Beware the fake job listing

Some readers clued me into the fake job posting process, after a little research I wrote the following rough draft. It will eventually go up on DKos in some more refined form, but I thought I’d vomit it up here as is to test the new plug in that was just installed and for reader comments and pointers. The thing I value love about this site is the traffic is fairly low, meaning I can actually have fun, and the traffic is of superb quality. It’s like having a team of editors and critics that talk me off the ledge and keep me from posting stupid shit on larger venues.

You’re looking for a job like millions of people these days and check all the big boards. Viola, you see a position advertised that fits your qualifications like a glove with a local company you may know! Maybe you take the time to fill out the laborious application, send it on its way confident that, finally, you might be in the running. But hours turn into days, a week goes by, and you don’t hear a peep. Wondering if the position has already been filled, you check the board again and discover to your surprise the job is still listed.

Over time as you navigate other sites and other geographic regions, you see what looks like the same job with same company, the ad never goes away. But no matter how many times you apply, you get no response at all, follow-up queries go unanswered, or at best you get a form email thanking you for the interest stating the company has gone with candidates who better fit their needs. What in the heck is going on here? Simple, the company may be legit, but the job listed was a 100% bona-fide fake intentionally put up by that firm.

Follow below and we’ll discuss why companies do this and how the simple, good faith act of applying for it could screw you up in a bunch of different ways.


Everyone knows or should know by now that job boards are riddled with scams. There are listings posted by disreputable companies, a typical example being what looks like an ad for employment that turns into a bait and pitch for online edu courses or a sales “kit” that costs you money out of pocket. But there’s a new scam these days, one that’s especially insidious, because not only might it cost you time and money, it can cost you a job and it’s being perpetrated by real companies with, at least for now, a good reputation.

Fake jobs can be classified into three broad groups of descending truthiness. The first and halfway above-board category is a company that hires directly which may have some extra money in their budget for recruiting. They have to spend it in a way that will survive an internal audit or maybe next year’s budget will be lower. So, even though they don’t currently need more people on the help desk or manning customer service, they will put an ad up to generate man-hours processing the incoming applications and be able to justify it if questioned, saying they’re filling their database with potential recruits when the positions do become available. Head-hunters can make the same argument, they don’t need anyone now, but they might in the future and putting up a fake ad means more resumes in their database, which in turn can be converted into more money in the bank.

There’s always the chance that out of the hundreds or thousands of resumes sent in, there will be a few with qualifications in a field that is in high demand. It’s the baited hook strategy writ large on the backs of the desperately unemployed. One of the comically tragic downsides of accidentally ending up in a head-hunter database is you may have just inadvertently disqualified yourself from consideration at companies that have a lingering contract with that employment agency. Simply being in the agency’s database knocks you out of the running if that other company is trying to hire directly. And once you’re in, good luck getting out; it’s like trying get off the no-fly list.

The second motive is worse. A company might put up a fake ad to harvest contact information. You do all the work for them! You fill in your full name, your phone number often including a cell, and you give them your email and snail mail address including ZIP code, all conveniently entered into discrete, marked fields. That’s a great way to build a detailed database right down to your education and interests, one that can be sold to anyone, cold callers for all kinds of companies, a donation plea for a college or charity, a political campaign sorted by institution and ZIP, even a news site that wants to send out targeted mass emails with links to generate page views. I can’t say for a fact, but I’m pretty sure a couple of virtual right-wing rags got me that way. And it worked, I’ve clicked on some links and read some of the articles.

As bad as that is, the last one is the sleaziest of all. Full blown identity theft and fishing scams. A crook can put up a fake site that looks a lot like the company they’re pretending to be and slam you to that site with an ad. Unless you’re familiar with the company’s site, how would you distinguish it? Responding could result in the classic money transfer scam, but thieves have become way more sophisticated since the days of “Dear Sir or Madame.” They may set up a fake skills test, have you register on the site and throw in a few classic security questions (What’s the name of your fave pet/teacher/boss?) send you a congratulatory email that you’ve been hired, request verification documents like SSN card and photo ID, and even trick you into filling out what looks like a direct deposit form giving away your bank account and routing numbers.

There are two factors that make this possible. The Great Recession has created millions of new, ideal victims: once middle class, educated workers who still have some credit left to their name and some residual cash left over in their dwindling bank accounts. Second, everything is now done online. Folks who haven’t had to apply for a job recently really don’t get how restrictive that process has become.

I saw an afternoon talk show the other day where a certain sanctimonious psychologist turned self-help fraud lectured a frustrated job seeker who pointed this out: “Maaaybe it’s time to get seeeerious about this and think outsiiiide the box: after you fill out the application online, why not stop by the company to introduce yourself and add that personal touch?” As if in all the brainstorming done by millions of desperate people over the past five years, no one has ever thought of trying that! The whole reason it’s all done online now is because they Do Not want people showing up uninvited. And if you do it anyway, you’ll be lucky to get far enough along to creep out a receptionist or generate a call to company security or local police.

Most job boards do what they can to weed the worst of the scams out, but like every business, the low paying departments are understaffed and overworked. It’s easy for a persistent crook to figure out a way to get through. Crooks will be crooks, there’s not much that can be done about that. But there’s no reason why legit companies should be allowed to put up fake job ads to bolster their databases and sell lead lists. It’s terrible for morale, it’s bad for the economy and bad for business. But until there are real, enforced penalties, it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets any better


  1. keithb says

    Not a scam, but a company might have someone internal already in mind to fill the position, but need to go outside to show they turned over every rock.

  2. New England Bob says

    Over my career of over 40 years, I think that every job I found was through a contact; either family, friend, present or former coworker or friend of a friend. I had sent out resumes but they never seemed to pan out.

    On the other side, as a hiring manager, I hired 200(?) people over the years. I made sure anyone who contacted me in response to a job posting got some kind of response (letter, email). Of those that I personally interviewed, I phoned them with a yes or no if they came in independently, and called the head hunter if they came that route. This was even true when I worked at companies with an HR department. The only difference is I made HR write the letters or emails.

  3. cope says

    My life experience (I’m 63) has been exactly the same, NEB. Networking, networking and, need I say, networking. This goes for my high school job flipping burgers (1966), my college job working on an assembly line in an actual factory (1970), my teaching assistant position in graduate school (1972), my job as an oil field geologist (1974) and, finally, my first teaching job in public education (1989). Also, too, I will agree with keithb that often organizations are required to post job listings while actually already having pre-selected candidates lined up. This is most certainly true in public sector careers such as mine, teaching.

    It seems to me the whole internet approach builds an additional layer to the employment process that increases the difficulty by an order of magnitude. My wife, an RN, is currently seeking full-time employment with scant success though she also is way qualified for the positions she is applying for.

  4. says

    When I first got out of school, it was quite common to tour cities and make impromptu appointments at companies that were hiring. Walk in, talk to HR, find a hiring manager if appropriate and talk to them.

    I actually tried that a few years ago, ironically with the company (different division though) that had first hired me 20 years earlier, and they were dumbfounded and literally didn’t know what to do when I showed up in their lobby and asked to speak to hiring managers and/or HR.

    Bu-bu-bu you have to send your resume into HQ, 2000 miles away.


    Any company that complains for any reason that they find it hard to find candidates should be asked: do you have a process in which applicants can walk in off the street and speak to a hiring manager?

    If they don’t, to hell with them and whatever they are complaining about.

    Much of the time that complaint is used to beg for more H-1B visas from Congress.

    The other scam is the H-1B visa scam, in which online ads are posted for jobs simply as a way of satisfying a checkbox on the way to hiring low wage H-1B visa workers or these days, contracting to H-1B visa contracting firms.

    And you really should talk to current H-1B visa contractors. Very low wage, and very little choice of assignment. No, they are not slaves, but if they cannot choose their work assignment on pain of losing their H-1B visa help by a contracting firm, they will clearly be unable to freely negotiate their wage.

  5. lanir says

    Yep, been through the not-actually-available-position thing before. They justify it by talking about funding generally and when it will come in but in my humble opinion when you pull the trigger and start hunting, there’s no way you aren’t aware you’re being a first rate asshat to everyone you pull in.

    I have run into one thing however that might help mitigate the database thing. A company needs your consent to represent you to a partner. You don’t automatically give them that right. They have to get it anew for each individual place they wish to present you to. If you ever hear you were submitted without your knowledge, you should absolutely speak up about it to the prospective employer. You may not get the job but by all means give the company that tried to screw you over a black eye. It reeks of incompetence on their part.

  6. Psy 911 says
    i got a reply from these people saying my cv had been shortlisted and i needed to pay $80 to proceed further.
    i replied saying i feel the site is fake.
    Here’s their reply :
    “Go f**k yourself you little third world c*nt
    We never asked you to apply here
    now f**k you and f**k off

    Craig Leveon ”

    So is totally fake and is obviously run by some cheap pervert.
    Beware people!

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