2 Easy Ways to Access the Hidden Job Market

It’s easy to fall into the trap of scouring job boards with the hopes of finding your next ideal career opportunity. The process of endlessly combing through job listings can be daunting, time-consuming, and discouraging. Even if you apply for a role that excites you, the odds of being seriously considered for the position are statistically low. In fact, the average corporate job listing attracts ~250 resumes; yet, only four to six candidates will be contacted for an interview. However, with the right job search strategy, you can unlock the potential of the hidden job market to increase your chances of landing that great new gig! 

What Is the Hidden Job Market?

The term “hidden job market” is often used to explain how job seekers can employ networking best practices to uncover career opportunities that aren’t currently advertised. For instance, Julia Freeland Fisher, director of education research at the Clayton Christensen Institute explains “Research shows that 70% of all jobs are not published publicly on jobs sites and as much as 80% of jobs are filled through personal and professional connections.” There are many reasons that employers don’t publish every single opening on public job boards, including the following:

  • The position is currently reserved for internal applicants (employees)
  • The role has not yet opened but it will be sometime within the near future
  • The position is temporarily on hold, or the job requirements are being reconsidered

Particularly in today’s strong job market, when you see a listing on a job board you’re most likely only seeing the tip of the iceberg. It’s quite possible there are many other opportunities right beneath the surface. The goal is to get ahead of competing applicants by connecting with hiring managers or recruiters before an undisclosed job listing has been unearthed. But, how?!

How To Hunt the Hidden Job Market

Uncovering the hidden job market is not about finding a hidden job. It’s all about two key ingredients: (1) Relationships and (2) Timing. Hannah Morgan, Job Search Strategist, states, “Historically, the hidden job market was about unadvertised jobs. Fast forward to 2020 [and beyond], and you’ll find that the process is about getting to [know] hiring managers and recruiters early in the process; ideally, before a job is posted or engaging with that employer as soon as a listing goes up.” Set your job interests aside … for now at least. Instead, shift your focus towards proactively building strong relationships and the right career opportunities will begin to follow.

Step 1) Begin Building Your Network Now

One hundred percent, without a doubt: The worst possible time to start building your network is when you need to find a job. By then, it’s already too late because you are inherently focused on your own personal interests (finding a job) rather than forming a genuine connection. The best time to begin building your network is now. Here are a few ideas to help get you started:

  • Begin from within: Make sure you stay connected with all of your colleagues at your current employer. You never know when someone might join a new team or company that also interests you.
  • Revisit the recent: Reach out to former colleagues or connections you’ve made in the past. Determine if you might want to explore a career with their current organization.
  • Become involved: Consider joining a networking group or professional organization within your industry. This is an excellent way to form new allies with similar professional interests, skills, and goals.
  • Engage employers: Form connections with hiring managers and recruiters who already work at the companies that interest you–even if they aren’t currently hiring. This way you’ve already started a meaningful dialogue ahead of time. 

Depending on your objectives, you might decide to use these techniques locally. However, keep in mind that in today’s modern business environment you are no longer restricted by geography. Many of these steps can be taken on social media platforms like LinkedIn. Regardless of your physical location, the goal is to increase your level of social activity. Consider allocating just 15 minutes per day towards building your professional relationships. 

Step 2) Leverage External Recruiter Networks

Growing your own network requires discipline and the process can be slow. While you’re focused on building your own relationships, think about how you might be able to accelerate the process. For instance, as Indeed points out, “many employers hire external recruiters to find candidates for non-posted jobs”. External recruiters have a direct line to hiring managers with immediate and upcoming hiring needs. They will work to understand your skill set, experience, and the types of roles you’re seeking. Not to mention, the best external recruiters have built incredibly deep networks in a wide array of industries. 

You might not the ability to speak directly with the contacts in a recruiter’s network. However, forming just one single quality relationship with an external recruiter can open the door to thousands of new connections–and hundreds of potential career opportunities. Similar to when you begin building your own network, the best time to begin growing your connections with an external recruiter is before you need to find a job. Check out How To Develop a Long Term Relationship With a Recruiter for our best tips on how to get started!

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