You’ve probably heard that a large proportion of jobs are unadvertised and filled via the hidden job market. While the actual figure is often disputed, it’s said to range from between 60%-70% which means that only about 30%-40% of available jobs are advertised. Regardless of the actual figure, one thing is agreed and that is that the hidden job market is alive and well. In this post I explain the hidden job market and how you can access it.
What is the hidden job market?
There was a time when the majority of jobs were advertised through job advertisements, job centres and recruitment agencies. In recent years however, there’s been a move away from these methods for a number of reasons including:
- A drive to reduce recruitment costs
- As a result of a tighter job market
- A desire to have greater control over the recruitment process
- Technological advances
Accessing the hidden job market
Many employers find they no longer need to advertise for new staff as they are continually inundated with prospective employees using the direct approach. The direct approach is when you identify an employer you want to work for and reach out to them directly asking if they have any suitable roles that match your skills and experience. Most direct approaches are received by email making it easier than ever for employers to quickly vet and recruit candidates.
Contacting potential employers directly can be a good move particularly after becoming aware of an organisation’s expansion or new project. The first step before approaching potential employers, is to carry out research. Learn about the company, including the products and/or services they offer, current staffing, the history of the company and plans for the future. Much of this research can be done via the company’s own website and through some quick and easy online searches. Check out the company’s annual report, press releases and monitor their professional and social media accounts (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc). Your research will also help you tailor your cover letter and CV more effectively as you will be able to weave in references to your findings.
Although sending a letter is traditional, an email is just as effective and more timely. You can also telephone or visit a potential employer in person. The approach you choose will depend on the company, sector, geographical location and the position you are targeting.
Personal referrals or recommendations
Personal referrals by existing staff has also grown in popularity with many companies now paying referral or finder’s fees to staff members who successfully refer a suitable candidate for a role. This method is not only cost effective but time effective too as personal referrals save the employer valuable time in vetting candidates.
You might be wondering how you would be referred or recommended for a position. The best way to do this is by building and leveraging your network. By leveraging, I mean not just building your network, but keeping in close contact. It’s important that your contacts are aware of your current skills, experience and circumstances (e.g. that you are seeking a new role).
One of the most common ways to find a job is through networking activities. By growing and maintaining a good network, you increase your chances of finding your next role.
Here’s a list of common networking activities you could try:
- Join and participate in chamber of commerce groups, industry or professional associations and other business networks
- Attend industry events such as conferences and trade fairs
- Join and participate in online professional networking sites such as LinkedIn
- Attend industry training courses, workshops and seminars
- Attend job fairs and recruitment events
By connecting and communicating with people, you can develop professional relationships increasing the potential for doors to job opportunities to open. Once you’ve made contact with someone, be sure to get their business card and keep in touch. A follow up email, call or LinkedIn message after your initial connection is a good way to grow the relationship. Seek recommendations from past and present colleagues to further boost your credibility on LinkedIn. You can also reach out to those in your network to arrange catch up calls or even meet up over a coffee.
Active participation in professional networking sites such as LinkedIn can help put you in the spotlight. Share regular updates on LinkedIn about your achievements, projects, and even topical pieces to get noticed. It can be so easy to be forgotten if you are not in plain sight on a regular basis. Be sure your profile is up to date and accurately reflects your skills and experience. When participating in group conversations, give relevant, considered responses to demonstrate your professionalism.
Follow companies you would like to work for on LinkedIn, like their pages and follow them on social media channels such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes a job lead might come up in a conversation on social media rather than a formal job advertisement. The key is to be in the right place at the right times to boost your chances of spotting these opportunities. Last minute job offers can be found on social media in a variety of ways from a temping or voluntary role that can lead to a job offer, to a desperate plea for talent in an emergency.
There are many books and resources to help guide you in developing your network skills or you might choose to consult a career coach. One book I recommend is “A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market” by Katharine Hansen.
Whichever approach you take to accessing the hidden job market, it’s recommended you keep a record of your activities so you can monitor your progress. It’s a good idea to keep a spreadsheet or notepad with contact details including a schedule for following through.
Accessing the hidden job market is not as mysterious as it may sound. In fact, you may have already accessed the hidden job market without even realising it. If there are methods mentioned here that you haven’t tried before, give them a go. It’s easy to stick with what you know and ending up with the same, predictable and possibly unsuccessful results. Trying a new approach might see you taking your career in positive directions you had never dreamed possible!