How to Tap the Hidden Job Market for Your Next Gig

hidden job marketYou’ve heard the term, “The Hidden Job Market.” But why does it exist and how can you tap into these hidden jobs?

The hidden job market refers to jobs that are available but haven’t been posted or advertised.

Why in the world would a company NOT advertise a job opening?

Simple. Because the employer becomes inundated with emails and phone calls and all the work associated with processing applications. Yes, applicant tracking systems have helped with some of this, but the process of filling a job is a royal pain for most organizations. So it is easier to distribute the opening internally and have employees help by referring their friends and/or family. This serves as a way of pre-vetting candidates.

Another reason is an organization may not publicize an opening is because they plan to replace someone but this employee doesn’t know they will be replaced/fired.

If you don’t like this or feel it isn’t fair, you should know: it’s been going on forever. For example: When was the last time you saw a CEO job posted online?

The Hidden Job Market

You know the iceberg analogy? Where the visible part of the iceberg, the part above water, is much smaller than the much larger ice formation under the waterline?

So when you think about the hidden job market, think about the jobs that are under water. The vast majority of jobs are filled through word of mouth or though unadvertised channels.  Jobs in the hidden job market (under the water line) are filled when a manager hires someone they know, someone an employee knows or someone who comes referred.

Learn more about why referrals are the best hiring method by reading 7 Things You Must Know About Getting Referred for a Job.

The Traditional Job Market

The visible portion of the iceberg represents the publicly posted/shared job listing and this is much smaller.

Think about all the ways a job is advertised:

  • It can get posted on the company career page and shared through social media (free).
  • It can be posted on job boards. (This can cost some big money, depending on the board.)
  • Third party recruiters or employment services may be contacted to help fill the job, especially if the job requires special skills.

How long do you think the manager knew about the opening before going to HR.  And then how long did it take HR to begin publicizing/advertising the job. Weeks or months could go by without the job being promoted, and yet, it was available and people inside the organization knew about the vacancy.

Yes, some companies must post a job opening, however, that doesn’t mean they actually have to interview everyone who applies.

From the time the manager knew about the vacancy, he/she has probably been talking about the opening and previewing candidates who informally come forward . This means that by the time the job is finally posted, a candidate may already been selected.

How To Tap Into The Hidden Job Market

The million dollar question is, how do you tap into this hidden job market? It should be clear to you by now.

Your network!

In other words, you want to uncover the hidden jobs by talking with people who work inside companies where there may be an opening that hasn’t been advertised.

While networking, remember there’s just one rule you must follow: You never ask for a job! Instead, keep in mind you are gathering valuable information from a respected colleague that will help you decide your next career move.

Network Strategically

So, you’ve begun networking- meeting all sorts of people but you aren’t getting any leads and it feels like a waste of time.

You need focus and you need a strategy to organize your networking efforts.

Start With Who You Know

First, identify everyone you know. Then, make a list. You can export your LinkedIn contacts to an Excel spreadsheet to get started. Here’s a resource to help you brainstorm all the different types of people you should be networking with. Read this Who Are the “Right” People to Meet?

Advance To Who You’d Like To Know

The next step is to create a list of companies you would like to work for or companies you find interesting. Then, go to LinkedIn and see who you know who works in each of those companies. These are people will become valuable resources. They know about the company and will be the first to hear about new opportunities.

Nurture Your Network

It isn’t enough to meet someone once and expect they’ll remember you in a couple of weeks or months. It is your responsibility to nurture your network and find ways to  keep in touch once you’ve met them so they don’t forget about you.

Put Your Plan On Paper

You need a plan to guide your job search activities. Every new company or product uses a marketing plan. You should too.

Here’s why your job search needs focus:

  • So that people you network with can help you and provide job leads that you are interested in.
  • You can’t find a job if you don’t know what you are looking for.
  • It will keep you motivated and proactively searching.

Learn how to create your marketing plan Your Marketing Plan.

Bonus: Looking for a tool to help you find jobs that may only be posted on a company’s career page? LinkUp is a search engine for jobs it pulls from company websites, not the “boards.”

Follow all this advice… and the hidden job market won’t be so hidden. At least to you.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Career Sherpa.


career sherpa


Hannah Morgan hiring prosAbout the Author: Hannah Morgan is a career sherpa, guiding new job seekers through the treacherous terrain of job search. If you are looking for no-nonsense advice, check out her site Career Sherpa. And follow Hannah on Twitter for the latest job search news and trends!



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