The Truth Behind Phantom Jobs

You’ve been applying for jobs for months. Every position you look at—every job you think “Hey, I could do that”—they’re filled in days, or you never hear back.

Are headhunters and in-house recruiters just messing with you?

Do companies post fake jobs just to harvest resumes to keep on file in the ATS dungeon?

We spoke with a couple of recruiters who said it’s not as bad out there as the rumors have it.

Monica Rodis, an executive recruiter with Segue Search, which places legal and financial marketing candidates, says her firm never posts phantom jobs. “If I did that, I’d have hundreds of resumes to go through” for no payoff—after all, she gets paid when she fills an open position.

Peter Bell
, president of Peter Bell and Associates, a PR search firm, agrees. “I don’t believe it to be that serious. I know for a fact that some places do collect resumes for possible future use, but not to the extent of posting fake jobs; rather, most simply leave the ad up after filling whatever position they advertised for in the hope of receiving more resumes that they may save, and possibly use, for the future.” Small comfort, perhaps, to frustrated jobseekers, but again, with the volume of responses pouring across recruiters’ desks, a job wouldn’t stay up on the boards for more than was economically feasible.

Recruiters do have one other trick up their sleeve, Rodis says, when it comes to job ads: “It’s a job ad. It’s meant to get you to click it.” Which means that she may combine two or three open positions into one ad or not write a less-than comprehensive job description, leaving that up to the hiring manager. But is this a trick or business as usual?

There aren’t any statistics available on the number of job ads that might not match a job description exactly, but a look at any classifieds page of any newspaper suggests that this sort of thing isn’t new. “Join a dynamic sales team with considerable experience” doesn’t tell a jobseeker more than the basics, after all, and that sort of job ad has been around for decades.

In the end, Occam’s Razor may apply. The simplest solution—that assumes headhunters aren’t out to personally make your life a living hell—may be the real answer.