by Rachel Vilsack

Many employers find workers without posting a job online. In fact, it’s often estimated that 80 percent (or more) of jobs are never advertised. This is called the hidden job market. The term hidden doesn’t mean the jobs are necessarily a secret or that the employer doesn’t want you to know they have an opening. Rather, if you’re job search strategy is to only check online job boards, you may be missing out.

Why Would a Job Be Hidden?
Ultimately, employers want to hire people they know, like, and trust. Receiving applications, resumes, and conducting interviews are great ways for employers to get to know job candidates, but it’s also a time-consuming process. For an employer, the search for a potential employee begins well before they post a job. It might include figuring out what skills and experience are necessary for the job, writing a job description, and setting salary and benefit options with their finance and human resource staff.

There may be good reasons why an employer doesn’t post or advertise a job. Consider these scenarios:

  • An employer needs to find a replacement for a sales representative who works on many client or business accounts. They want to find a qualified applicant and use a search firm to confidentially find candidates.
  • An employer is hiring for several positions that will develop and launch a new product line. They don’t want to advertise their openings because it will reveal their plans to their competitors, so they use online tools like LinkedIn to recruit candidates.
  • A small employer needs to replace a long-time employee who is retiring. Instead of posting the job opening, they ask their current employees for referrals.

These cases illustrate why some job opportunities might not be found on an online job board. It is just as important to build a network of family, friends, former coworkers, and even potential employers who know your skills, knowledge, and experience. This might also include creating an online networking profile, joining a professional association, or networking job club.

Employers also recruit or screen candidates online without posting a job. Consider, which offers employers a “virtual recruiter” feature, where they can search for jobseekers’ resumes using education, job title, or skill keywords. This means you could be contacted about a job opening that you didn’t know existed!

Is the Hidden Job Market Real?
There is good evidence to suggest that the hidden job market is real in Minnesota. From July through September 2010, there were 346,127 new hires recorded in Minnesota companies. This represents the number of individuals newly hired or those who had not previously worked for the company during the past year. During that same three months, there was an average of 79,819 online help-wanted ads in Minnesota, according to data collected by the Conference Board.

That means up to 75 percent of people who were hired did not find their job from an online job posting! Stay tuned for an upcoming post on How to Uncover the Hidden Job Market, which will explore resources that can be used to connect with employers. Can’t wait? Check out these job search tips.

Rachel Vilsack ( is the Coordinator of Special Projects for Minnesota’s Labor Market Information Office at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

3 thoughts on “What Is the Hidden Job Market?

  1. Thank you! I have been told from people ahead of me, as I’m coming out of a bachelors degree that networking is the ticket! This explains why in perfect clarity and detail. One downside to this is if people went away to college and move else where, they are leaving their connections! Your link to the tips and future article will be nice, to help battle this issue. It was such a surprising statistic that 75% of the jobs filled weren’t posted online!


  2. Thanks for your comment!
    LinkedIn has become a popular tool for networking. It's a good place to research potential employers and companies, too. It is one tool, among many, that can be used in the job search process.
    It sounds like your profile has generated responses, which is great.  I don't necessarily think that LinkedIn profiles will replace cover letters. Some employers will use LinkedIn to get a more comprehensive picture of you, including achievements, awards or interests that may not normally be included in a cover letter or on a resume. A cover letter, on the other hand, will also you to customize your skills and experience to the employer specifically. 
    If you're interested, check out these examples of cover letters.
    Best wishes,


  3. I'm a what I consider an entry level or possibly one step up industrial mechanic who has had an account on Linked in for several years now. During this time I've seen an upsurge in that sites popularity.
    I've noticed several positive responses when I copy my profile and submit it with my Resume' in leu of a cover letter.
    Is this a future trend, or should I get off my but and and spend the time composing a well written company researched, job specific etc. etc. cover that directs them to linkedin in the event may not even consider me anyway? 


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