How to Tap Into Jobs in the Unpublicized Employment Market

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by Katharine Hansen Ph.D.

Do you know about the hidden job market and how to tap into it to find jobs? Our analysis Is the Hidden Job Market a Myth? A Quintessential Careers Investigative Report scrutinized the hidden job market after a respected consultant suggested it does not exist. We concluded that it indeed exists and comprises a significant portion of the job market. But we also concluded that “hidden” is not the best characterization because it implies that employers deliberately hide vacancies. Thus QuintCareers is calling this market the “unpublicized” job market. This article provides an overview of how job-seekers can break into this market. Its sidebar Real Experiences in the Unpublicized Job Market gives real-life examples of how both job-seekers and employers have leveraged this market.

The key to mining the unpublicized job market is networking. The number one reason networking is so important and effective is that so many jobs are not made public — through advertising or other means. One of the best ways a job-seeker can find out about these jobs is through word-of-mouth. Networking is a highly effective way for job-seekers to hear word-of-mouth news of unadvertised vacancies. Other ways are covered in this article. These vacancies may eventually be publicized but as career-marketing coach Mark Hovind points out on a page on the hidden job market on his JobBait site “most jobs (80%) start out hidden and only the decision-maker knows.”

Let’s organize our exploration of the unpublicized job market based on types of unpublicized jobs:

Pipeline Jobs

A pipeline job is a vacancy that an employer is in the process of creating but is not yet official. Brian Krueger author of College Grad Job Hunter notes that up to 12 months can elapse between the time a manager realizes a need to hire a new employee and the time the job is made public. The manager must identify budgetary funds for the job get approvals determine the skills needed to fill the job develop a job description and more. Once the job is official the hiring manager may ask around within the organization for referrals of qualified candidates before making the vacancy public. As career coach and recruiter Bill Gaffney of the Amaxa Group Dayton OH points out the period for internally posting a new position is typically about 7 to 10 days.

Many hiring managers prefer getting internal referrals because once they publicize the job they know they will be inundated with resumes many from unqualified candidates and they will have to process those resumes. Referrals from known and trusted employees are always preferable. Sharon Rich describes what she’s hearing from hiring managers: “Many hiring managers have told me that they are absolutely overwhelmed by the tsunami of resumes they receive in response to job postings…” says Rich who is founder of Leadership Incorporated and the Layoff Bounceback program Los Angeles CA. “They are equally underwhelmed by the quality of the people who apply. Many of these people in hiring positions seek to fill open jobs through their networks rather than by posting to the masses. This makes their job significantly more manageable and results in a higher quality candidate pre-screened by their network for free” Rich notes.

Other employers rely on referrals to locate the highest quality candidates. “Some of my resume clients are highly specialized researchers therapists and scientists” reports Mandy Minor executive resume writer at J Allan Studios St. Petersburg FL “and it is definitely in the best interest of the companies they want to work for to wait and fill an opening with a recommended person.”

The implication for the job-seeker is that a strong thriving network can alert you to pipeline jobs. If you are constantly adding contacts to your network and telling members of your network what you’re looking for sooner or later you will likely encounter a network contact who responds with “Oh my company is planning to hire someone like you but the job hasn’t been posted yet.” When that happens you can ask if your contact can refer you to the hiring manager perhaps even deliver your resume personally to him or her. “It often takes the right person at the right time with a well presented and compelling reason to propel that ‘pipeline’ idea into reality” says Judi Perkins the How-To Career Coach and founder of Find the Perfect Job. The beauty of this scenario is that if you make contact with the hiring manager while the job is still in the pipeline you will have virtually no competition. Once the hiring manager starts asking for internal referrals — and especially when he or she posts the position to the public — competition will increase exponentially.

Sometimes a referral doesn’t pay off immediately or directly but lays the groundwork for a future opportunity as Certified Personal Branding Strategist and career coach Mary Rosenbaum of Your Career by Design New York City explains: “What my clients have experienced is that when they are referred by someone who already works in a company often it’s not for a particular position but rather to a particular department that might be able to use their skills. Although this doesn’t always translate into an immediate job offer it often leads to opportunities not published or easily accessed by those not on the inside or in the know. Especially in times like these where there is much restructuring and redefining of jobs and objectives in companies my clients have found it an opportune time to be there before the need is identified and be part of the process in defining change” Rosenbaum says.

Research numbers back up the power of referrals. In the 9th Annual Source of Hire study conducted by CareerXRoads referrals made up 26.7 percent of all external hires among 176420 positions supplied by 41 firms responding to the study. The study called referrals “arguably the No. 1 external source [of hire].” Even more dramatically the Graduate Admissions Counsel (GMAC) Corporate Recruiters Survey 2010 General Data Report finds that for 76 percent of responding employers employee referrals top the list of strategies they use to find new talent.

Once you have a network contact who has told you about a pipeline job one effective way to approach the hiring manager is with a referral cover letter. Read more about referral cover letters here and see a sample referral letter here. Also check out a recent Wall St. Journal article on making the most of employee referrals.

Hiring-Freeze Jobs

Even in a weak economy people leave their jobs and must be replaced. While many organizations may enact hiring freezes in tough times vacancies will still crop up. Those openings become very much like pipeline jobs — they are real but cannot be filled until a future date. So the response from your network contact might be: “Oh someone like you just left our company and will need to be replaced — but there’s a hiring freeze in place.” Ask for an introduction to the hiring manager anyway and you could be well positioned for the vacancy once the hiring freeze is lifted.

Cold-Call Jobs

One of the most time-honored effective but underused job-search methods consists of cold-contacting employers on an exploratory basis to see if they could use someone with your skills and background. You never know when this technique might result in encountering an employer with the perfect job in the pipeline. Or you might even encounter an employer with neither open jobs nor jobs in the pipeline — but with a compelling need to create a position for someone with your talents and experience.

Debra Feldman of JobWhiz who offers JobWhiz Tips for accessing the unadvertised job market describes the phenomenon of creating a job for a particular person: “New opportunities [can] result from a prospective employee interacting with the employer decision-maker and hiring authority resulting in a new position created within the organization just to hire that particular individual and tailored to his or her talents skills and interests… The job was not advertised because it didn’t exist and only materialized after the deal was struck to hire a particular person for a particular role in an organization that might not even have recognized it wanted or needed someone.”

Cold-calling cannot be willy-nilly though. You’ll need to research employers that are a good fit for your skills and then leverage your network to obtain the names of the best people to contact. Learn more in our article Cold Calling: A Time-Tested Method of Job-Hunting and see an article by Ford R. Myers on building a target company list.

Employer-Needs-Based Created Job

A step beyond cold-calling is trying to create a job for yourself — where one currently doesn’t exist — based on the employer’s needs or problems. “Find what a company is lacking and make a compelling case for why they need to hire you” says Scott Byorum director of business development Nationwide Real Estate Tax Service Inc. Santa Rosa CA. With this technique the job-seeker identifies employer’s needs and/or problems and proposes that employer create a job that the job-seeker will then fill and meet the needs or solve the problems. So how do you find out about the needs and problems? Research is one way especially research into recent news stories about the organization (Is the company expanding to new markets? Introducing a new product? It will likely need to hire). Another way is by networking with organization insiders and asking them about company needs and challenges. But the best way is through informational interviewing a sub-set of networking in which you conduct brief interviews with people inside targeted organizations and ask what keeps them up at night. Learn more about informational interviewing in our Informational Interviewing Tutorial.

Another excellent resource about developing proposals for creating jobs where they don’t exist is Denise Bissonette’s Beyond Traditional Job Development: The Art of Creating Opportunity.

Jobs Publicized Through Social Media

Technically jobs publicized through social media are of course not unpublicized. But since social-media venues like Facebook Twitter and LinkedIn are still relatively new and not well-known job-seeking channels for many candidates we include them in the unpublicized market. Unpublicized jobs also play a significant role in social media in that employers increasingly search social-media profiles to find people to fill unpublicized vacancies. The key for both scenarios is to have a strong social-media presence — especially on the “Big 3” — Facebook Twitter and LinkedIn — and to build networks of followers friends and contacts on these venues. While large numbers of social-media contacts can be helpful the quality of your contacts can play an even bigger role. Strive to add people to your social-media networks with whom you can establish meaningful connections.

Good resources for using social media in your job search include three of our most recent annual reports How the Real-Time Web Changes Job Search: The Internet as One Giant Job Board The Long Slow Death March of Job Boards — and What Will Replace Them and Web 2.0 Dominates Trends in Internet Job-Hunting. Also see our article Tools and Resources to Rev Up Your Job Search on the Real-Time Web as well as Susan Britton Whitcomb’s Getting Started on Twitter: 25 Tips to Take Advantage of the Web’s Best-Kept Job Search Secret and her book (co-authored with Deb Dib and Chandlee Bryan) The Twitter Job Search Guide.

Jobs Filled Through Recruiters Headhunters and Search Firms

Employers often hire outside firms to conduct confidential searches for people to fill vacancies especially at higher levels. These jobs are publicized only to the entities hired to fill the openings. Although recruiters and search firms work for employers and not job-seekers it makes sense to connect with those recruiters who specialize in your field. Including recruiters as members of your network can be quite effective especially to if you introduce them to members of your network who fit with current searches the recruiters are conducting. Recruiters truly appreciate those referrals which help to keep you top-of-mind when a search comes up that fits you. Working with recruiters is a nuanced endeavor so it’s wise to read up on the technique such as in our article The Care and Feeding of Headhunters and Recruiters and the book Job Seeker’s Guide To Working With Recruiters.

Temporary/Contract/Freelance/Consulting/Project-Based Job

Especially in a weak economy employers often turn to freelancers independent contractors and project-based consultants to meet short-term need and many do so without publicizing the need. “[A] hidden job market that is emerging in this economy is the gig” notes employment expert and author Candace Moody Jacksonville FL. “I know companies that are hiring professionals for projects on a limited basis while they decide if the time is right to make a new hire. These 1099 contracts sometimes result in jobs that never hit the job boards” Moody says. Learn more about landing these kinds of gigs in our sections Job and Career Resources for Temporary Workers and Job Opportunities for Gurus Consultants and Freelancers.

Final Thoughts on the Unpublicized Job Market

Job-seekers discouraged by poor results from responding to advertised job postings on job boards will want to polish their networking skills and leverage them in exploring the great variety of opportunities in the unpublicized employment market. In this economy the job-seeker who uses hidden job