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Beware of “ghost jobs”

Day jobs and temporary jobs are often a necessity for artists. We may need something we can rely on to pay the bills on a permanent basis, something part-time to finance tours or poetry submissions, or some temp work to pay for new equipment or a class or workshop. The search for these jobs can be stressful during the best of times, but today’s job seekers are finding that an increasing number of the jobs they apply for do not actually exist. Termed “ghost jobs,” these unavailable jobs typically fall into one of the following categories.  

The job opening does not exist at all, but the company wants to give the impression that they are growing. 

Hiring booms make companies look like they are doing so much business, they need more people on staff to handle all the work that’s coming in. When this isn’t true, those in charge of marketing and publicity can make it seem to be the case by writing and posting one or more job ads. The jobs offered in these ads will be real jobs that exist within the company, they just won’t be jobs that currently have any openings available. 

No jobs are currently open, but the position has a high turnover rate, and the company wants to be prepared. 

In this situation, “ghost job” is just a new term for the old practice of building up their application file. Businesses may announce that they are “accepting applications” or “hiring,” when what they really mean is that they aren’t hiring now, but may have to hire somebody at the last minute. This behavior is especially common among those in charge of hiring for entry-level customer service positions. Workers are typically not paid well or treated decently and tend to reach breaking points and either walk off the floor or quit on very short notice.  Rather than pay or treat their employees better, hiring managers simply build up a file of people who might instantly replace the person who can’t take it anymore. 

Openings do not exist, but the corporation wants to scare their employees.

Unless you are short-staffed, seeing your job described in an ad is often a jarring experience for an employee. Even if things have been going well at work for several years, you can’t help but wonder if somebody in your department is getting fired, or if the entire department is being revamped in a way that will result in loss of income, advancement chances, or other opportunities for you and your colleagues. This is often exactly what the company wants employees to think. Nobody is getting replaced, demoted, or rescheduled. The people who supervise those whose work is described in the ad are just using it as a tool to frighten workers out of demanding better pay, more respectful treatment, benefits, or improved working conditions. 

The company is short-staff and has no intention of hiring, but they want to placate their employees.

In some cases, seeing your job, or a job that would absorb some of the duties of your job, featured in a “help wanted” ad would generate a sigh of relief. Overworked employees often pressure their supervisors to hire additional people, or to hire assistants or secretaries or others who can take on some of the duties of their job and make things a bit more manageable around the office. When they see job ads, resumes, and people coming in for interviews, these employees believe the solution to their problems is in progress. In most cases, this leads to a willingness to continue to do the extra work, because it is “just temporary” now, and “the boss is doing all he can to help us.” And that willingness to do extra work without complaining is all the people in charge ever really wanted. 

There is a genuine job opening, they just already know who they’re going to hire. 

Nepotism exists everywhere. In some places, it is severe and extreme. You have to be born or married into the “right” social circles to even be considered, unless nobody in that crowd wants the job. And then they go down the list of the most devoted wannabes before opening it up to the general public. In other places, hiring is mostly fair, but it never hurts to be related to the CEO or dating somebody on the board if you want a really good job. But whether your company’s nepotism is run-of-the-mill or bad enough to make the town creepy, practicing it openly is not a good idea. Placing an ad for the job you’ve already unofficially filled is a good way to cover it up. 

Interviews, tests, and resumes are just ways for the company to generate ideas for projects or solutions to problems. There is no job available.

Consultants cost money. They charge a fee, and if they are required to purchase services or materials to complete the job, the corporation has to pay for that too. You don’t have to pay people to sit at home and carefully describe what they would do in the situation your company faces as part of your job application process or answer a series of interview questions describing projects they would implement at your company if they were hired. 

One of the most frustrating things about ghost jobs is that there are no firm red flags to look out for during a job search or an interview. The one sign that the job is probably a ghost job is if it has been posted and open for a long period of time, or if the same job keeps posting over and over again. That doesn’t help all the people who applied for a ghost job the first week it was posted. The only defense against ghost jobs is to apply for as many jobs as you reasonably can during your job search, and to remember that they exist, if only to prevent discouragement and blaming yourself over every job offer you do not get. 

Utica Phoenix Staff
Utica Phoenix Staff
The Utica Phoenix is a publication of For The Good, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) in Utica, NY. The Phoenix is an independent newsmagazine covering local news, state news, community events, and more. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and also check out Utica Phoenix Radio at 95.5 FM/1550 AM, complete with Urban hits, morning talk shows, live DJs, and more.

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