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4 in 10 companies have posted a fake job listing this year. Here's why

A new report from Resume Builder said most of these fake listings came from human resources departments to trick overworked employees.
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Posted at 7:47 PM, Jul 02, 2024

Still waiting to hear back from that job you applied to eons ago? There's a good chance you won't, and in some cases, your resume won't be at all to blame.

A new report from ResumeBuilder.com found more companies are posting fake job listings, meaning you had no shot at a callback in the first place.

After surveying 649 hiring managers in May, the site found as many as 4 in 10 companies said they'd posted at least one fake job listing this year. Of these, 26% posted up to three fake listings, 19% posted five, another 19% posted 10, 11% posted 50, 10% posted 25 and 13% posted 75 or more fake listings.

And of those companies who posted a "ghost" listing in the last year, 79% currently have one fake listing active in everything from entry-level (63%) and mid-level (68%) roles to senior (53%) and executive-level (45%) roles.

According to these hiring managers, the idea to post fake job listings primarily came from human resources (37%), senior management (29%), executives (25%), investors (5%), or consultants (4%). Further, fewer than 1% say the idea came from other sources, and about 1% of hiring managers were unsure where the idea originated from.

So who is doing this?

Well, every action starts with an idea, and the hiring managers involved in the Resume Builder survey said human resources employees came up with the fake job listing idea in 37% of cases, followed by senior management at 29% and executives at 25%.

Plus, 7 in 10 hiring managers believe posting fake job listings is morally acceptable, despite 66% of them saying people who weren't supposed to find out about the practice, have found out.

"It's a concerning scenario, particularly when these misleading postings originate from HR departments — the very entities entrusted with shaping accurate perceptions of their organizations," said Stacie Haller, Resume Builder's chief career adviser.

Related: Want a high-paying remote job? This research says good luck finding it

But what's the goal?

The top two reasons hiring managers gave Resume Builder as to why their companies were posting fake job listings were so that they could appear open to external talent or to act as if the company was growing.

But other top reasons were more targeted toward their employees, including to make them believe new hires would lessen their workload or to make them feel replaceable. Additionally, respondents said some companies keep your resume on file for when they do actually need you at a later time.

"Employees deserve transparency about the companies they dedicate their time to rather than being led astray by false representations," Haller said. "Any tactic aimed at undermining employees' sense of value and security is deplorable. Ultimately, fostering an environment of trust and honesty not only benefits individual employees but also contributes to the long-term success and reputation of organizations."

Does it accomplish anything?

While the applicants may argue the ghost listings accomplish a negative amount of anything, 68% of the hiring managers told Resume Builder that their fake job postings positively impacted their revenue, while only 7% reported a negative impact.

They reported similarly for employee morale and productivity, with 65% reporting a positive for the former — though 12% reported a negative impact — and 77% positive for the latter.

But a fake job listing doesn't always mean the whole thing is a wash. Resume Builder said around 84% of hiring managers said the candidates who applied for these jobs were always or sometimes contacted, so I guess the bright side would be ... interviewing practice?

Still, critics argue the practice is deceptive and compounds an already tumultuous task.

"The frustration candidates experience due to fake job postings exacerbates the already stressful job search process," Haller said. "Companies engaging in this practice not only tarnish their reputation but also sabotage their long-term prospects. Deceptive practices erode trust, dissuading potential applicants from considering them in the future as viable employers."

How can we tell the real from the fake?

Some fake job postings may look exactly like a company's real ones, so deciphering the two can prove difficult. But Forbes has a few tips:

  1. Check how long it's been posted: Forbes says if the role has been open for two months or more, you might want to do a bit more digging, as most roles are filled within 44 days, according to research.
  2. Ensure there's a detailed job description: Companies want the right person for the job, which means the listing will likely include many qualifications. If it doesn't, that's a red flag.
  3. Research the company's standing: There won't be new roles posted during a hiring freeze.
  4. Contact the company: The only way to make your interest really known is through direct contact. Forbes recommends this as another method to discuss your qualifications with someone involved in the hiring process.