why are some job openings posted over and over for months?

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).

{ 52 comments… read them below }

  1. COT*

    Another reason for high turnover in some roles may be that people in those roles frequently get promoted. If these are entry-level positions, perhaps many people move up and out of them often.

    1. mmdd*

      That’s the case for one organization I worked for. They always post the same job regularly, because everyone starts out in this entry-level position and then moves forward from there. The company is perfectly legitimate, successful, and has a fabulous management training program. Since most people are promoted after a year as a part of this program, this job is posted regularly on job sites.

      1. shellbell*

        I think this is common and totally normal for more entry level positions. People don’t stay in them forever, and it seems that progression/promotions happen quicker earlier in your career. People might do the job for a year or two and then move up in the company. Many great places are almost always hiring for certain entry level or close to entry level positions.

        1. Jamie*

          Yes – some entry level positions have high turnover just due to the position. I’m thinking fast food, floor level facotry work, etc.

          Sometimes it’s indicative of company growth, though. A while back it was decided that we would bring on five people over a two year period in a new position. This position was for people currently in a specific program in school and in preparation for future management would rotate through each production department – spending x number of months in each learning the business from the ground up. It would have been a mess to bring 5 people in for this all at once. So we’d bring one person in and then after they were acclimated and things were going well and they’ve moved to the second department we’d start looking for someone else, etc.

          Technically we’re posting for the same position – but it’s not due to turnover.

          It really depends on the position.

  2. Xay*

    I work for a federal contractor that often lists positions over and over for a couple of reasons:

    a) For federal positions, there are a limited number of job titles in play but the duties and responsibilities vary widely. So a position for a Business Analyst could be attached to any of several contract.

    b) Positions are often listed in advance of a new contract to submit with the bid. If the person who is bid on the contract is not able to accept the position, the company will relist the same postion and description.

    c) To collect resumes for future/upcoming job opportunities.

  3. VictoriaHR*

    We are constantly hiring for writers and graphic designers because ours keep getting promoted into project management positions (Grr!) Also the graphic designer hiring manager is notoriously picky and she’s gone through a slew of candidates trying to find the right design style.

    I would say to keep applying if you keep seeing it posted and think you’d be a good fit. Don’t assume that because you’ve applied before, they automatically have your email – it may be a different hiring manager that doesn’t have access to the resumes from the old req.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      “keep applying”

      This reminds me of the scene in the movie (or book) The Rainmaker, where the insurance company rejects the character’s claim & sends a letter about how stupid she must be to keep filing.

      Somewhere, there is a recruiter cussing out an applicant who keeps applying for the same job, even though the company has never shown him any interest before. I’m guessing there is a line somewhere between being persistant and being insane.

      1. Anonymous*

        I feel like that person probably isn’t very understanding or especially great at their job then. And if they’re never going to show you interest anyway then what harm can you do by applying? Of course this is different from badgering with questions, because that’s a bad habit to get into and also because how hard is it to just go ahead and delete that applicant. If they’re complaining then it’s more likely that they’re just someone who, underneath it all, likes to complain and be upset.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          “what harm can you do by applying?”

          Waste time that could be spent applying to jobs that you have a real shot at getting? Clog up the company’s system?My sister has a applied at a very desirable company that only lets you apply once a year to keep the numbers managable, so apparently it’s a problem, at least for them.

          I don’t have first hand experience with that type of applicant, but I do have that type of experience with vendors who won’t give up. Of course, with vendors, that’s their job, but I do find it annoying to have to tell the same person no 2x/yr for 4 years. I know you’re out there. I’ll call you if I need you.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            It would be more constructive for the HR person (or hiring manager) to spend 2 minutes to tell the applicant that they really need XYZ experience for this position so stop applying until you have it, or Jane in Accounting says she knows you and you’re an idiot, but #1 probably won’t happen and #2 definitely won’t happen. No one can reply to hundreds of applicants with specific reasons why their app was rejected, but think of how awesome it would be if it did work that way.

          2. Anonymous*

            I still feel that until you state that you only accept from individuals up to a certain number, that they’re only allowed to apply to a certain number at a time, or even respond to them that you’re aware of their existence and that they can stop applying that it is in fact still your own fault. It’s like me sending you mental vibes and I believe you should bring me some fudge, instead of saying it out loud, and then getting upset with you that you didn’t and instead brought fudge to my neighbor. Which would probably just make me want the fudge more… and I’d hate you.

            As for wasting my own time, it’s mine to waste. Should she apply EVERY time she sees the posting? Probably not, but every couple of times when they haven’t bothered not to say otherwise? I don’t see why not. It’s still her decision after everything.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              There’s a certain point where it becomes too much. I can’t say precisely when that is, but I can think of a couple of people who applied every single time I had an opening, and it seemed like too much after a certain point. It also emphasizes that you haven’t been able to find something during what appears to be a very long and active job search, which doesn’t always help you look desirable.

              1. Anonymous*

                That’s true, but what if you work at what they imagine to be their dream company? It’s understandable that they’d be a little more jazzed than the average person (depending on how often these job postings are). I could be totally offbase but I just keep feeling that if it’s only a handful of thorns in your side and not an epidemic that communication for it to stop instead of quiet anger that doesn’t help anyone isn’t out of the question. I guess I’m also relating it to the dating metaphor in my head a lot, if one person sits around and never says anything then of course they’re never going to get what they want and they’re the one that’s bringing the negativity to their own lives..

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But there’s no “quiet anger.” No anger of any kind. It just doesn’t reflect well on them.

                  But I’m not going to tell them to stop, because that’s too likely to open a hornet’s nest that I don’t want to open. It’s different with dating — you can say “I’m not interested, please stop.” But with job openings, I’m not going to say “We will never at any time be interested in hiring you” unless there’s something very clear cut to point to (but usually it’s just general weakness relative to other candidates).

                2. Job seeker*

                  The place I would love to work does this. They have the same job openings posted fairly regularly just different locations. I have to admit to applying quite a few times to those. I also have worried that they wonder why I am still looking. I have been interviewed for one of these positions in the past but a internal employee got the job. I have recently submitted two cover letters for two positions I applied for there. This last time I just submitted my application and they did go in online and review it again. This has been three times so far but no call for a interview. I hope I am not doing something negative reapplying so often. I do not contact anyone, just through the system. I did explain in one of my cover letters, I was helping a family member and am just recently starting to look for a job again. I am still helping my mother but I believe I could do part-time. I hope I am not making a bad impression on them doing this. I wonder if this is their way of telling me no. If this is they must think I am really clueless.

              2. PEBCAK*

                I feel like this is one of the few times when I’d be willing to grant the dreaded “informational interview”. If someone had applied several times, and never made it past the first stage, and really, legitimately could say they had everything we were objectively looking for in the job description, it might be okay for them to reach out and say “hey, what can I do to get into this field?”

            2. AnotherAlison*

              Can you tell me why you believe you would be an attractive applicant for a position on time 5 when you weren’t on time 1-3?

              I would understand your reasoning if you had gotten an interview or phone screen but just didn’t get the final offer, but to keep applying to the same job unless you’ve really changed your skills/experience makes little sense. Yeah, it’s your time to waste, but I probably wouldn’t want someone who isn’t concerned about how they use their time working for me.

              1. KellyK*

                Not getting an interview doesn’t conclusively tell you you *weren’t* an attractive candidate, though. If you see the same job advertised for the fifth time, you don’t know if you’ve been rejected the last four , if their hiring process has been delayed and it’s really the same opening or the same couple, or if it’s a position they’re constantly advertising for.

                You also have no way of knowing how close or how far off you were other than your own comparison of their ad and your skills. If they interviewed 10 people, you could be #11 or #400 and still get the same lack of response.

                Probably by the third time, it would be worth asking about the repetition rather than just blindly re-applying, but I don’t think “didn’t get the job” should automatically translate to “must not be qualified, shouldn’t reapply.”

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  Well, everyone is certainly free to do what they want.

                  If anyone has an anecdote of someone who applied multiple times and got the job on the 3+ application, I’d love to hear it. I can’t think of anyone who has done that, except people who had offers once, said no, and then renegotiated new offers a year or two later. (Usually people who were recruited by the company.)

                  I’m sure there are some fields where the rejection is less of an assessment of your personal fit than other conditions (like teaching, where there might be one math teacher opening a year, applying the next year wouldn’t look strange to anyone).

                2. De Minimis*

                  I applied twice to one position and they responded to tell me I didn’t need to apply anymore.

                  I think it was posted at least one other time after that.

  4. Eric*

    My job is a combination of 2 and 3. We have about 15 people in our entry level role, each of whom may last 2-4 years. So that means we have someone leaving every 2-4 months, and we try to hire to replace them. We just keep the job posted all the time, and when an excellent candidate comes through we will hire them, knowing that we will probably lose an existing staff member shortly, and will need to fill the role.

    1. Anonymous*

      Same with my company, especially with the entry-level sales positions. The job site we use automatically reposts the position on a monthly basis and the hiring manager is continuously combing through the applicant pool.

      In most cases, for this type of position, we’re not looking for a single person. If you applied and weren’t selected, it’s not like some other candidate beat you out of the job. More likely, something about your application disqualified you. For that reason, applying again and again with the same exact resume isn’t going to change the outcome. Like Erik said, if you’re an excellent candidate we will hire you.

  5. Lynn*

    We have more work to do than people to do it, so we’ve been advertising for seemingly “the same position” for over two years, and hiring continuously.

  6. Liz*

    In my town, it is staffing companies. Six of then will post for the same opening, which makes it seem as if there are several opportunities even if the job was never really anything more than a budget place filler for a manager who wants to keep the option open without tying up the funds.

  7. Erasmo*

    I see this all the time; after a certain number of repeat performances, I don’t take the posting seriously any longer. Just for fun, I once kept track of a posting that kept popping up. It appeared every nine weeks, almost to the day, for over two years. Was there really a job? I doubt it.

  8. Mike C.*

    There’s a lab in my area that has a notorious reputation for poor treatment of animal test subjects, and they’re constantly hiring because of the huge turnover.

    1. Hmm*

      This is awful. I hate to make light of it, but I had to read it 4 times to understand that the turnover wasn’t from them hiring animal test subjects… that these were actually scientists that were leaving… sigh.

  9. Waiting Patiently*

    This. drives. me. insane.

    Whenever I’m on this site, I’m usually job searching on a major job search engine on different tab and I just said the exact same thing about a few companies. Same. exact. positions. posted. everyday. for the past 6 months grrr

    Also I usually check the state website for available jobs at various agencies. So one day I decided to check the agency website directly and there were a few jobs posted there with current deadlines. These positions were not listed on the state central job website (which contain both internal and external positions available) I applied for a few of the position (that were available to external applicants) and low and behold the agencies now have cleared all the open jobs on their agency’s website and have started back putting them on the state website. Ugh…

  10. franky*

    I’ve been a victim of #4. Within less than 48 hours of the job first being posted I was walking into the interview. The first thing they said to me was that the position had been filled but “let’s interview you for it anyway.”

    They then spent the last 10 minutes interrogating me about what other positions I had applied for, with which companies and through which agencies.

  11. shellbell*

    I worked for a company that did this. We were about 500 people. The job’s were grouped roughly into 5-6 main job titles. We pretty much always had an add posted for 2-3 different types of jobs and they might be posted for months on end. In reality, the company was organized into 20+ different projects. While the same categories or generic job titles were used across the board, the responsibilities and pay varied depending on the project. The adds were more generic. They were representative of the role in a broad way and not dishonest or anything, but they were not project specific. When resumes came in, they might be reviewed by managers from several projects looking to fill vacancies. In fact, a strong candidate might be asked to interview for more than one project and eventually get to decide what was a better fit for them. There was nothing shady going on at all. When approached, you would be given additional details about the project specific openings. However, we were always hiring due to normal turnover or growth (many of the positions were more entry level and people often reached a point were they left the company in order to grow in their career). Posting ads for every single individual opening would have been redundant, absurd, and confusing.

  12. Elizabeth West*

    I suspect#5 is most likely if you see it posted and then see it posted again in six months or more, as opposed to over and over and over. I’ve had interviews where I wanted the job and didn’t get it (despite the interview going well, and in one case, REALLY well). Then the job popped up again several months later. I knew several of them were only one opening because I’d already talked to someone. When I see those postings again, I tend to avoid them. It’s one reason I keep a spreadsheet–if something looks familiar, I can search for it and see if I’ve already applied.

    The difference between those and NewJob is that I applied to the same company but a different job. So sometimes it’s worth taking a chance, I think. It definitely was this time.

  13. Anonymous*

    As many have said I have seen several companies continuously post the same jobs. I know a few people at the companies and they tell me there are not any openings. You can not tell me those jobs are legit. I know for sure of an agency that is just farming for resumes and when you challenge them you get black listed. I really feel there is an abundance of scam jobs being posted by legit companies.

    1. Kelly O*

      I’m sure there are some of those, but not all.

      I will say that I was working for an agency in a temp position that was clearly not going to last, and I’d asked the person who placed me about an ad I’d seen for their agency, for a different job. Turns out it was a case of “oh, we always run an ad, but we just don’t have anything right now.”

      Could it have been she didn’t want to swap me out, since the duration where I was had turned so questionable? Don’t know, it could have been that. But it was odd, and something I’d experienced more than once.

      Bearing in mind, this is for administrative support positions. So we’re not talking super-specific things.

  14. Anonymous*

    We hired someone whom we had to sponsor for an H1B visa. I believe as part of that process we had to repost the job externally a certain number of times. These postings were done months after the foreign national had been added to the payroll. I am not sure of the details as HR handled it, but I know the hiring manager periodically had to review and give feedback on resumes from applicants for the already filled position.

      1. Jamie*

        I’ve heard of (though never experienced) companies interviewing candidates when they already have the internal hire they want because they are required to interview X number of people.

        If you’re not open to another candidate asking people who are job hunting (and may be burning PTO for the interview) to come in for the dog and pony show is beyond rude. Job hunters aren’t extras in some little play and they shouldn’t have to put in the effort and energy to accommodate some internal requirement for you.

        There was an old story on the daily wtf about interviewing for programmers and HR insisting they interview some woman even though her resume showed zero qualifications because she was the only woman to apply and they needed to show they interviewed a diverse pool.

        Calling someone in so they could check off their little box? Ugh.

        1. Anon2*

          This happened to my ex-husband. He came to the interview (45 miles away) and was told in the first few minutes that they had already selected a candidate but had to interview x candidates due to internal rules. He told them not to count him, and left.

          At my previous employer, we were required to prove that our interviewed candidate pool had a “sufficient ” amount of minorities. However, although race and ethnicity were asked on the application, they were not required fields, which made it tough. The worst thing was we were never asked “why aren’t you interviewing candidate A, she has lots of experience ” – it was ALWAYS “interview candidate B, he is a minority”.

          1. Anon2*

            Ugh, I got cut off. So, we might repost a job several times because we had not received sufficiently diverse applications. Didn’t mean we had 3 openings. This meant it usually took upwards of six months to fill admin assistant jobs.

          2. Anon*

            I’ve seen this before–what are the EEOC requirements? Do you have to interview/hire based on a specific level of diversity, or is it tied to the region? I live in a very white and slightly Hispanic area. There are probably fewer than 100 African Americans in my town, and WAY fewer Asians, (East) Indians, Middle Easterners, etc. than that (and the vast majority of those minorities own or work in restaurants that match their personal ethnicity, so probably aren’t job-hunting anyway). It would be absolutely ridiculous if we had to come up with a candidate pool that matched some arbitrary percentage of those minorities, but if they were proportional, and we brought in, say, 20 applicants, we wouldn’t have to worry about it, since the percentages would make the requirement less than one. I’m guessing the latter, but since I’m not in HR, I don’t know for sure.

  15. Not So NewReader*

    I have felt suspicious about some ads. I went to check on a retail management position. “No. we don’t have an opening.” I pointed out they were running an ad. “Oh, we always run an ad but there is no opening.”


  16. Original Poster*

    Anonymous & Erasmo, my sentiments exactly. AAM, all your explanations sound legit. And in most cases they probably are. But like I said in my original posting, in my personal case, my job title is incredibly competitive, reasonably well-paying, and companies don’t staff many of these titles unless they themselves are consultants or agencies specializing in that type job description. From my own experience, my title isn’t a revolving door situation—the gigs are hard to come by so people just don’t get up and leave them willy-nilly. Most companies need my type skills (not IT BTW), and either staff in-house or contract it out, but that’s only really one or two people at the most….or perhaps 5-10 if it’s a Fortune 500 size concern. We all know how brutal it is out there trying to snag that next worthwhile job. It’s a reflection of the times, isn’t it? Companies are generally cutting down on staff. Consolidating their resources. Receiving hundreds of resumes for one opening. But like I was inquiring about originally, by what you’d gather by all these opportunities on line, it’s open season on hiring at so many of these places. As if they simply need more professionals to do all this accumulating work. I might have better believed this all back in the day, as it were. But that was then.

    This is now: seems to me this plethora of so many openings “posted 2 hours ago,” or what not, are one of 6 scenarios:

    1. Bad judgment
    HR is hiring poorly and then having to fire? (maybe they should just hire a new recruiter) ??

    2. I’m Outta Here!
    New hiree decides the position is not for them and gives notice? (possible, but again in my field that doesn’t really happen all that much)

    3. A Big Mirage
    There really is no available opening. Company just wants to see what’s “out there” (to get tabs on salaries, or ages, etc.)

    4. Just One Good Apple?
    You mean HR simply couldn’t find another legitimate candidate to hire from the other hundreds of likely resumes they received for their posting just 2 weeks earlier? (hmmm?)

    5. A Cheap Date
    Compared to a print/mag classified help wanted, internet bandwidth is pennies, thus there’s lackadaisical monitoring of a position’s status or recency. “Sure, leave it posted there a little longer. It’s not like we’re paying per line or square inch, per day, like we used to be in the Big City Daily Times.”

    6. Happy Days ‘R Here Again! ♬
    The company is truly growing, they have tons of work to do, and are itching to hire somebody new rather than just dump the load on the remaining staffers who grin ‘n bare it because they just feel lucky to still have a job in this troubled economy.

    Which if any seems the least plausible?

  17. Emily K*

    My department is notorious for having positions open and listed for 3-6 months. Because postings expire they will repost a few times during that period. Sometimes the description is revised slightly if initial applicants don’t seem to be what we’re looking for. The hiring managers would rather wait six months for the perfect candidate than hire the most acceptable one that surfaces in the first couple of months. The strategy seems to work: Most people in the department have been here 4-10 years and our department consistently exceeds our goal metrics year after year. We all really belong here.

  18. Joe*

    I’ve been applying to jobs in the D.C. metro area for a while and have noticed an uptick in repostings/renewals over the last 4-6 months. Perhaps the turmoil in Washington has something to do with it? I applied for two similar jobs at a Maryland state agency last October and was referred to the hiring manager for both. One of the job ads has been reposted/renewed several times. I know a referral doesn’t guarantee anything, but still…

  19. Mike*

    In this market I doubt the company cannot find the right people. Either that or they are expecting someone who can walk on water and violate the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle at the same time..so number 1 is out.

    No 2 – more than one job slot? For a hamburger cook maybe…for a purchasing manager at one location, I doubt it.

    No 3. – that makes more sense, but it is dishonest to have people apply for a job that isn’t really there

    No. 4 – same vein as number 3.

    No. 5 – possible, but doubt it. In this economy they cannot get someone who will hold on to the job?

    You should have added a no. 6 –

    “HR knows that they are a little heavy as well and since they don’t want to lose chairs they keep job postings up so they look busy.”

  20. Bobby*

    The reason is because they are fake job postings. Corporations have hundreds of job postings in order to signal health to investors. It’s a vicious cycle because if your competition (which is everyone) does it, then you have to do it as well.

  21. Tiffiney*

    I’m constantly running into a combinations of #1 and #3. I live in a major city (Chicago), I’m surrounded by big huge companies, I have a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering and 15 yrs. experience but yet I have been unemployed since 2009. The most I can get is temp positions at small non-profit or non-corporate organizations.
    I have worked at total of 9 months for the past 4 years!!!!!

    My issue is why not just be transparent about the job posting. I can’t understand why can’t companies simply put a disclaimer on particular job postings that state “We are currently exploring this job opportunity for the future, feel free to apply”.

    This will save people like me a whole bunch of false hope.
    Just be transparent about it, why is that so damn hard!!!!

    1. Mep*

      I agree. I have seen some government jobs that state such disclaimer, so I felt very happy to apply.

      I’ve seen MANY companies that seem to never take off their job description (whether it’s on THEIR company website or other sites like LinkedIN). I still applied to a number of them, but I either never hear back or they rejected me within a day. Those job descriptions been posted for at least 4 months.


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