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May 22, 2023

Is That Job Even Real? 3 Ways to Resist the Ghost Job Trend and Still Broaden Your Applicant Pool

an invisible person in business attire carrying a cup of coffee

From quiet quitting to job poaching, the wild world of hiring always keeps us on our toes. But lately, things have been looking downright…spooky. That’s all thanks to ghost jobs, the newest buzzworthy (or should we say ‘boo-worthy?’ 👻) HR phenomenon.

Even though it sounds like a job for the Mystery Inc. Gang, you don’t need an EMF meter to detect these specters…they’re lurking right under your nose on your favorite job boards.

But what exactly are ghost jobs? Why should you care? And why are they a BIG hiring no-no?

The act of posting jobs for positions you’re not actually hiring for is bad for business and even worse for your brand. But luckily, there are better ways to nurture candidate relationships.

If you’re ready to broaden your applicant pool without the shady recruitment practices, read on for phantom-free tips and tricks.

Better ways to broaden your applicant pool

  • Open a general applicant pool
  • Close and re-create evergreen postings
  • Re-engage with your existing database of candidates

What are ghost jobs? And how they damage your employer brand

Are ghost jobs haunting your recruitment process? To find out, you first need to understand what exactly makes these work opportunities so spooky.

In a nutshell, ghost jobs are open positions for roles that don’t exactly, well…exist. It’s posted with the intention of hiring, just not yet. If it sounds vague and misleading, that’s because it is.

So why do companies post these fake job postings if they aren’t actively looking for applicants?

Disorganized hiring leads to bad employer branding

According to Kelsey Libert, Co-founder of digital marketing agency Fractl, these always-open positions help combat high turnover in associate roles. “Otherwise, you’re suddenly in a position where you need to spend a lot of money on LinkedIn ads to quickly drum up interest,” Kelsey explains. And with 50% of managers keeping job listings open because they’re “always open to new people,” ghost jobs are not an isolated incident.

To be fair, some of these phantom positions are “accidents” — the result of ever-changing hiring budgets and out-of-the-loop teams. While working at Wayfair, talent strategist Elliott Garlock saw ghost jobs come and go.

But according to Elliott, they weren’t intentionally stringing candidates along. “It’s not because we were ill-intentioned and out to trick the candidate market,” Elliott explains. It takes time for large companies to take down outdated postings…but it’s also a strategic move. “We don’t want to signal we’re slowing down, so we’ll let these things ride.” 

But that always-growing (but only sometimes-hiring) image comes at a cost.

Whether companies are posting early for an upcoming but not-yet-available position to give the impression that the company is growing, or simply neglecting to remove the post after filling the role, these listings often leave candidates hanging.

While some recruiters might think this is a hands-off way to build a pipeline of ready-to-work applicants, it’s a major red flag for job seekers — and with 1 in 10 hiring managers leaving job postings open for over six months, it’s no wonder there are so many unhappy candidates.

Ghost jobs are a major downer for candidates

It’s really disheartening,” says Brooke Wilemon, a postgraduate in today’s job market, who suffered through the false hope of the ghost job rigamarole when applying to an open role in the insurance industry.

After donning her best blazer and getting interview-ready, she recorded and re-recorded her answers to a list of automated interview questions. But after blood, sweat, tears, and multiple retakes, she received an email explaining that the company was not even filling the role. Talk about time wasted!

It never feels good to miss out on an opportunity during a long job search, but it’s deeply frustrating when you put in the work to perfect your application, only to hear that the company was never really hiring in the first place.

While not all ghost jobs are intentionally misleading, recruiters need to do better. Ghost job ads aren’t just spooky…they’re bad business, and they could haunt your company's reputation.

“Honest mistake” excuses can only go so far, especially when you’re dealing with disappointed applicant after disappointed applicant. So how can you broaden your applicant pool without stringing candidates along?

3 better ways to expand your applicant pool

Are your job posts actual opportunities? Applicants deserve transparency, so don’t let ghost listings scare away potential hires.

Here’s how you can collect resumes and expand your applicant pool without the bad juju:

1. Open a general applicant pool

One of the easiest ways to broaden your talent reservoir is to open a general applicant pool on your company’s website or career portal.

Where a job posting is usually for a specific role, a general applicant pool collects resumes from job seekers sans the department and position preferences.

Candidates who submit their resumes and cover letters to this pool are interested in working for a specific company, but they may not know exactly where they want to be in the organization. But that allows you to put them where you need ‘em when the time comes.

Companies can draw from this general applicant pool to fill future job openings or match qualified candidates with existing openings, helping fill roles faster (and easier) — without duping candidates into thinking they’re next in line for a position that doesn’t exist.

And with applicant tracking tools like Breezy’s Candidate Management feature, you can give your team the bird’s eye view of all the candidates in your pool. From there, just drag and drop them where you need them, customizing your pipeline stages to match your hiring needs.

2. Close and re-create evergreen postings 

Another way to ensure you have the talent you need to fill upcoming open positions is to create evergreen postings.

Evergreen postings are job listings that are intentionally (operative word here) kept open for extended periods of time, sometimes indefinitely. They’re most often used for positions with high turnover rates, usually in fields like retail or nursing. 

By keeping a standing position open on your job site, you can broaden your applicant pool and ensure that you always have someone on deck to fill a role.

But unlike a visible-but-filled ghost job which rarely (if ever) leads to a new hire, evergreen postings are designed to make hiring faster for everyone. To ensure your always-open posting doesn’t mess with your recruitment analytics, you need to give those evergreen postings regular TLC.

To maintain your candidate pool and your data, try to close and re-create your evergreen posting routinely, preferably every three months or so. This will also help ensure these postings remain high-visibility.

3. Re-engage with your existing database of candidates

One of the biggest mistakes in hiring is letting silver medal candidates go. 

Too often in the recruitment world, valuable talent loses out to a superstar with exceptional skills. These second-placers would have been hired in a snap if only they hadn’t gone up against that uber-qualified, undeniably perfect, almost too good to be true candidate…but that’s just the luck of the draw.

Where the missed opportunity comes in is when businesses just let these silver medal candidates drift away without a word, rather than keeping them engaged and in the pipeline.

You can start right now by re-engaging past candidates who caught your eye. And one of the biggest perks of an applicant tracking system like Breezy is the ability to store acceptable past candidates’ personal information (like their email address) in your database for future opportunities. You can even launch Nurture Campaigns to stay in touch via automated texts and emails. 

With the right process, you can keep in touch with hundreds (yes, hundreds) of amazing candidates without sacrificing your personal life…or ethics.

Just be sure to keep detailed records for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). As a US government agency tasked with enforcing equal employment opportunity regulations, this organization keeps a close eye on hiring activities. To stay on the right side of the law, always maintain clear records of your recruitment activities and check with your legal team on any questions. 

From who you hire to who you bypass, document your hiring processes and keep tabs on your outreach efforts. This shows that your re-engagement efforts are fair and non-discriminatory.

Keep it ghost-free with Breezy

When it comes to ghost jobs, the only thing that should be transparent is your hiring process. Ghost jobs scare candidates away, wasting their time and threatening your reputation in the process.

That’s why it pays to broaden your applicant pool with general applicant pools, regularly maintained evergreen postings, and routine candidate re-engagement. By adopting these strategies, you can attract top talent without resorting to ghost jobs.

Don’t be haunted by ghosts of candidates past — keep them engaged with Breezy! Our simple, visual applicant tracking system can help you streamline your recruitment process and stay in touch with your best candidates. See for yourself with a free 14-day trial.