What are Phantom Job Postings?

Phantom Job Postings

Phantom job postings have been popping up more and more in recent years. You may have heard the phrase “phantom jobs” and wondered “who’s hiring phantoms?”

Okay, bad dad jokes aside, phantom job postings are a very real thing. They look like legitimate job postings, they appear on reputable job boards, and you may even get an interview, but there’s just no job to be had.

There are a few reasons a company might do this, which can be better understood when you look at the types of phantom job postings that you’re likely to come across.

The 6 Types of Phantom Job Postings


1. The Fraud Phantom 

What it is: This is a job posting set up purely as a scam. Neither the job nor the company exist. The criminals who post these positions want to steal your money or your identity. 

How to spot it: Fraud job postings are often poorly written and riddled with typos. Responses to your inquiries about a fraud job will try to entice you to buy software so you can “start getting paid!” Or they might ask for your social security number or other personal information right away.

Ignore these postings and trash any correspondence you might have with these fraudulent entities. No legitimate company is ever going to ask you to purchase software or provide personal information up front.

2. The Forgotten Post Phantom

Phantom Jobs

What it is: One of the more common ways phantom jobs appear is when a legitimate job is posted, and then a candidate is hired. However, someone at the company then forgets to delete the posting from the company’s website or whatever job site it appears on.

How to spot it: If you find a job you like on Indeed or another job board, first check to see how long the posting has been up. The longer it’s been on the job board, the more likely it is to be a phantom job posting. Also try to find the posting on the company’s website. It turns out almost 60% of candidates search for job on an organization’s website after learning about the opportunity elsewhere.  If you don’t find it there, then you are most likely looking at a phantom job.

3. The Turnover Phantom

What it is: Oftentimes, a company will constantly advertise openings for roles that have high turnover rates. For example, a cable company may constantly advertise their need for call center representatives knowing that sooner or later, they will need to hire fresh talent. If you’re lucky, you may get to interview during a hiring spree. Otherwise, you don’t know when you might be called, if ever.  

How to spot it: If you constantly see the same job from the same company posted on job boards over a long period of time, that’s one giveaway. Also, these job postings will usually be for lower-level or entry level positions that are prone to high turnover rates. Finally, notice if the job posting is a “sponsored” posting. That means the company is paying money to appear in as many search results as possible. That in and of itself isn’t an indicator of a phantom job, but when you see a sponsored ad for a lower-level role, and you see the same ad for a year, you’d be right to be a bit suspicious.

4. The Fishing Phantom

Phantom Jobs

What it is: This is when companies “go fishing” for resumes. They just want to know what talent is out there. They post a seemingly legitimate job postings and collect resumes of people they may want to hire in the future. It’s a practice also known as stockpiling resumes. 

How to spot it: Look closely at the job description. If it seems generic or lacking in detail, then you could be looking at a fishing phantom post. The job requirements in this type of post may include non-specific, but “business-sounding” phrases such as, multi-tasking, Internet research, social media, computer skills, detail-oriented, people skills. 

Also, the job description may be filled with more information about the company than the role itself because there’s no real role to write about. Finally, do a bit of research on LinkedIn to see if anyone at the company has a role that sounds similar to the job description.

5. The Use it or Lose it Phantom 

What it is: Large-sized corporations often sign contracts with job boards that gives them a specified number of postings. As the contract nears its end, the company may realize that they will lose their remaining job postings if they don’t use them. So, they just post jobs that don’t exist. They figure it’s better to collect a few resumes than let that valuable job board real estate go to waste.

How to spot it: These types of jobs will have characteristics similar to the #3 and #4 phantom jobs on this list. For example, if a company posts several jobs with identical job titles and identical descriptions filled with generic buzzwords, then chances are the job doesn’t exist.  

6. The Policy Phantom

Phantom Jobs

What it is: Many companies have a standard policy of listing every job opening that’s available, even if they already know who’s going to fill the position. Whether it’s a promotion or an internal hire, they still post it for the public to see, accept professional resumes, and even interview candidates. Why would a company do this if they already have their candidate picked out?

If a company relies solely on employee referrals and internal hires, that company can very easily be accused of violating the Equal Employment Act. Posting every job gives companies a clear paper trail that can be used as evidence that everyone is given equal chance to apply for opportunities at their organization. 

How to spot it: Unfortunately, you can’t. These job postings look legitimate because they are. There’s no way to read a legitimate job description and come away with the message “Don’t bother applying. We’re giving Jane the promotion.” It may be that you wind up applying for this type of phantom job.

Phantom Jobs Cause Real Frustration

Searching and applying for jobs is hard enough work. Knowing that there are job postings out there for jobs that might not even exist is super frustrating. It helps explain why It’s a very small percentage of jobseekers who land jobs by just applying for a position on a job board.

Hopefully, the tips above can help you avoid those phantom job postings so you can focus your energy on the real postings that will yield results.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that even the most diligent jobseeker might wind up applying to a phantom job posting from time to time—without knowing it. Sometimes, you may even get called to interview, especially if it’s a policy phantom job.

As always, put your best foot forward in your interview. Who knows? You may impress the hiring manager so much that you transform the phantom job posting into a real-life job offer.

Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

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