8 Steps to Find Jobs in the “Hidden” Job Market

finding jobs in the hidden job market

Many of the best and highest-paying jobs are not advertised on the Internet but reside in the “unadvertised” or “hidden” job market.  It is estimated that 80% of jobs available are in the “hidden” job market.  One of the reasons that the “hidden” job market exists is that employers generally like to hire people they know or are referred to them 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? They usually haven’t developed 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.

8 Steps to Find Jobs in the “Hidden” Job Market

1.  Create Your Strengths Summary.

This is one of the “big six” marketing tools (Resume, Cover Letter, Strengths Summary, LinkedIn, Direct Employer Cover Letter, and Personal Contact Cover Letter) and is instrumental in networking with your contacts and employers.  If you haven’t already developed your Strengths Summary, do it now, as it will be used in steps to follow.

2.  Develop Your Network.

These days, most people have an online network (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) and an offline network.  As previously discussed, it is an excellent strategy to take a few minutes each day to add new connections on LinkedIn.com. To do this and develop your offline network, it is good to 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.  It is impossible to predict who will help you and who won’t accurately.  Also, 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 learn 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 that you know:

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



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


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

Chamber of Commerce members

Store owners who you frequent

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

You can also enlarge your 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 gain.  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.

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

Job hunting is stressful, and in times of stress, we revert to old habits.  For example, you may find yourself reverting to the habit of saying to your friends, “I’m looking for a job.  Let me know if you hear of anything?”  While this may feel comfortable, it is not nearly as effective as using your Strengths Summary to describe better the type of work you seek.

If you want to succeed in your job search, commit to learning and practicing the skills needed to land your desired job.

5.  Practice Networking Everywhere.

Networking can become a natural way to interact with others. This 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.  Hey, 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.

Don’t forget to send a thank you email/letter/note to anyone who gives you a lead or advice.  Here is a sample:

“Thank you for the information (or job lead) you provided me.  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, ________”

6.  Use Your Personal Contact Cover Letter.

While you can network anytime,  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 method that will produce results for you!

7.  Use Your Direct Employer Contact Cover Letter.

You can answer an employer’s prayers by contacting them in a time of need.  Employers may even 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.  They wait to apply for jobs that are advertised.  This is a proactive step where you can discover openings before they are announced.  While it is a challenging step, if you are persistent, it will produce results.  Here are the steps for developing and using direct employer contact cover letters.

8.  Do it!

Information about 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!

Next Steps

While many jobs are found in the “hidden” job market, it is still essential to have a job search strategy action plan for the advertised job market.