A reader writes:
I’m hoping you can shed some light on a growing concern of mine, and maybe all of us who are “pavement pounding.” I’ve been looking for a new gig for a while now, and notice at many of the larger name job search engines, many, many companies always seem to have the opening I’m looking for posted in rather frequent intervals. For example, the opportunity will appear for 3 weeks, then may—or may not—be taken off the site. Then about 2 or 3 months later, the same position is available again. These appearances happen in a variety of differing frequency and time intervals, and from the same groups of seemingly legitimate companies. Likewise, I’ll see an opportunity, from say 3 weeks ago, being posted as 6 hours old or even earlier. The job title I’m going for is highly competitive, and companies usually don’t staff an abundance of these positions, so their turnover rate is traditionally not all that high.
Call me skeptical, but I’m having an ever harder time believing that these companies are simply hiring (or firing) like gangbusters. And even more problematic, I’m not wanting to spend the 45 minutes applying on line for a job that I’m starting to believe isn’t really available even though it reads like it is. So my question is this: do companies continuously keep posting a now filled position that still appears on line as if its a newly-posted opportunity? I don’t want to start letting a skeptical, jaded attitude affect my enthusiasm to apply.
There are a whole bunch of explanations for this:
1. The company hasn’t filled the position yet, so keeps renewing the ads you’re seeing (since otherwise they’ll expire from the site or appear so old that they won’t get many applicants). They may not have filled it because their hiring stalled for some reason (like a decision-maker being away or busy with higher priorities, or it was put on hold while some sort of potential internal complication was worked out), or they might not have filled it because they didn’t feel they found the right candidate yet.
2. There’s more than one slot. A company might have 10 people in that job, so you might see it advertised repeatedly if they filled one slot three months ago but need to fill another one now.
3. They’re always interested in talking to good candidates. Some roles are hard enough to fill that companies are always interested in talking to potentially strong candidates, because if they find someone great, they’ll want to snatch them up, whether there’s a formal opening for the role right now or not.
4. They’re a staffing agency trying to build their database of candidates, and the job you saw advertised may or may not exist. (Although if you’re seeing specific company names, this probably isn’t the case.)
5. They can’t keep the position filled for some reason — they’re hiring badly, the manager is a nightmare to work for, they fire without much provocation, or who knows what.
It’s hard to tell which of these is the case from the outside, but if you apply for one of these jobs, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask about how long you’ve seen it advertised, and whether they’re hiring for multiple slots or whether they’ve had trouble finding the right person. And while there are plenty of possible legitimate reasons for what you’re seeing (see #1-3 above), you should also take it as a sign to keep your eyes open for possible problems (which you should always be doing anyway).