Tapping Into the Hidden Job Market: Uncovering Unpublicized Job Leads

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by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

Have you ever conducted a job-search and thought to yourself that there must be more job openings than the ones found through online job searches? Guess what? The answer is a resounding yes. If you are simply searching online (regardless of whether you are using Monster, Indeed, or Google), you are missing out on at least four times as many job leads — job leads that go unposted publicly.

To make matters even worse for you as a job-seeker, the job leads you actually discover online may be so old that the position has long been filled or closed.

In order to track down the most job leads — leading to the most interview and job offer opportunities — job-seekers must go beyond online job boards and search engines and attack the hidden job market. As much as 80 percent of all job openings are filled through (direct and indirect) referrals, not through job postings.

Why Job Openings Often Go Unadvertised

The actual hiring process is a long and winding road that begins when a hiring manager requests a new position or when a current employee leaves his or her current position. The first step is getting approval to fund (or continue funding) the position and approving the recruitment plan. What happens next is a multi-stage process that eventually leads to a public job posting if all other measures are unsuccessful.

During the initial time of the request, hiring managers put out feelers to find internal candidates for the expected position. Strong and proven internal candidates are almost always favored by employers over the unknown quantity of new outside hires. Once funding has been approved, the next step is an internal job posting, again with the intent of finding an internal candidate to promote. At this stage, hiring managers may also contact their network and inquire about possible external candidates (referrals).

Only when it’s been decided that there are no viable internal candidates and no known external candidates is a position publicly posted.

Strategies for Uncovering Hidden Job Leads

There are two main strategies for uncovering a wealth of unpublicized job openings: networking and cold-calling. These strategies both work because they break into the middle of the hiring process — before positions are publicly broadcast. Even better for you as a job-seeker, if you can make a strong case for your fit with an unadvertised position, you’ll face much less competition from other job-seekers, immediately improving the chances that you’ll get a job interview.

Career Networking to Uncover Job Leads

Just about all of us network everyday throughout the day — by chatting with our fellow commuters, making phones calls or sending emails to our suppliers or customers, updating our Twitter or Facebook status, talking with our colleagues at work, meeting with friends or family for drinks or dinner after work — it’s just that most of us don’t think of it as networking.

But that’s the basic premise of networking — and why networking is such an easy job-search tool. Networking is simply about building and maintaining relationships with the people around us. The more people we know — and the more people the people we know are connected with — the more powerful our network. Remember to not only maintain your current network, but strive to regularly add new contacts — especially those who work at prospective future employers. As a colleague of ours likes to say, job-hunting is now a contact sport — and the more (relevant) contacts you have, the better your chances for success.

When you’re ready to seek that next job — or when you need to seek that next job — the simple way of uncovering hidden job opportunities and leads is by asking people in your network if they have heard of any openings for the job you’re seeking. There are two keys to being successful. First, you need to know exactly the type of job you are seeking. Second, you are not asking your network contacts for a job, but rather for information that may lead to a job.

It’s best to use a combination of traditional (face-to-face) networking and social (online) networking, as well as a combination of personal (family and friends) and professional (present and former colleagues and bosses, peers, suppliers, customers, and the like) contacts.

To really ramp up your networking techniques — discovering new ways to develop and maximize your networking opportunities, review our many networking tools in our Art of Career and Job-Search Networking section of Quintessential Careers.

Cold-Calling to Uncover Job Leads

Cold-calling is an old sales technique — and an even older job-search technique — that works as well today (if not better) as in the past. The basic premise of this approach is that you identify specific employers and send them an unsolicited cover letter and resume requesting an interview.

The first step is determining the exact type of job you are seeking. The better you know the position you seek, the better you can find employers that hire job-seekers for those positions and the stronger you can target your cover letter and resume.

The second step is identifying employers. You should target employers based on location, industry, or values/reputation. You can find employers through industry associations, chambers of commerce, and lists of best companies.

The third step is researching the employers so that you can understand their culture (using some of their own language in your cover letter and resume) and uncover the hiring manager (department head, division manager, etc.) for the position you seek.

The fourth step is crafting a compelling cover letter and focused resume that work together to land you an interview. These documents can be sent electronically or by postal mail — or through both methods.

Find more details in our article, Cold Calling: A Time-Tested Method of Job-Hunting. You’ll also want to make sure your cover letter and resume are as strong as possible.

Final Thoughts on the Hidden Job Market

These strategies will help you uncover numerous hidden job leads when you are actively seeking a new job, but what can you do to tap into these unpublicized leads when you are not on the job market? You can indirectly uncover hidden job leads even when you are not actively searching for a new position by having employers and recruiters find you for fresh job leads they are seeking to fill.

Develop your personal career brand through social networking sites, industry and professional association participation, writing relevant articles and blog posts, and developing your personal Website. Learn more, see samples, and get the resources you need in the Personal Branding & Career Self-Marketing Tools for Job-Seekers and Career Activists section of Quintessential Careers.

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

QuintCareers.com Founder Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

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