3 Assumptions You Shouldn’t Make About Job Postings

WorkCoachCafeMany job seekers I speak with spend most of their job search efforts responding to job postings online, and, usually, they are very discouraged about the responses they are getting (or NOT getting).

Visiting job boards and applying for jobs is probably not the best use of their time for many reasons. Here are three…

Bad Assumptions About Job Postings 

If you haven’t been hunting for a new job for a while, you may be making these assumptions about job postings that are wrong. Or, at least, not totally correct. These are the most common bad assumptions I see job seekers make in their job hunting:

1. Applying for a job in response to a job posting is the fastest way to land a new job.

In studies of many different employers going back to 2001, employee referrals are the top source of people hired into a company – not responding to a job posting. In 2013, employee referrals provided over 55% of the hires in one of the studies. 

I see at least two reasons why employee referrals are so successful:

  • The employer is not hiring a complete stranger. Some people have great resumes, interview very well, and turn out to be bad employees. That’s expensive for an employer – work isn’t done well and they face the problem and expense of replacing that employee. So, hiring someone who is not a complete stranger is a big benefit. Someone who already works for the organization can vouch for the person.
  • The employee making the referral is usually invested in the new employee’s success. Often employers reward the referring employee very nicely (more than $1,000 often, sometimes much more depending on the job and the employer), if the person they refer is hired and performs well. So, that new employee usually has a coach and a mentor already inside of the organization helping them succeed, and saving the organization the expense of replacing a less-than-perfect employee.

Does this mean that applying for a job on Indeed.com or some other job board is a complete waste of time? No! But it does mean that other job search methods, like networking, may have a better pay off.

Read “Before You Apply: 4 Questions to Ask Yourself” 

2. The job is currently open.

For many job boards and some employer websites, the jobs are posted in a timely manner, but removing them is not done as quickly when the opportunities are basically closed. For job boards, the client may have purchased a 30 day or 2-week posting, and the job will remain visible until the timeframe has ended.

Typically, the resumes submitted the first few days form the pool from which the ultimate “winner” is chosen. Typically, an average of over 250 resumes are submitted for every opportunity, and the first of them appears within 200 seconds (3 minutes) of the posting “going live.”

So, even a fabulous resume from the perfect job candidate which is submitted as resume number 251 on day 7 may not be considered, because the “finalists” have already been selected from the initial flood of applicants.

The exception could be the job postings that are advertised on sites like Indeed.com – the ads usually appear at the top and the bottom of the regular Indeed.com lists of job postings. Employers pay for that additional visibility, usually only for jobs that are important and un-filled. Once they have a sufficient number of resumes, they typically stop paying for the additional visibility that the ads provide.

3. The job posting is for a job that is open with an employer.

Unfortunately, many job postings are fictional, or, at least, they are not really open when they are posted.

The reasons are varied from benign through annoying to scary, but all of them are a waste of the job seekers’ time:

  • Recruiters testing to see if any/how many people can meet some specific job requirements. If no one responds – or if too few or too many respond – then the description is modified accordingly. Someday, a similar – but real – posting will probably appear. Just no telling when…
  • Recruiters and employers collecting resumes for future use. They think they may need these resumes in the not-too-distant future, so they are collecting them just a bit in advance. Of course, the need may not develop.
  • Employers fulfilling the “public” posting requirement before hiring the candidate who has already been selected. This is the just-a-formality situation, and, basically, a waste of everyone’s time.
  • Scammers collecting resumes and other information from job seekers. 

You can do research to see if a job is a scam (read “Avoiding Job Scams: 4 Things You Need to Know” for tips). Often, but not always, you can find the posting date for a job before you make the effort to apply for a posting that is more than two weeks old. But the other fictional job postings are harder to discover.

Job Search Success

Try to become less dependent on job postings as your only method of reaching out to employers. Job postings can be an excellent source of information (who is hiring for what jobs, where), but often a waste of your time if that’s all you are doing for your job search.

Instead, focus on becoming one of those applicants who is an employee referral candidate. If you have a list of target employers, and hopefully you do, see if you are connected to any of them via LinkedIn. Ask family, friends, neighbors, and former co-workers if they know anyone who works for one of your target employers. Check with your schools and colleges to see if any alumni work at one of your target employers.

More About Job Search Bad Assumptions

Overcome These 3 Employer Assumptions About You

3 Assumptions You Should Never Make About Job Interviews

3 Assumptions You Should Never Make About Social Media

3 Assumptions You Should Never Make About Your Resume

3 Assumptions You Should Never Make About Online Job Search


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, and Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org.  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.


  1. Hi,

    I’m in job search land, working hard to manage stealth interviews (NOT an easy task)

    Anyhow, I have a business contact that several years ago took my resume, and said to keep in touch, he may have a job for me in the future. I’ve done so, and received professional certifications, and had some experience. Contact has taken me to lunch, and congratulated me on accomplishments.

    Recently I sent a resume update to him, in response to a posting, and he asked me in for an interview.

    I feel like the interview went well, but I am not qualified for the position he interviewed me for (which I told him with my resume, normally I wouldn’t but this was a special situation). He has a lower position available, which matches my qualifications, which was also mentioned in our interview.

    He said explicitly that he was happy I contacted him when I did, and acknowledged that what I would be doing I would have to learn from approximately ground zero. We talked for most of an hour, and I was introduced to my potential office mates. I thought it went well, and I really want the job, after all I’ve been courting the position for a few years.

    He also said he has seen several people, and will be seeing several more, and to give a week or two and if I haven’t heard from him, to give him a poke.

    I have known that many companies will overlook some issues (under/overqualified) to get the person that has the connection in the door, what are your thoughts?

    Be happy to hear similar stories.

  2. Great story, B.J., and I wish you success in your job search.

    Thanks, Susan, for this post. In a letter to my congressman, which I posted on my blog, I expressed my frustrations about employment and hiring abuses and recommended solutions.
    Link: http://theciviccenter.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/00000032

    For my job search, I have a checklist of preferred employers whose websites I visit daily or weekly. I also look at recently awarded state-government contracts for potential opportunities.

    I have only recently moved to my new location and have been thinking of ways that I could meet people and grow a network. I’d like to do some freelancing, but preferably offline.

  3. B.J. Sin says:

    Well, as an update, I’m still in waiting land. I’m not sure how long I should wait before another follow-up, as usual, I don’t know how to feel.

    I sent my requested follow up, when it was requested to be sent, but have received no response (only been two business days). I really hope to get a position with this company, and I felt like the hiring manager wants me to be there too.

    Any thoughts on my wait, appropriateness and timing of a 2nd follow-up, etc?

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Hi B.J.

      Since it has been two weeks after you sent your follow up email, I think a follow-up just-checking-to-see-if-you-received-my-email phone call would be appropriate. That way you’ll avoid wondering if the second message was received.

      Good luck with your job search!

      • B.J. Sin says:


        I agree totally. Said contact got in touch with me about something entirely different (remember we know each other), citing a busy week ahead, and probably behind. I will have to give it more time, or just leave the ball in the other court, I suppose. I’m assuming that no news here isn’t bad news, but also not good news. Perhaps soon.

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