Why Do Imaginary Jobs Exist Online?

Being unemployed is frustrating, and in the course of searching for a job, few things are as frustrating as applying for a job for which you are a perfect fit and not getting a response. It’s not uncommon for a candidate to apply for a job for which he or she seemingly meets all the required qualifications, only to see the same job listed on one or more job boards day after day, week after week, yet the candidate never receives a response to his or her application. So why is this?

The ghost jobs

Of course, there’s no real way to know why a company is not responding to your application unless you know someone who works there who can provide feedback. Perhaps there are mistakes in your resume or cover letter, or while you believe your experience to be a perfect fit, the employer is actually looking for something a little different. But there’s another possibility, an even more frustrating one – there’s a chance the job to which you’re applying doesn’t even exist.

Job boards

A frustrating reality of dealing with large online job boards is that many companies purchase contracts with these job boards that include a specified number of job postings. When the contract nears its end, the company is faced with the fact that if they don’t use their remaining job postings, they lose them. So they choose to post job openings that don’t exist to use up their remaining postings.

It’s kind of the same concept as finishing the rest of the food on your plate long after you’re full. You don’t really want the food – you’ve had more than enough. You certainly don’t need it as evidenced by your expanding waistband. But you finish it anyway for the simple reason that you don’t want to see it go to waste. Such is the case with companies who stand to lose hundreds of dollars on unused job postings.

Stacking up applications

So what does a company gain from posting jobs for which they have no intention of hiring? For one, it enables them to build a pipeline of candidates and add resumes to their database. This way, they will have a number of resumes of qualified candidates to choose from should the need to fill a similar position arise in the future.

A second benefit to this practice is it keeps the company’s name on the tip of the public’s tongue when it comes to hiring. Job seekers continue to see that the company is growing its workforce whenever they log onto job boards, and this illusion of growth and stability certainly looks better for the company than sending the message that they are laying off employees and downsizing.

Not a great candidate experience

The flip side of the coin is the disingenuous message these companies are sending to prospective candidates. Want to work for us? Feel free to apply to one of our many job ads, though don’t expect a response. It’s not unlike inviting a group of friends out to dinner and awaiting their acceptance, with no intention of ever going. Before long, you will find yourself without any friends at all.

After applying numerous times to a job for which a candidate feels he or she is more than qualified and not receiving any response, the candidate, already dealing with the frustrations of unemployment, can’t help but feel his or her frustration grow. The inevitable result is disgust and resentment for the company placing the ad.

Spotting the fake openings

So what should you do if you come across your dream job online but don’t receive a response to your application? My advice is to apply once, then be patient. There’s no way to tell for sure if the job is a fake, or if the hiring manager is just taking his or her time screening resumes.

If the job is fake, applying to the job repeatedly will be a wasted effort. If the job is legitimate, applying numerous times may hurt your chances. While persistence may be admirable in some cases, no one wants to hire a stalker.

Time will tell

After sending your resume and cover letter, give it some time. If you don’t get a response within a couple of weeks, follow up with an e-mail inquiring about the status of the position and reiterating your interest. If you still don’t receive a response, wait a few months before applying again.

If the position is legitimate, the employer will have your resume on file, and it’s better to remain in their good graces should they decide to contact you in the future than it is to work your way out of the job by coming across as impatient and overly persistent.

Related: Why Monster’s Batch Apply Service is Bad for Candidates.

By John Feldmann

John Feldmann is a Senior Communications Specialist for Insperity in Houston, TX. With over a decade of marketing and employment branding experience in the recruiting and human resources industries, John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity's brand to both business professionals and job seekers. Follow John on X @John_Feldmann.