What is the Hidden Job Market?

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The hidden job market is a term used to describe jobs that aren't posted online or advertised in any other way. 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. In fact, you might be more likely to score a job through the hidden job market than you are through regular channels. At least  of all jobs are found through networking rather than traditional job searching.

Read below for more information on why employers use the hidden job market, and how you can tap this market and find a job that is right for you.

What's In It for Employers?

Many employers choose to use the hidden job market to avoid the lengthy and expensive process of open online applications. Instead of posting a job opening, some employers will choose alternatives such as hiring internally, going through a recruiting firm, using headhunters, and relying on .

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 their hiring decisions as quiet as possible, so they avoid posting jobs online. Perhaps they are opening a new branch, for example, but do not want to share this information with the public just yet.
  • Companies are more likely to get 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 connections and advertising your professional objectives. Your first step should be to make sure you're reaching out via as many avenues as possible. Below are some 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 like career fairs, conferences, and chamber of commerce events. Reach out to people in your networks, including and . Set up with contacts in your industry. Consider sending a message to letting them know about your job search. All of 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. You never know when you'll meet the person who knows the person who has an in. 
  • Practice your . 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 all of your social networks to reflect your new mission. This can be tricky, of course, if you're still employed and hoping to move on. However, 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 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. Below are a few more ways you can 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 , or sending a .
  • Volunteer at companies of interest. One way to make connections at a company is to 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. , 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.

    With a little care and effort, you can find a great new job, even if it's not listed on any job search site. Be willing to persevere, and the hidden job market might just produce the best job you've had so far.

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