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What Is the Hidden Job Market?

What's the hidden job market, and how can it help your job search? The hidden job market is a term used to describe jobs that aren't advertised or posted online. Employers might not post jobs for a number of reasons – for example, they might be trying to save money on advertising, or they might prefer getting candidates through employee referrals. This job market might be “hidden,” but it is possible for you to find out about these jobs. You might be more likely to score a job through the hidden job market than through regular channels. Many jobs are found through networking rather than traditional job searching. Jobvite's 2019 Job Seeker Nation Survey reports that even though most applicants apply for jobs on a job board or employer career site, 35% found job postings on social media, 50% of respondents heard about jobs from friends, and 37% say they also learn about jobs from professional networks.

Find out why employers sometimes skip posting jobs online, and how you can tap into this hidden market to find a job that is right for you.

Why Employers Use the Hidden Job Market Many employers use the hidden job market to avoid the lengthy and expensive process of open online applications. Instead of posting a job opening, employers can choose alternatives such as hiring internally, using a recruiting firm or headhunters and relying on referrals from current employees. The hidden job market has several advantages for employers:

  • It's cheaper than listing jobs online or in print via a paid service.

  • Some companies want to keep hiring decisions as quiet as possible, so they avoid posting jobs online. Perhaps the company is opening a new branch, for example, but does not want to share this information with the public just yet.

  • Companies are more likely to get high-quality applicants from current employees, who both understand the needs of the job and have a vested interest in recommending good candidates – especially if they'll be working with whoever gets the job.

  • Employees are also motivated to give good referrals if the company offers a bonus to employees who recommend the applicant who is hired.

Tap the Hidden Job Market Through Networking It is possible to find these opportunities by expanding your network connections and sharing your professional objectives. Your first step should be to make sure you're reaching out via as many avenues as possible. See tips on how to expand your network and learn about those hidden jobs:

  • Network traditionally. If you aren’t already, make sure you are networking in some of the more traditional ways. Attend formal networking functions like career fairs, conferences, and chamber of commerce events. Reach out to people in your networks, including college alumni and LinkedIn connections. Set up informational interviews with contacts in your industry. Consider sending a message to friends and family letting them know about your job search. All these traditional networking strategies can lead to information about job openings.

  • Say yes to invitations beyond traditional networking functions. Go to the ballgame with your college roommate. Go to your cousin's baby shower. Make time to swing by your neighbor's barbecue. Once you're at these events, be social and introduce yourself to people you don't know. You never know when you'll meet the person who knows someone with an in.

  • Practice your elevator speech. What do you want from your career? What do you have to offer an employer? What does your dream job look like? Don't worry – no one is suggesting you become the kind of bore who's always cramming your professional goals down everyone's throat. Just be on the lookout for opportunity, and don't be afraid to put yourself forward if one presents itself. Remember: if someone's hiring, they need a quality candidate as much as you need a job. You might be solving their problem as well as your own.

  • Update your social networks to reflect your new mission. This can be tricky, of course, if you're still employed and hoping to move on. If you're cautious and change details slowly, you can buff up your online profiles without jeopardizing your position. Make sure your online networks reflect your latest skills and experiences. By building a strong professional brand online, you increase your chances of impressing someone in your network.

Other Ways to Tap the Hidden Job Market Networking is not the only way to access the hidden job market. Try these strategies to hear about unadvertised jobs:

  • Contact employers of interest. If there are particular companies you are interested in working for, don’t wait for them to post job openings. Reach out by either visiting the office in person, making a cold call, or sending a letter of interest.

  • Volunteer at companies of interest. One way to make connections at a company is to volunteer for that company. If the organization is looking for volunteers (even if it is not in your specific field of interest), consider signing up. This will give you an “in” with the company. As you get to know the employees, express your interest in working for the organization.

  • Dig around at your own company. If you are interested in staying at your company, but in a different position, quietly ask around about job openings in other departments. Make sure to be discreet though – you don’t want your employer to know you are thinking of leaving your position.

  • Subscribe to news alerts. Follow companies of interest on LinkedIn, and consider subscribing to news alerts (such as Google Alerts) for companies you’d like to work for. This way, you can hear about any big changes at the company, such as a merger, the opening of a new office, etc. These events are often a sign that a company is growing, and therefore might be hiring.

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