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Why do employers put up fake job postings, wasting job seekers’ time with “openings” that don’t really exist?

In many cases they’re not necessarily scams. By “scams,” I mean situations where applicants are exploited for identity theft or enticed into paying for equipment to get started. These happen, but they’re not the most common problem.

You’re more likely to be fooled by “ghost postings,” real-looking announcements that are posted by real, reputable companies, but that never actually lead to a hire. These phony openings may be advertised to appease overworked employees who complain that the company is understaffed, or to give the impression that the company is growing, or to gather resumes in case a real opening occurs later. In any of these cases, your odds of actually ending up with an interview are very slim.

How to spot fake job postings:

How can you tell when this is going on? The typical warning sign is that the same job is posted for a long time. In a survey last summer by Clarify Capital and reported in the Wall Street Journal, more than a quarter of hiring managers admitted that they had kept job postings up for more than four months. If they  really were ready to hire, they would usually have done so already.

This doesn’t help you if the fake job has just been posted. How are you to know it won’t actually be filled? You won’t know. You might spend hours targeting your resume, writing a cover letter and filling out an application. Then you’ll spend days hoping for an answer that never comes.

A smarter job search method:

Fake jobs are just one of many reasons why most job seekers can get hired faster through targeted networking. The proven best practice is to identify about 40 or 50 potential employers and then network intensively with a focus on those target organizations. It seems more time-consuming. But think of the time eaten up in applying to hundreds of “openings”–maybe of them fake job postings. And it may be outside your comfort zone, but how comfortable is it to be ignored again and again?

Since about two-thirds of jobs are obtained through connections, try spending two-thirds of your job search time cultivating connections. I’m not necessarily talking about high-level contacts who know you well. I’m talking about anyone you’ve had contact with, for example by doing an informational interview. These “weak” connections can easily lead to being referred for an interview. And candidates who are interviewed through referrals have an edge.

Read the posts linked in this article, experiment with this method, give it a little time and you may be surprised to find yourself getting a lot more response from hiring managers–instead of having your time wasted by fake job postings, or openings for which there is already a preferred internal candidate, or openings where hundreds of other people will apply. Stand out from the crowd by taking the smarter path.