Seleena Jackson, 23, began fervently searching for another job — with plans to leave the one she was in — on November 10, 2022.
Using job search platform Indeed.com, she’s applied to more than 99 postings, has made dozens of follow-up calls, and have only been called into two interviews. To date, she’s received zero job offers.
The fruitless efforts have left her deeply depressed.
“I’m just really sad about it,” she told ESSENCE. “That November 10th date stands out because that’s when [an] incident happened and I wanted to quit that day, but my mom told me to not let go of a job until I find another one. So, I started job searching really hard.”
Jackson said she would sometimes apply to three listings in one day, with some applications taking nearly an hour to complete for positions that weren’t ideal for her, but she didn’t care. She wanted to work.
“I’m talking about putting in job applications that was an hour away from my house,” she told ESSENCE. “I was really flexible because I have a car, and when I say it was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through—no one is calling me back. It’s crazy.”
Jackson’s story is similar to many others’ pursuing jobs to no avail despite surging job listing numbers within the last few years. In fact, according to the latest jobs report U.S. December openings rose to 11 million, up from 10.4 million in November. This is a sign the US labor market is faring pretty well despite a looming recession. In Chicago, where Jackson lives, total non-farm employment for the area and surroundings suburbs increased by 158,000 in the last year per the Labor Department.
A September 2022 survey by Clarify Capital of about 1,000 hiring managers said 40% of managers have had a job posting open for over two to three months and one in five managers said they didn’t plan to fill their current open job positions until 2023. Another group of managers claimed they kept job postings up because they’re “always open to new people,” even if they’re not actively recruiting MSN points out.
These have been dubbed ‘ghost jobs,’ and can often feel like scams to stressed-out job-seekers like Jackson.
“I definitely do feel like something else is going on here–it feels like these hiring managers are doing this on purpose and it feels very intentional,” Jackson said.
According to one HR expert, it may not be a scam, but instead, just pure negligence.
“Really it’s just a matter of poor project management, and I can’t really say that it’s anyone’s fault, per se.” said Stephanie Alston, founder of the Black Girl Group, a full-service staffing agency that connects multicultural talent to companies seeking a more diverse workforce. “Some hiring managers just don’t keep up with their applicant tracking systems (ATS) the way they should, so there are positions open for sustained periods of time that really shouldn’t even be visible to the public after about 30 days.”
She continued: “You have to click whether or not you’re interested in interviewing them, but sometimes there are so many candidates to go through, once you identify your top three or four, you forget to press a button to notify those candidates that you’ve moved on in the selection process.”
Alston explained that some ATS postings can receive thousands of responses, and because of understaffing, HR reps aren’t able to comb through them all, so they abandon the listing altogether.
“HR and recruitment is really short staffed right now, so sometimes it’s just really hard to take those job postings down as quickly as they should,” Alston told ESSENCE. “I think one way HR professionals can combat that is continuing to raise awareness to leadership, saying, ‘hey, we’re severely understaffed and need someone specifically to come in and make sure there’s a project manager getting these taken off of the table.’ ”
Another “scam,” plaguing job seekers is misleading salary ranges on job postings. Earlier this year, legislation was passed in some parts of the US that required employers to include compensation details in listings in an effort to bolster pay transparency.
But some employers are skirting the process by including wide salary ranges that make it near impossible for job seekers to decipher what the actual pay will be if they pursue the role.
“I’ve seen that a lot too,” Jackson said. “It’s really disappointing because you think you’re building this sort of, honesty between you and the hiring manager where they’re helping you not waste your time applying to jobs below what you want to get paid, but then you click on the job details and see something line, salary is $15/hr to $100/hr. I don’t know what to do with that.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only misleading practice job seekers should be on the lookout for.
“There are literal fake job listings being posted and they are incredibly damaging,” Alston said. In what experts call phishing scams, false opportunities lead applicants to share their personal information within the applications, giving scammers the information they need to perform identity theft.
“If you are ‘job stalking’ or consistently following up on roles you applied for, be sure to call the company and ask whether the recruiter attached to the posting actually works there, and whether the role has ever even existed at all. This simple step can save you a big headache in the future.”
Alston suggests sticking to job platforms like LinkedIn to avoid getting manipulated. But even with that, still be vigilant.
“Double check when people reach out via LinkedIn,” she told ESSENCE. “We have seen scammers get creative and sometimes that means they’ll reach out from “legitimate” companies and pretend to be recruiters. Just because an individual lists on their LinkedIn they work somewhere doesn’t mean it does. When in doubt visit the company’s LinkedIn Page and reach out to top executives to confirm if these are real employees. There’s also platforms like Apollo Inc. who help you verify company email addresses or it’s also okay to just give the company a call. It’s tough out here, but there are ways to protect yourself. Keep the faith and continue to push forward.”