is there any point in applying to a months-old job posting?

A reader writes:

I have a question about applying to job postings that have been up for a while. There is a company in a location and field that I am really interested in. They have a job posting for a specific engineering position that is a really good match to my background and skill set and I would really like to apply for it. The issue I’m having is that the job was posted about two and a half months ago, when I hadn’t yet begun my job search.

A part of me says they must be well into the interview process or close to choosing a candidate and simply haven’t removed the posting because the job has not yet been filled. The other part of me says I can’t possibly know whats going on and I should just take a chance and apply.

So, what do you think? Is it worth while applying to job postings that have been up for a while? If I do, should I acknowledge that I realize it’s been up and am applying now because I just recently started looking so they don’t think I just didn’t bother applying earlier?

It really depends. In some cases, the posting might be outdated, and in others it might be perfectly current. There’s no reliable way to know, unfortunately.

There are a few data points you can look at — but again, I want to stress that these aren’t perfectly reliable. That caveat in place, if the posting is on the company’s own website, there’s a higher chance that the job is still open than if you found it on an outside job site and can’t locate it on the company’s own website. Also, the more senior or hard-to-fill the role is, the more chance it’s still open.

Some people in this case will email the company and ask if the job is still open. You could try that; you may or may not get a response, but it’s worth a shot.

But really, if you’re very interested, I’d just go ahead and apply and see what happens.

You don’t need to worry at all about them wondering why you didn’t apply earlier; it’s a very normal thing that different candidates will see a posting at different times. Employers understand that you might not have been job-searching at all two months ago, or might not be actively searching even now.

{ 54 comments… read them below }

  1. Punkin

    In higher ed, which moves NOTORIOUSLY slow, it is not uncommon to have a job posted for over a year (at least at my institution).

    I would just go with the belief that they have not found the right candidate yet & apply per usual.

    It may be a good sign that they do their due diligence to hire the right candidate.

    1. Lemon Zinger

      I’m also in higher ed. It’s amazing how long job postings stay up, isn’t it?

      I applied for my current job, heard nothing for over three months. I figured I’d been passed on. Then I got a phone call out of the blue, wanting to schedule a phone interview! It took another full month to hire me, then another month to give me a start date. It’s exhausting, but so worth it once you get in.

    2. Bigglesworth

      Another higher ed person here! I’m currently searching right now and have to remind myself about how slow the process is. There are so many layers of bureaucracy (at least where I work) that just getting the paperwork to approve a position can take a couple months, let alone the actually interviewing hiring process.

      1. AD

        A friend of mine applied to a months-old position in higher ed on the off-chance that they were still looking. They were, she got the job, and is really happy in the role after a year and a half.
        It never hurts to try.

        1. Bigglesworth

          Good for your friend! It’s stories like hers that help keep me encouraged while I’m looking.

          1. Bibliovore

            Another higher ed. I applied for a position extremely late in January. It had been posted since the end of November. Didn’t make the cut as they had already selected their shortlist. Three months later the search had failed. The job was still posted. I was encouraged to reapply that time, May. Long interview process. Job offer at the end of August. In my fourth year now.

  2. Jack the Treacle Eater

    I don’t know what the situation is in the States, but in the UK it seems to be increasingly common to advertise jobs for quite a long period with no real fixed closing date (at least, engineering and technical jobs) and to interview as people present, particularly if there are several vacancies or if the company is looking for a certain type of person – almost ‘I’ll know it when I see it’.

    You can always contact and ask if it’s still current – I’ve done that several times and either found that a vacancy is still current, or that I’ve been asked to apply look at other roles. If the role is being advertised by a recruiter it almost always seems to end up in a discussion of similar roles they have available. Alternatively, if you apply and it’s not current you may well also be put forward or filed for other posts. In my (specialist engineering) experience, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious downside to asking or just going for it.

    1. Stranger than fiction

      We do that “I’ll know it when I see it” type thing with sales executives. There’s not a need to fill a role immediately but if someone is a superstar, we’ll interview and maybe hire them. Guess you could call it a soft search.

  3. Volunteer Enforcer

    I know volunteer opportunities are different to paid jobs, but we (I am the Volunteer department equivalent to a HR Administrator) advertise for at least a year, longer if a suitable person/s hasn’t been found yet. Just my two cents.

  4. RWM

    When I was hiring someone, it took quite a while to find the right candidate, and it wasn’t even a senior position. There were HR delays, TONS of (mostly bad) resumes to sort through, plus we have them do pre-interview edit tests, and then we had to get all the interview scheduled…it just took a while! (And the one I eventually hired was someone who applied considerably later in the game.) While it might vary by industry, I know that I’m not the only person in my office who had a job listing up for that long. So I’d definitely say go ahead and apply!

  5. palindrome@gmail.com

    My current job had been posted for 9 months before I applied. For my company, that happens for niche roles. Even if they’re about to fill the job, they could have budget to add another position or, at the very least, want to keep in touch with you. Apply!

  6. Roxanne

    I found a job posting once, on the company’s website, thought I might be a good fit, but noticed how long it had been up. So I called HR. “Oh, we filled that ages ago.” “Oh, well the job is still posted on your website,” I pointed out.

    “Oh, that’s not my job to take those down.” was the reply. Hm. A better reply could have been “Sorry about that confusion; I’ll see it gets removed.” With that kind of “not my job” attitude from HR, I am glad I didn’t apply.

    Call and find out. If it’s just a regular kind of job, it might have been overlooked.

  7. Venus Supreme

    I applied to a job I found on a company’s website, and it was around for quite a few months. All the other job postings on other sites were never updated. I knew someone within the company and she told me the position was still vacant, and so I applied and got the job offer three months after my initial application, meaning the posting was up on their website a good 4-6 months. It’s definitely worth a shot to contact the organization to see what’s up!

  8. Amanda

    I think it depends. I applied to a job posting that had been up for about 5 weeks, and they liked me so much, they created a new position for me.

    I’ve also been in companies where they’re actually looking for TWO people for a role, so they leave it up instead of reposting it.

    1. College Career Counselor

      I actually applied for a job on the tail end of the deadline and inadvertently sent it to an invalid email address (somehow it took a week or more to bounce back to me). Mortified, I sent it in again, after the deadline. Got an interview and got the job….4 months later, because it was higher ed. ;-)

  9. Chocolate Teapot

    I once applied for a job which had been on a website for several months and thought it was worth applying. It was via a recruiter, so sometimes they have other openings which haven’t been advertised.

    The response? “Oh we should have taken the advert down, because the role has been filled. You would have been good for it though.”

  10. Moonsaults

    My job was listed for months as well. It was one of those “they were going to keep looking until they found the perfect fit”, they had already tried to go the faster route before. Nobody in my position was more efficient than a poor fit.

    We’re having this go around another time for another position within a different company my boss owns. Only now I have to deal with a recruiter at the employment department who sucks at their job, who is mad that we’re taking so long. She’s going to scream even louder when she finds out we’ll probably use a staffing agency in the end because all the resumes she sent me are trash “they seem great to me!”, yeah well you aren’t that bright yourself, so go figure.

    It’s always worth a shot. Worse case in these situations, they say ‘Oh sorry, that’s been filled or we’ve stopped accepting applications at this time.”

    1. Engineer Girl

      “they seem great to me!”
      “That’s exactly the problem. We need people with X YZ Z skills and none of the candidates you’ve sent us have those skill sets. If you can’t send us candidates with the skill sets we’ve requested then we’ll be going with another agency.”

      1. Moonsaults

        This is a lot nicer wording than when I almost snapped at her the last time when she accused me of “wasting people’s time” because we weren’t scheduling interviews with many or fast enough. Wasted their time emailing a PDF of their resumes, these people didn’t even send cover letters, so I don’t know what they spent any time on. Geez

        It’s the state employment department, this is the only person I’ve worked with over there that is a real pain in the ass, it’s been an odd experience. I will probably use the “I just haven’t been able to find the right fit for the position, so we’re working with another agency at this time.”

        The job description is spot on but I think it’s another case of reading the position title and not bothering with the rest. Yes, they’re a receptionist, they answer the phone. However they don’t just patch someone through, they need to be able to learn the FAQ kind of thing. But this lady is like “you just need someone to answer phones, what’s the big deal filling this spot?!” Bleh.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Ick, if you’re willing, please complain to her manager — out of work people often get terrible service from unemployment agencies because they’re not getting enough feedback on how badly they’re (often) doing.

          1. Moonsaults

            Thank you. I was honestly thinking about it but wasn’t sure if I should or not.

            All the other reps have been less than great but really pleasant to work with for our limited communication. This lady is over the top, I can sense that she’s trying to be an advocate for people which is noble but at that time, she’s being abrasive and unhelpful for the person who wants to fill positions.

          2. Unemployed

            Unemployed here. My unemployment agent sent me ads to career fairs for Walmart, auto zone and several other retail positions, two weeks out from filing, telling me I really should go because they had some good positions.
            My Ph.D. is in chemistry. I politely, but forcefully said I would not be attending.

  11. College Career Counselor

    As others are saying, go ahead and apply (verifying the status of the position is optional, but if it’s an onerous application, you might want to do that before investing the time).

  12. BRR

    This is a rare case where I think it’s ok to email a company if they have some email address posted. Just something like I recently started a search, came across this posting, wanted to know if it was still active.

    I would also see if it’s been reposted in other job sites. I’ve seen scenarios where it’s reposted elsewhere but not on the company site. Although this could be an automatic/procedural reposting and doesn’t mean anything.

    Unless a cover letter is really hard for you to write I might just apply anyways. Not a lot to lose. I might also apply but maybe give a good but not great cover letter. I know that advice has a big flaw but ehh.

  13. Purple Wombat

    There is no harm in applying- my current job had been posted for several months and was having lots of trouble filling the position. Good luck!

  14. Kyrielle

    If you apply to the opening and they should have taken it down, you aren’t going to make a *bad* impression for applying after they filled it. They’ll either not care, or be embarrassed to realize it’s still up, but no one remotely reasonable is going to think, “Well of COURSE they shouldn’t apply for a listing that’s X months old even if it’s still up.”

    The signal that you shouldn’t apply is taking it down. You violate no norms by applying.

    As noted above, if you’d be annoyed to put in the effort if they’ve already filled it, you might ask – but if it’s easier/more comfortable to just apply, then just apply. No acknowledgement of length of posting needed.

    If it *does* bother them that you applied without acknowledging the length of posting, then I contend working there could be miserable (since they’d be expecting mind-reading before you even know them), and you’re better off knowing that.

  15. midhart90

    I’ve seen some companies post “future” or “talent pooling” job listings–listings for vacancies that don’t currently exist. Typically this is so when a vacancy does open, they have a ready-made list of potentially interested candidates. Sometimes these postings will be labeled as such, sometimes they aren’t.

    In any case, it can’t hurt to apply. Worst case scenario, it’s an old posting that has been filled and the company didn’t realize was still up, in which case you’re in exactly the same position as you are right now.

    1. SevenSixOne

      IME, this is especially true if it’s a large company and the role is entry-level and/or has high turnover.

  16. Engineer Girl

    You’ll never get the job if you don’t apply for it.
    Even if it’s been filled they may contact you anyway. Good managers are always looking for good candidates. If your skill set is a great match they may want to hire you anyway.

  17. pgrmmgr

    You have nothing to lose by applying for the job, but you definitely won’t be on their radar if you don’t apply. I think I saw the posting for my current job when it had been up for 3 or so months, and we just filled a position after advertising it for 4 months. Candidates fall through (which happened in one case), other priorities take precidence with the hiring manager (I had two deaths in my family plus my son was sick, so I was out a lot and felt like I was playing catch-up all spring), and sometimes there just aren’t many candidates that meet the qualifications of the job (also true for the job we just filled).

    1. Stranger than fiction

      I was also thinking the final candidate didnt accept or something along those lines. Some places don’t take it down until the new person starts.

  18. LeisureSuitLarry

    The job I just got had been posted on the company’s website for several months before I finally found it. Even then the hiring process took about two months, the job stayed posted, and I know they interviewed at least one person after me for the position. If you don’t apply, they’ll never know you’re interested, and you might be passing up a good opportunity. At the very worst you’ll spend a few minutes putting in your resume and cover letter and possibly filling out an application. Considering you’ve got 24 hours in a day to play with that’s not too much time to spend on something you’re interested in.

  19. Allison

    Two and a half months is nothing. Where I work, we’ve had some engineering positions open for the better part of a year because they’ve been so tough to fill. So even though the company might have some people at various steps in the process, it’s probably worth it to apply.

  20. YesYesYes

    I’m hiring for a role right now. Company policy is to not take down the posting until there’s an accepted offer.

    I’ve got two strong internal candidates and I have the (enviable) task of deciding which to give an offer. If I could hire both, I would. But this week, I got an external application that is equally as strong. He won’t get this job – internal trumps external in our company – but I like him so much that I’ve been forwarding his application to other managers in my business unit, and we’re going to interview him anyway. We think 2 others might be leaving soon, so my other internal candidate would get one of them, and then we’d have another opening, but if that doesn’t happen we would consider creating a role for him until something else opens up.

    Anyway. Anecdata to tell you to apply. If you’re not right for that role, you might fit a coming opening.

  21. TootsNYC

    And, some of us will say, “Oh, we filled that. But we do like your resumé, so we’ll put you in our file, in case.” And then we actually do.

    I don’t think there’s much of a downside.

    1. Bigglesworth

      That actually happened to me in my current role (in that they kept my application on file).

      I submitted an application, interviewed, and didn’t get it. What I did get was a very nice, personalized rejection email and them saying that they would put my application on file for future openings. I didn’t really take them at their word, because I’d heard that so much over my hunt. Two months later they called asking for another interview. The woman they hired into the position was leaving and they gave me an offer during the second interview. You never know!

    2. Intrepid

      I think the downside is time– if I spend an hour reading the description, writing a cover letter, and then walking my application through the online system for this job, then that is by definition an hour I can’t spend applying to something else. Which isn’t terrible if you’re searching somewhat passively, but if you need a job RIGHT NOW, it’s a different cost/benefit analysis.

      1. TootsNYC

        yes, but that’s a downside you can control, and one that you can see.

        It’s a different kind of downside than, “you’ll look overeager and disorganized, and it might hurt your candidacy.”

        you get to choose if you want to take the risk that your efforts are wasted.
        and, one thing I’m trying to remind myself: The things you -do- are never wasted. They become a part of who you are, a learning experience, something interesting or fun, a chance to practice….

  22. MsMaryMary

    Alison said that more senior roles might be posted longer, but I’ve seen companies keep postings for entry level roles or high turnover positions in a perpetual open status. When I started at OldJob, they were growing like crazy and hiring for entry level roles in “classes” of 30 people, and onboarding groups every 2-3 weeks. I think that job was posted as open for a year or two.

    1. Bellatrix

      It’s a good point, but that could be red flag on its own. Unless high turnover is inherent (as is often is with part-time positions, which are expected to be filled with students and parents of young kids).

  23. hayling

    In addition to some senior roles taking longer to fill, some more junior roles that have may always have open positions because either the department is large, growing, or naturally has high turnover. If you have 20 support reps, you probably always need to be hiring for it, it’s just the nature of the position.

  24. (NotA)RetailManager

    As an HR Assistant for a tech company, our engineering positions are always open-we are always hiring for these roles. Job boards allow us to keep these positions open indefinitely and software engineers don’t seem to mind the posting date. Apply away!

  25. Ruthan

    Even if they are into interviews, there’s no guarantee any of those candidates will wow them. Go for it!

  26. Stevie Wonders

    Do apply! More than once I’ve snagged interviews (and one very good job) by reapplying for ads that ran more than once, even after being rejected the first time. On the flip side, at my last job, I applied in March, interviewed in October, and received the offer in November.

  27. Kbeers0su

    Oddly enough my current position posted almost three months before I applied. It’s an intermediate position, but they were looking for some specific personality traits and skills and had gone through two rounds of interviews before I sent in my application. Once they received my application it was just a few weeks until I had an offer in hand. So at least for me, it was totally worth it to apply even after so long.

  28. ggg

    Apply.

    I am continually at odds with our HR department, who wants us to close positions after 45 days and re-open (which means a new set of approvals and more work for the hiring managers). We are hiring for very specific skill sets and combinations thereof that perhaps 500 people in the whole country have. It frequently takes more than 45 days to find the right candidate.

  29. V

    We’ve had 2 mid level software engineer positions open for more than 6 months now. If you applied with some reasonable portion of the product experience / certifications we’re looking for, we’d be setting up an interview ASAP, because we need more people!

  30. the pyrex queen

    Apply! Our department has had two engineering related positions up since the beginning of June. We are still trying to find someone ! It’s entirely possible that they truly haven’t found the right person for the job yet.

  31. Former freelancer

    Somewhat late to this, but adding my vote to: Go for it, LW! It’s how I got my current job. You never know why the job is still posted or has been posted again. In my case, the position requires skills difficult to find in my current location, and the person they had originally hired ended up turning the job down for personal reasons, so they had to start the hiring process again.
    And while I’m here, THANK YOU ALL for all the great advice on this site! After two decades of free-lancing, I was pretty anxious about starting my first full-time office job ever. In my first few months, I spent a lot of time after work reading through the archives, mainly on “how to deal with your co-workers,” and it’s served me really well. So many thanks to Alison and to all the wonderful commenters!

  32. cataloger

    When I was in a position where we hired lots of students, we left the same job ad up for… years. We needed dozens of student workers at any given time, so whenever we needed to hire some more, we’d just go into the system and see who had applied recently. I realize that this was pretty awful (most people who applied never heard a peep from us and their application sat in limbo forever) but it was such an ordeal to get a job posted in our system, and that was our way around it.

    I’d go ahead and apply. Even if they already have hired someone, maybe they’re hiring multiple people.

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