Not All Job Openings are Open

At my first “real job” after college, I was initially hired as an intern for three months, which doubled as my probation period. I received an informal offer to stay on as a full time employee afterwards, having avoided doing anything egregiously stupid during.

Since the internship was technically a contract role, HR informed my boss that a new job posting had to be created before I could join the team as a regular hire. Due to either company policy or legal requirement, the job “opportunity” had to be posted both internally and externally for a set amount of time.

Several hundred people applied for what was an entry-level analyst position. Some of the cover letters were extensively tailored and must have taken the applicants a not-insignificant amount of effort. My boss’ inbox and voicemail were flooded with internal candidates seeking coffee chats to discuss a position that was intended for me. Ever the troll, he would occasionally call me into his office and proclaim how much more qualified than me some of the applicants were (and, on paper, they were).

Know this, not all posted job openings are actually available. Some are posted to satisfy an HR requirement before being offered to their intended recipient. While good bosses hate doing it because they don’t want to waste anyone’s time, their hands are usually tied. What you can do is ask coded questions, like whether a “preferred candidate” for the position exists. If the answer is yes, downgrade your expectations accordingly. And if you are at an interview and the person across the table appears to merely be going through the motions, there is a good chance that that’s exactly what he or she is doing.

At the same time, always be applying to multiple jobs at the same time so you don’t put all your eggs in a nonexistent basket. Don’t spend too much effort applying for a job posting that you’re not sure is genuine. And generate warm leads so you can avoid bogus job postings altogether.

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