Searching for a new job is one of the most stressful and challenging things you will do during your career. Leveraging your professional network is the most effective way to land a new position, but using job boards should also be part of your strategy. So what is really happening when you see the same job position posted for months on end?
All of the major job boards default to a 30-day duration for job postings. When the same job is posted month after month usually the position has not been filled because they are hiring for more than one slot, the position is difficult to fill, the position is on hold, or the company has a very slow hiring process.
In some cases, the posting was left up by mistake or the company has high turnover and can not keep the position filled. Infrequently, the posting was made by a staffing company to build their candidate database or the company is anticipating future needs and creating a pipeline of candidates.
Our research identified the following reasons are most common when the same posting has been active for several months:
The Position Is Difficult to Fill
More senior positions, as well as leadership and management positions, are critical to company success and also have a smaller talent pool.
Companies will be selective and ensure the candidate has the right skills and attributes to be successful so the hiring process normally takes longer.
Some companies also set themselves up for a long time-to-fill by looking for the unicorn candidate with the perfect set of skills and experience.
The Posting Is for Multiple Positions
This situation is the mirror image of the one above, but instead of one position that is difficult to fill they have many positions that all have the same job description.
This situation is common in production environments and companies that operate multiple shifts, such as the retail, foodservice, and hospitality industries. Another reason for multiple positions is that the company is growing or expanding and needs additional staff to handle the increased workload.
When the company has many similar positions to fill they will commonly create one posting to funnel candidates and then sort them during the screening process. Some listings will directly say they have multiple positions (or shifts) available, others may be more subtle and use plural forms – cashiers wanted vs cashier wanted.
The Posting Is for a High-Turnover Position
Employers expect high turnover for many positions, especially part-time workers in entry-level jobs. Turnover rates of 100% or higher per year are common for fast food, retail, and hospitality jobs. Sales jobs also have high turnover – good salespeople are also good at selling themselves and will go where they can make the most money.
The Position Is on Hold
Turbulent business conditions cause employers to revisit their staffing plans and they may implement a temporary hiring freeze until the outlook is more certain. When posted positions go on hold for review companies will commonly leave the posting active. This way the candidate pool just experiences a delay, rather than the mixed messages of the position being taken down and then reposted.
The Candidate Selected Did Not Work Out
The hiring team may have made their selection and the candidate accepted the offer, only to have the agreement fall through for some reason.
Candidates get cold feet and back out after accepting the offer, family emergencies happen that interfere with career plans. Their previous employer may deliver a counteroffer that was too good to refuse, or they accept a different position with another company.
From the employer’s side, the candidate may have failed their drug test or background check (companies frequently extend job offers that are contingent on passing these checks). Some times new hires are so unreasonable during the relocation process or pre-employment interactions that the company decides to rescind the job offer – rare, but it happens.
Hiring managers frequently need to re-start their search from the beginning when their selection falls through late in the process. Their 2nd or 3rd backup choices may no longer be available because good candidates don’t last long in most job markets.
The Company Has a Very Slow Hiring Process
Especially during difficult job markets, companies will tighten their hiring practices to be more selective – sometimes adding multiple interview rounds before the final decision.
Public-sector positions are notorious for slow-moving bureaucracy and a long time to get the necessary approvals required for hiring. Health Services and Aerospace & Defense are other business sectors with ordinarily long hiring processes.
The Position Doesn’t Exist
Company “Pipelining”: When companies have established a pipeline of candidates, they will take steps to maintain it even if they don’t have a current need.
For example, many companies recruit from the same universities every year. They have built a relationship with the career center and students expect to see them on campus for internships and full-time positions.
During a downturn, the company may not plan to hire any new grads that year but they continue posting positions and interviewing candidates anyway. The company knows that not being on campus would be noticed by students and their reputation would take a hit. So instead they follow their normal pattern and waste everyone’s time and mental energy.
In some cases, companies will post a position simply to begin collecting resumes and candidates in anticipation of future needs. They may expect to win a large contract that would require additional hiring, but they don’t want to incur the expense until the contract is secured.
Staffing and Recruiting Market Research: Staffing and recruiting agencies are also known to post positions that don’t exist so they can gather information and build their database. They use the information collected to learn about current job market conditions in a market segment they are targeting.
The Job Posting Was Left up by Mistake
Large corporations have many postings and many people involved so mistakes happen. The hiring manager selects an internal candidate but the external posting stays live, or the corporate recruiter goes on vacation and forgets to take the job posting down.
The metasearch job boards aggregate postings from multiple sources, not just the companies that pay to advertise posting with them. Hiring is a game of numbers and the business of job search engines even more so.
As they tweak their algorithms and sources for job postings, they can sometimes create zombie job postings. These happen when the original job was taken down by the hiring company, but due to refresh cycles it still shows as active in one of the job search engine databases. Other job boards then pick it up from there and it can still show as available for weeks or even months later.
The Job Will Be Filled Internally but Public Posting Is Required
To ensure a fair hiring process, many public-sector and civil service positions are required to be posted on external job boards. Even though federal labor laws don’t require it, HR departments at many private companies have established similar policies as protection against discrimination claims.
Expert Tip: Read the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It is perfectly legal to advertise a job that already has someone “penciled in” and will almost certainly be filled by an internal transfer. Research shows that internal hires generally outperform external hires and they do so for less money.
How Long Are Jobs Usually Posted?
For US employers, the average time-to-fill an open position is 36 days with 25% of positions taking more than 6 weeks to fill. Normal practice is to leave the posting active until a candidate has accepted an offer so it is common for job postings to stay active for 2 months.
There are circumstances that will cause an employer to take down a posting early. The most common reasons are that the position is no longer needed or they received an overwhelming response to the posting and do not want to consider new applications. These can also lead to the position being reposted when the circumstances change.
Expert Tip: LinkUp is a job board that only pulls listings directly from employer websites and provides a great user experience compared to others.