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Scam Job Posts Versus Ghost Job Listings: A Guide For PhDs

“I’ve applied to hundreds of job postings.”

“Using the same resume?” I asked.

“No, I targeted every resume. I’ve heard nothing back. In some cases I was sent a rejection email within the hour. What’s happening?!”

“Ghost job listings.” I replied. 

“Like fake jobs? Scams? I had a friend who applied to a job online and entered their private info and got hacked after. Like this?”

“No, though that happens. Ghost job listings are from real companies but these companies have no intention of actually filling these jobs anytime soon …or at all.”

“Why would they do this? What’s the point?”

This is a conversation I had recently with a PhD who has been unemployed for 3 months since trying to get hired. 

They entered a skilled job market that’s been hurtling downward for over 18 months. 

As a recent analysis in Forbes explained: “Typically, the working class and blue-collar workers are the most impacted in challenging economic climates. However, this time, it’s different. The wealthy and high-paid, white-collar professionals are facing what is being called a recession.’”

But why are so many companies still posting job openings for skilled positions? 

The answer is complex and something that seems unfair at best.

Scam Jobs Versus Ghost Job Listings

In the ever-evolving landscape of job hunting, there’s phenomena known as scam job posts and ghost job listings. PhDs need to thoroughly understand both. 

Contrary to the hidden job market concept, these types of job posts refer to job postings that do not actually exist, or might exist in the future. 

Scam job posts, in this context, are deceptive postings that falsely advertise job openings that do not genuinely exist within the organizations. 

They are typically created with malicious intent, aiming to exploit job seekers and gain personal information or further dubious activities. 

These fraudulent listings can appear on job boards, social media platforms, or even professional networking sites.

There are several characteristics of these predatory job posts. 

5 Characteristics Of Predatory, Scam Job Posts

1. Proactive Talent Acquisition.

Scam job listings are intentionally designed to mislead job seekers by presenting enticing job opportunities that are non-existent.

2. Deceptive Details.

These postings often include detailed job descriptions, attractive salary ranges, and promising career prospects to lure unsuspecting candidates.

3. Unauthorized Use Of Company Names.

Fraudsters may use well-known company names or reputable organizations to add an air of legitimacy to their fake job listings.

4. Requesting Personal Information.

Ghost job listings may prompt candidates to provide personal information such as social security numbers, bank account details, or copies of identification documents under the guise of the application process.

5. Lack Of Response Or Follow-Up.

Once applicants submit their information or express interest, there is typically no response or follow-up from the fraudulent party.

Why Do Scam Job Posts Exist & What PhDs Can Do To Avoid Them

The motivations behind ghost job listings are often driven by malicious intent or fraudulent activities. 

One common reason is identity theft. Scammers may use the personal information collected from job seekers to engage in identity theft, financial fraud, or other illegal activities.

Another reason is data collection. Truly fake jobs can serve as a means to gather a large amount of personal information from unsuspecting candidates, which can then be sold or exploited.

Similarly, fake job posts can be used as phishing scams. Fraudsters may use fake job listings as a front to launch phishing attacks, aiming to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information or downloading malicious software.

Finally, scam jobs can be posted with the purpose of spamming and advertising. In some cases, ghost job listings may be used to generate traffic to certain websites or promote products or services unrelated to job opportunities.

The best strategy for avoiding scam job listings is to thoroughly research companies first. Before applying to any job listing, research the company to ensure its legitimacy. Visit the official company website, check for contact information, and search for reviews or news articles about the organization.

PhDs should also be cautious of unsolicited job offers. If you receive job offers out of the blue, especially via email or social media, exercise caution. Legitimate companies typically follow a formal recruitment process rather than reaching out directly.

Pay attention to the quality and clarity of the job description too. If it seems vague, overly generic, or too good to be true, it may be a red flag.

Always verify the source of the job postings. Check the legitimacy of the job posting platform or website. Stick to reputable job boards or platforms with verified employers.

Finally, guard your personal information closely. Be cautious when providing any personal details during the application process. Legitimate employers will not ask for sensitive information upfront or through unsecured channels.

Ghost Job Listings Are Safe To Apply To But Will Waste Your Time

Unlike scam job posts, ghost job listings are real. This type of listing refers to job postings that real companies make but have no immediate intention of filling. 

The Wall Street Journal recently published a report that ghost job listings are surging in today’s job market where companies want to collect as much information as possible on potential candidates for data mining and big data initiatives, even though they have no intention of using this data to hire anytime soon. 

Again, these listings are not fake or fraudulent; rather, they are part of a strategic hiring approach employed by organizations. Companies post these positions to build a pipeline of potential candidates for future openings or to maintain a strong presence in the job market.

The characteristics of a ghost job listing include, first and foremost: the job is real. Ghost job listings are real job ads posted by legitimate companies, often on their official websites or reputable job boards.

However, these ghost jobs are posted with no immediate intent to hire, or no intent to hire at all. Companies often use ghost job listings to attract qualified candidates and create a pool of potential hires for future openings.

Ghost job listings can also be used for brand visibility; to help companies maintain a presence in the job market and showcase their organization as a desirable place to work.

The purpose of these listings can also be to establish an ongoing recruitment process, ensuring a constant pool of qualified candidates for future hiring needs.

4 Reasons Why Real Companies Post Ghost Job Listings

Several reasons contribute to companies adopting ghost job listings as part of their hiring strategy:

1. Proactive Talent Acquisition.

Ghost job listings allow companies to be proactive in their talent acquisition efforts by continuously attracting and assessing potential candidates.

2. Future Expansion, Or Succession Planning. 

Companies may post ghost job listings to prepare for future growth or to identify potential successors for key positions within the organization, even if this growth isn’t required for months or even years in the future.

3. Reducing Time-to-Hire.

By maintaining a pool of pre-screened candidates, companies can reduce the time it takes to fill a position when the need arises. Many employers are mitigating their risk of another Great Recession so they never have to scramble for job candidates again. 

4. Employer Branding And Image. 

Consistently posting job listings demonstrates a company’s stability and growth potential, enhancing its reputation as an employer of choice. In other words, they may want to fake growth to potential investors, shareholders and certainly to competitors. 

The Cheeky Scientist Scam Job & Ghost Job Protocol

Scam job postings pose a significant risk to PhD aiming to transition into industry. By understanding their deceptive nature and being vigilant in your job search, you can protect yourself from falling victim to these fraudulent practices. 

Ghost job listings, on the other hand, are real job postings without immediate hiring intent, represent a strategic approach employed by companies to build talent pools and maintain a strong presence in the job market. Job seekers should approach these listings with an understanding of their purpose and implications. 

In both cases, Cheeky Scientist recommends that PhDs and those with other advanced degrees research companies thoroughly, scrutinize job descriptions, verify the source of the job listing, and guard your personal information. 

The best protocol to follow is one where you stay informed, trust your instincts, and rely on reputable job search platforms to navigate the job market safely and successfully. Make sure you’re engaging with companies beyond their job posts too. Reach out to gatekeepers to verify the job is real and that ensure they’re hiring for it now, not later.

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ABOUT ISAIAH HANKEL, PHD

CEO, CHEEKY SCIENTIST & SUCCESS MENTOR TO PHDS

Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by millions of PhDs and other professionals in hundreds of different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.

Dr. Hankel has published 3X bestselling books and his latest book, The Power of a PhD, debuted on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. His methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

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