeding with caution.

In July 2023, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce listed 9.8 million job openings in the U.S., but only 5.9 million unemployed workers, showing there are enough to go around.

Additionally, they may have user reviews and ratings for employers, giving you insights into the company culture and work environment. By using reliable job search platforms, you can increase your chances of finding genuine opportunities and avoid wasting time on ghost jobs.

4 Steps to Avoid Ghost Jobs

To sum up, you’ll need to be careful to avoid ghost jobs. There is no telling how common these job postings are, so don’t take it personally if you fall for one. All you can do is follow the available steps to avoid them:

Keep a list of what jobs you apply to, what company is hiring for it, and the date you applied.

This will be handy for you to reference when a job or company sounds familiar. Applying to multiple jobs is easier than ever, but most people have to apply to more jobs than they expected before hearing back. It is easy to lose track of all the jobs, so before you start, make sure you have a list ready.

Does the job posting have specific details?

If the job posting lacks specific details or seems too good to be true, proceed with caution. Reach out to the company directly to verify the job posting and ask for more information if needed. Trust your instincts and be wary of any job that promises high salaries with little to no experience required.

Thoroughly research the company and job posting.

Look for reviews and information about the company’s reputation and legitimacy.

Use reputable job search websites or a staffing agency.

Finally, consider using reputable job search websites and platforms that have measures in place to verify job postings and protect job seekers from scams.

Tips for a Successful Job Search

Conducting a successful job search requires a strategic approach and careful planning. Here are some tips to help you navigate the job market and increase your chances of finding the right opportunity.

      1. First, take the time to identify your skills, strengths, and career goals. This will help you target your search and focus on positions that align with your interests and qualifications.
      2. Next, create a professional resume and cover letter that highlight your relevant experience and accomplishments. Tailor these documents to each job application to make a strong impression on potential employers.
      3. Networking is also crucial in a job search. Reach out to contacts in your industry, attend networking events, and utilize online platforms like LinkedIn to connect with professionals in your field.
      4. Additionally, stay organized and keep track of your applications and interviews. It’s easy to lose track of when you applied to what job. When you do hear back from a company, you’ll be able to check when you applied to the position and how much time has passed. That will help you understand if they think it’s urgent to hire someone – or not. It will also help you see how long it’s been since you applied to a job and if you see again, you’ll know if it’s a ghost job or not.
      5. Follow up with employers after submitting an application or attending an interview to demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm. That alone can help sway the decision in your favor.
      6. Finally, be persistent and patient. The job search process can take time, but with perseverance and a proactive approach, you can find success.

If you’re looking for work, NESC Staffing is hiring nationwide for a wide variety of positions. We’re a staffing agency located in the United States and have been successfully placing people in new jobs since 1984. For more information, please feel free to contact us.