by Rachel Vilsack

Many employers find workers without posting a job online. In fact, it’s often estimated that 80 percent (or more) or 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. But it does mean that if your search strategy is to only check online job boards, you may be missing out.

cardWhy 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.

Target Your Market

You won’t find an unadvertised job by searching job boards or help-wanted ads. Instead, focus on targeting your market by identifying businesses in your local area or in a particular industry. Create a list of companies you might want to work for and learn more about them by visiting their company website or conducting an online search. Research is important because the more you know about a company, the better able you will be to sell your skills and experience.

Direct Connection

Networking is also an important step in the job search process. Think about your friends, family members, neighbors, former coworkers, or connections on LinkedIn. Does anyone you know work at the companies you identified? If so, reach out to them. Let them know you are looking for a job, and you are interested in their employer. Tell them why you’d be a good addition to their company, or consider sharing your resume with them. Don’t assume they already know your skills or experience because they know you! Remember, many companies rely on referrals from coworkers to fill open positions.

Reach Out

If you don’t have a direct connection with an employer, you may want to reach out to the business directly. Give them a call or stop by. (Make sure you pick a time that is most convenient for the employer.) You can ask them directly if they have any job openings, or you can use the details you learned about the company in combination with your elevator speech to make you stand out. Express interest in their business, and explain why you’d be a good fit.

You could also request an informational interview, or a face-to-face meeting, where you can ask additional questions about the company or industry. Keep in mind that the purpose of an informational interview is not to ask for a job, but is an opportunity to get leads and develop key contacts that will help tap the hidden job market.

Don’t worry if you receive a “no, thanks” after connecting with an employer. They may not have an opportunity for you now, but that doesn’t mean an opportunity couldn’t develop in the future. You want to be the person that the manager or human resource professional thinks about when an opportunity DOES arise. Be polite and respectful. Remember, employers want to hire people they know, like, and trust.


3 thoughts on “Uncover the Hidden Job Market

  1. Thank you for this post! I know many people who have received jobs just by networking. This also brings to light interpersonal skills. I think this is crucial to show to a potential employer. Everything around us today is driven by technology that the generations below us are missing out on human contact and meaning of relationships. Great post!


  2. Thank you for bringing to light the reality of a hidden job market. Though for some this may be a well known “secret,” for many others it may be a novel concept. The notions of “networking” and “putting yourself out there” are so frequently talked about, yet I think under utilized. I greatly appreciated this post as I believe that while we know the significance of expanding our network, we do not quite know how to successfully do so and/or the importance of doing so on a continual basis (even when not job searching). In this job market especially, as has been the case for many years, finding your ideal job is all about who you know where to help get you in the door.


  3. Thank you for the great advice. There is so much reliance on computers today that many people do not know where else to turn when searching for a position. It is hard to get know and trust someone who you have only read about on a screen. I believe that making yourself present in front of potential employers (and future co-workers) can give you a huge advantage over others who are applying.


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