Opinions - The phantom menace. What's to be done about the non-existent job.



by Magnus Shaw



I'm a member of a few groups on career networking site LinkedIn. Indeed, you may be reading this article via that very site. Much like Facebook, I'm probably not using every aspect of the service as there is so much going on - but I do find some of the discussions useful and interesting. Of course, one of Linked-In's primary functions is to enable recruiters to find high quality candidates and enable professionals to discover new opportunities - which must be a good thing.


However, I have recently watched a troubling process rolling out on the network. A couple of weeks ago a recruitment consultant (what we used to call a "headhunter") started a thread which declared she had an urgent need for freelance copywriters, based in the UK, with experience in the health and beauty sector. As you might expect, within a few hours, a dozen or so writers had pitched in with eloquent, brief and friendly responses offering themselves up for the gig. Now these weren't overly keen graduates or desperate trawlers, they were seasoned, capable and successful copywriters taking the time and trouble to help plug this "urgent" need. I have just checked the page and, while even more writers have added their credentials, there hasn't been a single response from the consultant. No request for further details, no indication she has now filled the posts, no note of thanks - absolutely nothing. And I can see at least one writer has posted to suggest the whole exercise has been a waste of everybody's time. And he's not wrong.

This is not an isolated incident. Nor is it unique to LinkedIn, who I don't blame in any way. For years there has been a tendency for the recruitment agencies serving the creative industry to bandy about attractive sounding vacancies and freelance contracts which, on closer inspection, turn out to be hollow. I have yet to discover why this practice is so prevalent. I have asked, but unsurprisingly receive a blanket denial. In fairness, it's not commonplace in every consultancy, some of whom are exceptionally good. Nevertheless, I know this goes on. Presumably, these consultancies are more likely to be retained to work on real opportunities if they appear to have a very full order book and a vast network of candidates. Equally, those candidates will be drawn to a consultancy which appears to be handling an impressive volume of jobs. It could be argued this is just part of the cut and thrust of marketing, but I find the deception unsavoury and unfair. These are the hardest of times and any activity which distracts or misleads creative professionals detracts from the industry and harms the people within it.

I should stress at this point that the jobs you see advertised on Creativepool are bona fide as they cannot be posted randomly or for free in the way messages appear on social media. I know this to be the case, because I secured two contracts from the site before I worked here as a blogger!

It's rarer for an employer to post these spectral vacancies, simply because they would be inundated with applications, would risk a directly tarnished reputation and would gain little from the exercise. However, it isn't unknown for employers to trawl for talent and use a less than definite role to attract CVs and portfolios.

So, what's to be done? Assuming I'm not the only poor sap dismayed and disappointed by this activity, I think it's important to flag up phantom job posters to the networks on which they're operating. Whether that platform chooses to take action or not would be up to them, but if it's pointed out their credibility is on the line maybe they'll take the complaint seriously. We should also challenge people or organisations misleading creative professionals. When it's apparent a call for applicants is actually no such thing, it's worth using any comment facility to object - just as the gentleman did on LinkedIn. This will surely shame the offender into thinking twice before they waste everybody's time again.

I'm relatively fortunate. I have several loyal clients who work with me on a regular basis and keep me from starving. That said, it is still essential I keep a close eye on projects or openings which might further my work and maintain my income. I'm sure this is true of most folk working in the creative businesses. If I can't be sure the posts and advertisements I'm reading are genuine and the details haven't been exaggerated, then it is all but impossible to monitor the market. That's not only a major hindrance to me, it also undermines the efforts of genuine employers and consultants seeking to place talented creatives in important positions.

Those using social media to promote these fictitious jobs probably have little idea how much they are impacting the lives and careers of others. We should make every effort to ensure that changes.

Magnus Shaw is a copywriter, blogger and consultant.

Visit Magnus Shaw's website.

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