How the Hidden Job Market Works (Career Expert Tips)

by Belinda Elliott

If you read career advice blogs, or have ever worked with a career coach, you’ve probably seen articles about the hidden job market. 

These mysterious jobs are reportedly not posted anywhere publicly – leaving job seekers to wonder how to find them.

What is the hidden job market?

Clients often ask me “what is the hidden job market?” The concept has changed over the years, but the phenomenon still exists. 

Historically, most experts agreed that about 80 percent of jobs were never advertised. Instead, they were filled through networking. 

That percentage is probably much lower today given the prevalence of online job boards, but there are still open jobs that never get posted anywhere. 

What is an example of a hidden job market?

Sometimes companies need to keep their hiring plans discreet, so they avoid posting a job publicly. 

For smaller companies, advertising jobs could be too costly. Some organizations prefer to find candidates through employee referrals with the intention of getting higher quality applicants. 

At other times, a “hidden job” results simply due to timing.

When I was finishing grad school I interviewed with a company for an internship. 

After speaking with the hiring manager he let me know they were getting ready to hire a full-time position in which he thought I would fit well. 

I landed the job without it even being announced that an opening was forthcoming. Being in the right place at the right time paid off!

It is not as unusual as you may think to find off market jobs like these. But it does require being plugged into an industry, building relationships with people, and following these best tips for finding a job.

How can you find the hidden job market?

In 2016, a LinkedIn study found that 85% of jobs were filled by networking. 

I’m sure that percentage fluctuates each year, and there is no real way to measure for sure, but networking remains a key method of finding jobs. 

For introverts like me, that’s a scary thought! But networking is the best way to find the hidden job market. 

Once you identify them, you can reach out to people at the company and ask to learn more about what they do. 

Don’t start out by asking about jobs – just start building a relationship with them.

Tactic For Success

The easiest way to begin networking is to simply let your friends and family know what type of job you are seeking. Ask them who they know who could potentially be a good resource for you. If people know what you are looking for, they can be on the lookout for you.

Tap Into the Hidden Job Market

To learn about jobs that aren’t posted online, you’ll need to be in touch with people. The best way to do this is through strategic networking. 

It isn’t about how many people you connect with, it’s about who you connect with. 

Network In Person

Take advantage of industry conferences, local networking events, and professional organizations. 

Anywhere that features people doing the work you want to do is a place you should target. Many of these will be in-person networking opportunities, but networking online is also valuable.

Network Online

Once you have identified key players, send them a short email introducing yourself, highlighting your skills, and explaining that though you don’t see a position open currently that fits your experience, but you are very interested in future opportunities. 

I’ve even seen companies create a position for someone who really impressed them! 

Trend on the Rise

More than 35% of respondents to a LinkedIn survey said that a casual conversation on LinkedIn led to a new opportunity. Don’t be afraid to jump into a group conversation or reach out to an interesting contact. People are usually happy to share information with others.

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Tactic For Success

Social media is a great space for meeting others in your profession. But contributing great content can be even more helpful for your job search. Comment on others’ posts and share your own posts and industry insights when possible. A thoughtful post could draw the attention of a potential employer.

Preparation is the Key to Success

Finding your way into these hidden jobs is about being prepared. The work you put in ahead of time will pay off in the future.

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Here are some key steps to take:

  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is top notch – This is one of the top networking websites and a place where employers research candidates. Be sure your information is up to date and presents you in a compelling way.
  • Participate in industry conversations – Demonstrate thought leadership in your areas of expertise. You want employers to see you as a knowledgeable voice in your field. 
  • Maintain and grow your professional network – Building relationships takes time. Set aside time to stay in touch with current contacts and reach out to new ones.
  • Invite people for short chats – These could be in person or virtual, but let people know you would like to compare best practices or learn more about their company and position. If you have an in demand degree, make sure to show off your relevant capabilities.
  • Perfect your elevator pitch – When you meet someone who could be a key contact, be ready to briefly explain the value you bring to an organization and the type of role you seek.

Be Willing To Help Others

Once you do find the job you love, remember to pay it forward. 

One day you could be in a position to alert someone else to a hidden job that may be just right for them.

Wrapping Up

Just because you don’t see an open position at a company where you would really like to work, don’t give up! They may have the perfect role for you if you know how to find it.

About the Author

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Belinda has been a professional writer for more than 20 years and serves as a career coach in her community helping job seekers with all aspects of their job search. Her educational credentials include a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and a master’s in journalism.