Ghost jobs are the result of outdated recruiting processes, and you don’t need to rely on them to beef up your candidate pool

One talent acquisition veteran advises broadening your talent pool through advertising and in-person recruiting endeavors.
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Zurich Insurance Company via Giphy

· 3 min read

Lurking on job boards all over the internet, presenting as authentic opportunities for unwitting job-seekers, are listings for jobs that aren’t actually jobs at all. Though they won’t spew ectoplasm at applicants after they submit a résumé, ghost jobs—listings for positions that aren’t really open—are increasingly being noticed and decried by applicants, Allyn Bailey, executive director for hiring success at Smart Recruiters, explained to HR Brew.

“Ghost jobs have been around for as long as I’ve been in the [talent acquisition] space. So, at least the last 15 years,” she said. A recent survey from lending firm Clarify Capital found that 50% of managers keep listings up indefinitely just to see who applies, even if there isn’t an actual opening.

If the listings linger, job-seekers will notice telltale signs: “They look at how long they’ve been up, they start looking at how detailed the job description is,” Bailey explained, noting that ghost listings are usually sparser in detail than their less-spooky counterparts.

HR teams can scrub their jobs pages of such listings, but it will involve a multifaceted approach that toes a line between online and in-person marketing. Maintaining a firm grasp on your candidate relationship management (CRM) strategy (and software) will also be paramount, Bailey advised.

Why so many ghosts? A listing that sits unchanged for months might represent a black hole for applicants, but it fulfills a strategic, albeit outdated, purpose for companies, Bailey maintained. If someone suddenly leaves an important position, a ghost job listing provides a pool of readily available talent that can be called upon in a pinch, at least theoretically.

A ghost job can ease the strain on a beleaguered HR team scrambling to fill an abruptly vacated role: “I’ve got an opening and 15 people who are relevant, available, and high quality, right with the skills you need,” Bailey explained. Usually, these listings are precipitated by a failure to anticipate staffing needs. “Companies in general are just historically bad at forecasting,” she said.

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But! And it’s a big but…letting ghost jobs persist will negatively affect your relationship with the talent pool you hope to attract. “There’s no way you come out of that as a company looking good,” she said. “You either look unorganized on structure, you look like you’re lying, or trying to manipulate the market or the process in some way.”

Bailey recommended being proactive with soft recruiting tactics that increase brand awareness. “You can do digital advertising. That drives people to get onto your talent network…People will have webinars for candidates and that’s how they’ll capture names, or they’ll go to hiring events and sign people up to their talent pools,” she explained.

After inputting this information into a CRM, recruiters will have a glut of useful candidate intel. “I can see people who have demonstrated interest, who I have gotten information from over time…I can say I have x number of people who are potential good fits in the talent pool today. And then I can open up my application and invite them to apply.”

Banishing the spirits from your jobs page will certainly take more effort than letting ghost jobs remain, but it might pay off in the long run.—SB

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @SammBlum on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Sam for his number on Signal.

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