The Elusive Hidden Job Market: 12 ways to find a hidden job

Aug 4 2010 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

If you’ve read much about job search, you’ve likely read that experts suggest you tap the “hidden job market.” What is this hidden job market anyways and how can you find it if it’s hidden?

Job search experts state that the hidden job market comprises 70-80% of the new hires today. CareerBuilder.com confirmed this in an article that stated “Ten percent (of new hires) found new jobs using online job boards.” Other job finders are discovering jobs through recruiters and company web sites. So where are the rest of the jobs hiding?

This article describes 12 steps to find the hidden job market … and 3 more that may destroy your efforts (but most job seekers still use).

What’s The Hidden Job Market?

The hidden job market are jobs that aren’t advertised on job boards or newspapers. Some of these jobs haven’t been advertised … yet. Others won’t ever be advertised – Some companies aren’t advertising for jobs in today’s job market.

Robyn Greenspan of Execunet commented on the hidden job market, responding to a recent JibberJobber.com post:

  1. Just 11% of $200k jobs are publicly posted, companies told us earlier this year. This figure has been roughly the same the past few years.
  2. Recruiters publicly posted 32% of $200k positions, and this has been steadily dropping over the years.
  3. Our findings concur with Robert Williams in Kathy’s article: “The employer needs to confidentially replace a non-performer.” Consistently in our monthly surveys, we find more than half of companies are expected to “trade up” executive talent. Therefore, those searches stay under the radar.
  4. 68% of our recently surveyed executives find career options through networking, compared to 13% who responded to job postings.

These are the most recent stats from our market intelligence report (excerpt here: http://bit.ly/abPo2T) and while the numbers have changed over the years, the trends point to that the unpublished executive job market not only exists, it is the primary method for finding opportunity.

While Robyn’s statistics are based on management and executive jobs, the percentage of the hidden job market for staff level positions isn’t very different, based on CareerBuilder’s study.

Just like passive job seekers don’t post resumes on job boards, there are passive hiring managers who search quietly through their networks (including social networks), supplemented by recruiters. Robyn’s comments about confidentially replacing non-performers explains some of the reasons for a hidden job market for both management/executive positions as well as staff.

Other reasons include smaller companies lacking a job advertising budget, companies seeking to avoid a flood of resumes, and the natural inclination to trust personal referrals more than unknown applicants.

But the most interesting reason for the hidden job market are jobs that are created by the candidate. Just like consultants identify clients with problems, estimate the implication of leaving the problem unresolved (the cost and size of the problem), and provide a solution – some job seekers harness the hidden job market by creating jobs. Most of us have friends, contacts, or family members who have found jobs by finding a problem and offering themselves as the solution.

So the hidden job market is comprised of:

  1. Confidential employee searches
  2. Passive job searches
  3. Jobs that haven’t yet been advertised (or maybe even approved) … but will be
  4. Companies who want to cut their advertising budget
  5. Employers who don’t want to manage a flood of resumes
  6. Managers who want to hire people who have been personally referred
  7. Unresolved company problems, awaiting a solution

How You Can Find The Hidden Job Market:

The typical answer you hear is … network.

But that’s such a broad answer that it’s useless to a job seeker. Not all networking techniques work well to discover the hidden job market.

Consider these networking techniques commonly recommended to job seekers. Here are three low percentage tactics the majority of job seekers use when they attempt to uncover the hidden job market:

  • Spam your network with your resume or a marketing letter discussing your job search or qualifications
  • Call your network asking if they know of any jobs available
  • Schedule informational interviews or coffee discussions with your network so you can pass along a resume, or ask if they know of any jobs available

These strategies aren’t useless, but they were developed for times when there were shortages of qualified employees. Back when job search was a process of finding low hanging fruit, such random approaches could work. But in a job market with 5-6 times more candidates than jobs, the odds aren’t that great that these “old school” strategies will work well.

Instead, try these 12 techniques to increase your chances of finding the hidden job market:

  1. Stop looking for a job – look for problems that you are uniquely qualified to solve (see http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/03/27/would-you-stop-looking-for-a-job-already-best-of-recareered/).
  2. Don’t use job boards to look for a job – Use job boards to look for signals. Job boards can signal companies that are actively adding to their staff, who are adding a new manager for your intended department, who are growing, or who are trying to solve problems that you are uniquely qualified to solve (see http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/05/12/3-ways-to-leverage-job-boards-and-discover-the-hidden-job-market/).
  3. Make it easy for employers to find you (http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/04/07/how-does-google-affect-your-job-search/).
  4. Use Linkedin Company Follow to track who’s leaving and who’s joining your target companies. New managers often look to build their own teams and replace under-performing staff members. New managers are likely passively searching for new employees and are undertaking confidential searches to “upgrade” the lowest percentage performers. Managers who have left can be key information sources to help identify managers and problems (see http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/04/29/linkedin-company-follow-helps-job-seekers-find-the-hidden-job-market/).
  5. Expand your network around your industry, geography, and targets (see http://www.recareered.com/blog/2009/12/25/now-that-im-linked-who-do-i-link-to/).
  6. Build value before you ask for help – create raving fans (see http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/07/05/achieve-enlightenment-through-networking-karma-best-of-recareered/).
  7. Don’t spam your network
  8. Schedule informational meetings, but don’t make them “ambush interviews” (see www.recareered.com/blog/2011/02/22/career-advice-why-candidates-should-avoid-the-ambush-informational-interview/).
  9. Avoid bringing a resume to an informational meeting – it’s not an interview. Passing along a resume before identifying an unapproved position or a problem that you can solve risks your resume being sent to HR – because that’s where resumes go (see http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/05/18/how-employee-referral-bonus-programs-can-work-for-you-or-against-you/).
  10. Be a guerrilla (see http://www.recareered.com/blog/2009/11/24/guerrilla-job-search-tactics/.
  11. Listen 5x more than you talk (see http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/04/08/does-your-job-search-strategy-include-more-listening-or-talking/).
  12. Be an anthropologist (see http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/04/01/why-good-career-changers-are-anthropologists/).

Readers – Please share your stories and your tips.

How have you found hidden jobs? What strategies have you used effectively to uncover the hidden job market?

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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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