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A millennial who's been applying to jobs for a year says he's encountered ghost jobs and scammers in his struggle to find a remote role

Jacob Zinkula   

A millennial who's been applying to jobs for a year says he's encountered ghost jobs and scammers in his struggle to find a remote role
  • A Utah millennial was laid off shortly after he received a concerning health diagnosis.
  • He's had little luck in his search for a remote job over the past year.

In April 2023, Felipe Martins was recovering from knee-replacement surgery when his surgeon called and said he needed to see him immediately.

Tests had identified a non-cancerous tumor in his knee, the 36-year-old told Business Insider via email. If it started to spread, his leg might have to be amputated, and the several months he spent in physical therapy for his knee replacement would be all for nothing.

At the time, Martins was working in Utah for the sales department of a tech company, a position he'd held for roughly nine years. He'd kept working while undergoing physical therapy, and he planned to do the same while receiving any necessary treatment related to his diagnosis.

But on May 1, Martins got a call from someone he didn't know who worked for his employer. They said they needed to schedule a meeting with him for that afternoon to discuss something.

It wasn't good news. Martins, along with a few others in his department, was laid off. He would be given one month of severance pay.

"You see memes on the internet saying that companies are not loyal," he said. "And I thought, 'Sure, but my company actually likes and respects me. I'm valued.' No. I wasn't."

Martins said that in the 12 months since his layoff, he'd been actively looking and applying for jobs but hadn't had much luck. He said he thought several factors could be working against him, including layoffs in the tech industry, his focus on remote roles, being transparent with employers about his health condition, and the prevalence of "ghost jobs" — listings on job platforms that companies are no longer actively hiring for.

Martins said that while the "constant rejection" had been discouraging, he planned to keep trying.

Most American men who want a job have one — the male unemployment rate is low compared with past decades. But Martins is among the men who have struggled to find work recently — or have stopped looking entirely. In 1950, about 97% of American men ages 25 to 54 had a job or were actively looking for work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of April, that figure had fallen to about 89%.

One of several potential explanations for this decline is that, in recent decades, health issues have kept many men out of the workforce. An analysis of census data by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found that as of 2022, nearly 40% of US men ages 25 to 54 cited disability or illness as the reason they weren't working. As a result, more men have turned to Social Security disability benefits to help them get by.

In recent years, the rise of remote work and historically high job openings have helped more people with health issues find employment. In 2023, nearly 23% of Americans with a disability were employed — the largest share on record since data collection began in 2008, according to the BLS.

But remote jobs aren't as common as they used to be — and there's competition to land one.

The share of US remote job postings on LinkedIn fell from more than 20% in April 2022 to about 10% in December 2023. Despite the decline, LinkedIn said remote roles accounted for 46% of all applications in December.

Martins shared how he'd responded to his layoff and the challenges he'd faced during his job search.

Ghost jobs and scammers have made the job search more frustrating

When Martins was laid off, it wasn't the loss of income he was primarily focused on, he said.

"I needed to get through this meeting so I could learn how to continue being insured once the month ended," he said, referring to the meeting in which he learned he lost his job. "I didn't have time to cry and collect myself."

When he learned he could retain health insurance through COBRA for $800 a month, he set to work on the paperwork almost immediately to make sure it would be processed quickly — and he wouldn't be "left hanging" without insurance if a necessary procedure arose, he said.

He said that while the cost was hard to stomach, it was worth it given his health concerns — he said he could retain the coverage for up to three years. Thankfully, his tumor hasn't spread, and he hasn't needed surgery. Martins said he'd been getting a checkup every few weeks to monitor its status.

But without a job, he's had to deal with some financial stresses.

Martins said he'd saved up a fair bit of money and collected unemployment benefits for a while, both of which had helped him pay the bills. He said he was also planning to move to Washington to live with his parents, who wanted to be closer to him as he navigated his health challenges. This would also save him money on housing.

In part because of his upcoming move, Martins said, he'd focused his job search on remote roles. He said he hoped to find a job that would allow him to continue his physical therapy and take some time off for treatment if necessary.

But his search had been difficult so far, he said, partly because layoffs across the tech industry had heightened the competition for a limited number of jobs.

Martins said that when he did come across job postings, he didn't always know whether they were real. He said he thought he'd encountered a lot of ghost jobs.

"There are some firms on LinkedIn that are always advertising the same position and have been for almost a year now," he said. "I've applied to these positions at least half a dozen times now."

Martins also said he thought some job postings he was seeing were created by "scammers."

For example, he said he recently got an email from a company with a website domain name that was the name of a real company, followed by the word "jobs." The real company's website, however, had a different domain name, and the quality of the site made Martins suspicious.

Using the Whois lookup tool, he discovered that the suspicious website had been created on April 18th.

"I got an email from the scammer on April 19th, so they certainly didn't waste time going after people," he said.

Martins said the "company plus jobs" domain-name format was common in his experience with scammers. He added that recruiters who couldn't answer basic questions about a role and pay that seemed too good to be true were red flags.

"They hook you in, throw out a huge pay rate, and hope people are too blown away imagining themselves making bank to ask questions," he said.

BI has spoken with several people who said they were nearly duped into sending scammers money. The Federal Trade Commission has more information about job scams and how to avoid them.

Lastly, Martins said he sometimes wondered how much his health issues, which he was disclosing to potential employers, were working against him in his job search.

"Maybe I'm being a bit too honest about my condition, and no one wants someone like me," he said.

Despite these challenges, Martins said he planned to continue his job search and explore some in-person roles once he got to Washington.

"There's no harm in continuing to try," he said. "What's the worst that can happen? Your résumé ends up in the recycle bin."

Are you a man who's not looking for work or has struggled to find a job? Are you willing to share your story? If so, reach out to this reporter at

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