Find Jobs in the “Hidden” Job Market

iceberg comparison to the hidden job market

An iceberg, with only 10% of its mass visible above water, shares a compelling parallel with the “hidden job market,” where a staggering 80% of job opportunities are more difficult to view. In both instances, the visible portion, whether of the iceberg or the advertised job market (made up mainly of job boards), represents only a fraction of the larger reality. The submerged 90% of the iceberg mirrors 80% of jobs in the hidden market, underscoring the notion that a substantial realm beneath the surface awaits exploration. Just as the true majesty of an iceberg lies beneath the waterline, most of the best job opportunities exist beyond the traditional job search channels, awaiting discovery through proactive networking, personal connections, and strategic approaches to contacting employers directly. This comparison is a vivid metaphor for the hidden job market’s expansive and often untapped potential.

Many of the best and highest-paying jobs are not advertised on the Internet but reside in the “unadvertised” or “hidden” job market. Employers generally would like to hire people they know or are referred to rather than sift through hundreds of resumes of people they don’t know. So why do most job hunters never take advantage of this rich source of quality jobs? Usually, they still need to develop the essential skill set for tapping into the hidden job market.

Career experts agree that one of the primary ways to find jobs in the hidden job market is to network with personal contacts. Just knowing that networking is essential, however, is not enough. You need to develop specific skills to enlarge and utilize your network effectively.

The strategy of finding jobs in the “hidden” job market stretches most people’s comfort zone. Job hunters rate this strategy as a 9 or 10 on a difficulty scale, with one being easy and ten being the most difficult. The good news is, like any new skill, you can learn to do this, and the more you do it, the more natural it will feel. Also, remember that very few job hunters use this powerful technique, and thus, you will find jobs that others do not. You will also impress employers with your resourcefulness.

Eight Keys to Find Jobs in The Unadvertised Hidden Job Market

1. Create Your Strengths Summary.

This is one of the “big six” marketing tools and is very useful for networking with personal contacts and employers. If you haven’t already developed your Strengths Summary, do it now, as it will be used in the steps to follow.

2. Develop Your Network.

These days, most people have an online and offline network (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.). As previously discussed, an excellent strategy is to take a few minutes daily to identify new connections. To do this:

  • List people you know who might be helpful in your job search.
  • Add anyone you know, as everyone has a wealth of information you can trigger by asking the right questions.
  • Remember, it is not who you know but who you are willing to get to know. For example, a person you introduce yourself to at an association meeting could know about a new job being developed at their company that they would love to do.

Here is a trigger list to help you brainstorm people you know:

Family (parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, distant relatives)

Friends

Neighbors

Current coworkers

Past coworkers

Your significant other’s family and friends

Friends of your parents

Former and current classmates, professors, teachers

Builders, plumbers, electricians, hair stylists, etc.

PTA members

Association/society members

Parents of your children’s friends

Current and past coworkers

Church groups and members

Pastors, priests, rabbis, and other religious leaders

Current and former employers

Former clients and customers

Librarians

Professionals (Doctors, Dentists, Attorneys, CPAs, Psychologists, Bankers, veterinarians, Realtors, Insurance Agents, etc.)

Chamber of Commerce members

Store owners who you frequent

Most people can write down a hundred or more people that they know. But even if you can only write down ten or twenty, networking will still work for you.

You can also enlarge your personal contact network by using strategies such as soliciting referrals from your initial contacts list, attending professional association meetings for the field of work you are targeting, and using social media such as LinkedIn.

3. Develop the Right Mindset.

Many people avoid networking because they believe they will be “using” people for their own benefit. This is a legitimate concern because people who approach networking thinking only about their needs risk alienating their friends and professional colleagues.

Networking, however, can be a mutually beneficial process. Yes, you will be asking for something you need, but you can also be on the lookout for ways you might be of service to the other person. From this perspective, networking can be “win-win.” Be alert for contacts, information, articles, or other resources you have that could be of assistance to the other person, and readily offer to share them.

4. Stretch Your Comfort Zone.

Many people do not network effectively because they have not forced themselves out of their comfort zones to learn or refine the necessary networking skills.

Job hunting is stressful, and in times of stress, we revert to old habits. For many, the old habits include only using job boards to find job openings. And as you have learned, only about 20 percent of jobs are advertised on job boards.

To succeed in your job search, commit to learning and practicing the networking skills needed to land your desired job.

5. Practice Networking Everywhere.

Anytime you are with people, you can network in a very natural manner. Networking can happen with family and friends when you get together, at association meetings, at church, or even with someone you meet standing in line at the grocery store. For example, when talking with family or friends, ask them how they are doing. They will typically then ask you how you are doing, to which you can respond:

“I’m doing great. I don’t know if I told you, but I’m currently seeking a full-time position in graphic design. I have over two years of experience designing websites, brochures, newsletters, and training materials. I love doing graphic design and helping customers by producing quality marketing materials that help their businesses. Do you have any advice related to companies or individuals that would be good for me to contact?”

As you can see, your answer uses parts of your Strengths Summary followed by a question. If the person gives you a name or two, ask for all the details (spelling of their name, company they work for, phone number, email, and address), and if you can, tell the person they referred you.

Remember to send a thank you email/letter/note to anyone who gives you a lead or advice. Here is an example:

“Thank you for the information (or job lead) you provided. Should you think of anything else that might be helpful for my job search, please feel free to contact me at (phone number and email address).

Sincerely,

Jim Smith

Your thank you note provides another opportunity for your personal contact to think about how they can help you.

6. Use Your Personal Contact Cover Letter.

While you can network anytime with people, you can also implement an intentional process of sending your contacts an email/letter along with your resume and then follow up with a phone call. Here is a proven process using your Personal Contact Cover Letter to find job openings in the “hidden” job market.

7. Use Your Direct Employer Contact Cover Letter.

You can answer an employer’s prayers by contacting them in their time of need. Employers may create a position for you if they see that you would bring more value to the company than you would cost. Most job seekers are reactive, searching for openings on job boards. Using this type of cover letter is a proactive step in discovering unadvertised openings. While it is challenging, it will produce results if you are persistent. Here are the steps for using a Direct Employer Contact Cover Letter to find “hidden” jobs.

8. Network Every Day

Knowledge about job networking is not enough. Practicing networking skills is not enough. Ultimately, you have to use the skills you have learned and practiced. For many people, soliciting information, referrals, and leads does not come easily. But the good news is that the more you do it, the easier it will become. Learn, practice, pray, and then “move your mouth” when you find yourself with others. You never know what will come of a “chance encounter” with the parent you are sitting next to at your child’s ball game or the person you meet at a friend’s barbecue. Your next job may be just a conversation away!

Summary

While approximately 80% of jobs are found in the “hidden” job market,” that leaves approximately 20% that are in the advertised job market. Because so many jobs are in the “hidden” job market, we recommend you spend at least 60% of your job search time using tools like the Personal Contact Cover Letter and Direct Employer Contact Cover Letter. You can then use the remainder of your job search time to find and apply for advertised jobs, such as jobs found on Indeed.com, Glassdoor.com, LinkedIn.com, ZipRecruiter.com, and others.

As a next step in your job search, you can learn how to develop a job search strategy action plan for the advertised job market.