Job Seeker Blog - Spark Hire

Uncovering the Hidden Job Market

The “hidden job market” has become a buzz word among job seekers- especially since the job search has been so difficult in the last few years. The notion of a hidden job market— a Shangri-La of employment opportunities— is very appealing. But what does the term mean, exactly? And how should job seekers take advantage of it in their job search? Let’s find out.

The “80 percent of jobs are not advertised” figure gets a lot of press. Some think the number may be high, but the idea is that the vast majority of jobs are found through networking, word of mouth and personal recommendations. Think back to the last few jobs you received, or that your friends received. Did they get those jobs by applying to job boards, or through networking with a friend of a friend? At a quick personal count, 3 of 8 of my jobs (full and part-time) were completely unadvertised to the public. This is the hidden job market. All of those jobs that people get— supposedly up to 80 percent of all jobs— were never publicly posted. That means they must have gotten them through networking with the people they know. Now, how do you look for these during your job search?

According to Forbes, Donald Asher, author of Cracking the Hidden Job Market: How to Find Opportunity in Any Economy, has a mantra in his book: “You get a job by talking to people.” This means telling everyone and their cat about your job search. That is the best way to start networking and meeting people that can help you in your job search. You never know who will have valuable advice— it could even be your cab driver!

While you are talking to everyone about your job search, Asher emphasizes that it is important to ask about leads, opportunities and advice. Avoid bluntly asking about job openings, especially when talking to someone who works for a company you might be interested in. You are likely to get turned over to HR, and you’ve lost any networking advantages. People are much more willing to give advice, talk about their own experiences with the company, and come around to some valuable information via that route.

Is this reminding anyone else of cold calling? Yep, cold calling is another way of breaking into the hidden job market. Keep in mind the challenges of cold calling though, and whether or not it might be effective for you as a job seeker.

Networking can seem vague and unruly until it works for you. It just doesn’t feel as productive as sending in an application. So, should you give up traditional job searches? How important is the hidden job market? The answer will vary greatly by the type and level of job that you are looking for. Higher level jobs are less likely to be advertised; Yahoo probably didn’t post its CEO opening in the Sunday paper! Smaller and local businesses are also less likely to advertise. So, if these are your targets, the hidden job market might be very important for your job search.

What you consider to be “hidden” is also important. I didn’t find my current job through a traditional advertisement. Instead, I did a Google map search for “publishing companies” in my area, and checked the company websites of each one I found. Not particularly elegant, but a good example of looking in unconventional ways for jobs.

What unusual methods have you used as a job seeker? Leave a comment below, or send me a tweet: @ithinkther4iamb #jobseeker

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by MyNameMattersNot

Kristin Anderson

Kristin has a B.A. in English from the University of Iowa, with an emphasis in creative writing. In her free time she enjoys long walks, kitchen adventures, and making puns.