You’re probably already familiar with the traditional ways of how to find a job. You use one or more of the many online job boards like Monster, ZipRecruiter or Indeed as part of your job search. And keep an eye on the job postings sections of the company websites that you may want to work for. You might also browse sites like Craigslist or Kijiji for local job listings.
While browsing for job openings online can sometimes yield great results, there’s an entire market of jobs you might not be aware of: the hidden job market.
What is the Hidden Job Market?
The hidden job market refers to jobs that aren’t advertised on online job board sites or a company’s website. Instead, these jobs rely on referrals and word-of-mouth from existing employees of the company or recruiters.
The hidden job market is estimated to account for around 70% of new hires. That’s a staggering number of available jobs out there that you may never be aware of if you rely solely on the internet!
Companies have various different reasons for not posting a job opening online.
One major benefit to not advertising a job is that it saves the company money and time. We all know that the hiring process can be a long one, no matter which side of it you’re on. They may also need to quickly fill a position without going through the traditional process.
Companies may also want to hire from within or rely on candidates referred by current employees.
There may also be proprietary reasons for not posting a job opening. For example, if a company is opening a new branch, they may not want that information to be public just yet.
Or they might keep it quiet because they are replacing a current employee.
Whatever the reasons, it’s very common for companies not to publicly advertise jobs, even if they are open to outside candidates.
How to Navigate the Hidden Job Market
One important thing to keep in mind is that the hidden job market is not necessarily designed to get you a job quickly. If you’re in a dire situation and need a job immediately, you may want to pursue more traditional methods.
Navigating the hidden job market can take some time because you can’t rely on being able to access and apply to open positions online at any time. It’ll require some time and research to find these vacancies and the right resources to be able to do that research.
Navigating hidden jobs is ultimately all about networking, and networking in a more specific way than you may be used to.
To begin with, you’ll want to make networking a habit as opposed to a tool you deploy only when you’re looking for a job. It’s helpful to devote a certain amount of time every day to networking, or set specific goals for yourself. For example, you may decide that you’re going to achieve five new connections by the end of the week, or complete two hours worth of searching.
The good news is that, for this part, you can use the internet. Sites like LinkedIn are great tools to find potentially valuable connections. You’ll want to be strategic here. Research companies that you’re interested in working for and find out who the big decision-makers are.
Another great way to network is to find companies that have a specific need that you can help fill. Browse some news articles or social media posts about companies or industries you want to work in. Are there companies facing specific challenges that you feel you can help fix? Can you identify a specific gap you can help fill or a valuable service you can provide to a company?
If so, try to find contact information for someone who can help get you somewhere and reach out. A simple, personalized email that doesn’t sound like a sales pitch or, even worse, begging for a job can help get you a foot in the door.
One of the best ways to go about this is succinctly describing what you can offer (try using your elevator pitch for inspiration) and mention that you’d love to chat further. You’ll want to avoid outright asking if any specific positions are available, though. Your goal here is simply to initiate a conversation and put yourself on the company’s radar.
Networking in this way means that you’ll want to have an updated LinkedIn profile or a professional portfolio website that you can direct potential connections to. Your profile should give connections a good sense of who you are and what you’re all about based on your skills and experience.
Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t getting responses. This process is just that: a process. It will take time to build a network of connections and for those connections to be open to having conversations with you.
You might have better luck utilizing professional networking groups as they are designed for this reason. These can be organizations such as your local chamber of commerce, your college alumni association, young professional groups, women’s networking groups, and industry-specific associations.
How To Find The Hidden Job Market
Finding hidden jobs can be a tedious, hit-or-miss process. It will require some strategic research and a little bit of luck. Using the following tips can help you access hidden job opportunities.
Sign Up for News Alerts
One tool that job-seekers don’t often think to employ is news alerts. As you browse news stories, sign up for news alerts related to the companies or industries you’re interested in. If you see a story that a specific organization is expanding or has just received a significant amount of new funding, that may be a sign that they are or will soon be hiring.
Attend Conferences & Conventions
Conferences and conventions are also great places to network, meet potential connections and find out about hidden jobs or potential job openings in the near future.
An internet search for companies or industries you’re interested in can help guide you towards any upcoming conventions in your area.
Keep in mind that this can be somewhat costly in both time and money, particularly if you’ve been out of work for a while. So you should make sure you have the funds to invest in attending an in-person event, particularly if you’ll have to travel a significant distance.
There are also many conferences that are held online. These are more convenient to attend and don’t require any additional costs.
If you’re currently employed but looking for a new position, you can always use contacts within your company (assuming that you like the company you’re working for).
Seek out connections in other departments and see what their needs are. You never know where a simple water-cooler conversation might lead.
You’ll want to be careful with this approach, as you don’t want to give your department colleagues and supervisors the impression that you’re looking to jump ship and make a career change. But a simple conversation with a select colleague or two can open up doors in other areas.
You should also consider volunteering for companies you’re interested in. This can be especially easy for non-profit organizations, which often rely at least in part on volunteers’ work. Many non-profits will have a volunteer or community engagement coordinator, who is a great person to reach out to about potential volunteer needs.
Establishing yourself as a reliable presence can be a great way to get your foot in the door of a company.
Contact an Employment Agency or Career Center
Employment agencies and career centers offer a variety of services beyond helping you with your resume and cover letter and providing job searching tips. Some agencies also assist companies with their recruiting and hiring needs.
The agency I work for has staff that works exclusively with employers who have job openings that are not posted publically. These are usually new or small businesses that don’t have a human resources department. They rely on our expertise and referrals from our pool of current job seekers to fill these roles. One of the only ways to learn about these unadvertised job vacancies is through us.
Try Temping or Working Part-Time
If you’re in a position to do so, accepting a temporary or part-time job is a great way to get a full-time job with an organization.
It’s how I got my job! I started as a casual employee, working only a few hours a week. But 2 weeks into the role, a full-time contact became available, which I happily accepted without it ever being advertised.
Utilize Your Online Profiles
In addition to updating your LinkedIn profile, you can show recruiters that you’re looking for work through the job preferences setting on your profile. You can also set up a free account with ZipRecruiter and add your resume to their database. Both of these will allow potential employers to find you and connect with you if they are interested in your qualifications.
If your social media profiles are professional, you can also use your Facebook or Twitter to find hidden job leads.
Hidden Job Market Myths
There is plenty of misinformation when it comes to hidden jobs. Some will assert that the hidden market is itself a myth. But the truth is, there is a significant number of jobs out there that will never show up on traditional job boards.
I didn’t believe the hidden job market existed until I started working for an employment agency and saw first-hand how often hidden job opportunities came up. So I assure you, it’s not a myth.
Many job-seekers make the mistake of waiting for a job to come to them or for the perfect job opening to become available, not realizing that the perfect job may already be available!
You should avoid thinking of hidden jobs as a magic “yellow brick road” to a dream job. Remember, navigating the hidden jobs market takes time and strategic decisions. It also takes a little bit of courage. After all, you’re essentially reversing the traditional process of finding a new job.
Let’s face it: the traditional job market is tough. For every job listed on the market, you’re facing competition from other applicants as well as a host of other potential obstacles.
While tapping the hidden market for jobs isn’t a guarantee and will most likely require some extra time and effort, it can be well worth it to help you find your next job.
Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.