How to Navigate the Hidden Job Market

June 02, 2015

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Founder of CoachMarket: empowering people through professional career coaching

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If it has been at least five to 10 years since you last searched for a job, you’ll find a curious change in today’s employment market. More and more jobs are “hidden,” or not visibly advertised to job seekers. In fact, experts estimate that over 80 percent of today’s available jobs are not advertised. No one is deliberately hiding them, but for a variety of reasons related to changing business processes and communications channels, these jobs are filled without ever appearing in a want ad.

Many of the jobs in hiring managers’ pipelines are filled before they are publicized because the right internal or external candidate simply drops into a manager’s lap. Human resources personnel turn to advertising the job only when they can’t find the right candidate through other channels. Often, hiring managers wish to avoid the painful process of wading through thousands of responses to a job posting, and prefer to rely instead on referrals from current employees or people in their own networks to ensure the quality of a candidate.  

A study by CareerXroads found that 20 percent of positions are filled through employee referrals alone. Small- to medium-sized businesses may not be staffed to manage job searches, so these companies often rely on informal “word of mouth” and referrals. Larger companies frequently engage internal recruiters to look for quality candidates when a job becomes available instead of waiting for job hunters to come to them. Often, larger enterprises are interested in “passive” job seekers who may not be actively looking for jobs.

Not surprisingly, the more money you make, the lower your chance of finding a new position via published job openings. Research by The Impact Group found that candidates who make less than $60,000 per year are successful in learning about job openings from advertising only 44 percent of the time. This figure drops to a dismal 29 percent for candidates who earn $100,000 or more per year.

Finding the Hidden Jobs
While job seekers shouldn’t entirely skip reading the want ads, it’s a mistake to rely solely on job boards or company postings, since these often only skim the surface of what’s available on the employment frontier. Advertisements are helpful for providing job seekers with a sense of what’s available and what’s hot, but they are a very imprecise channel through which to target opportunities, and they leave an “iceberg” of available jobs below the water line. Furthermore, it’s estimated that there are, on average, 250 resumes received for every posted job opening, so the odds of landing a position via posted jobs are pretty long. The solution is to develop a process to find the hidden jobs, and the critical element at the core of 21st century employment is networking.

Networking, in its simplest form, means reaching out for help to find a job. Job hunters must ensure they are on employers’ radar screens so that when an opportunity opens up, the job seeker is in a position to be an ideal match for a decision maker. There are many ways to target decision makers, including through social media sites such as LinkedIn, as well as through industry groups and trade associations. The key is to actively participate and be persistent. Historically, men have been more likely to learn about opportunities through networking, while women have been more successful with published openings, according to The Impact Group’s research. With the number of jobs being advertised through traditional channels waning, women need to learn to network more aggressively to at least level the playing field with men.

Ensuring the Hidden Jobs Find You
Companies are always on the lookout for talent. In-house recruiters and managers proactively seek out talent, often before job openings become official. Today, the first resource that hiring parties reach out to is LinkedIn. Nearly six in 10 companies surveyed by CareerXroads reported that LinkedIn was a critical component for their recruiters and sourcing groups. Optimize your profile with the right keywords and profile descriptions that are relevant to your target companies and industries. Build your LinkedIn network of connections. Successful LinkedIn users will have hundreds of connections and actively engage them on a regular basis. It’s important not to wait until you really need a job before you start to build your online and offline networks.   

Glenn Laumeister is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.

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