Jobseeker’s Guide to Accessing the Hidden Job Market: Part I

Part I of a 4-part series.

You may have heard the term “the hidden job market.” What is it, and how do jobseekers get access to it?

“Hidden job market” is a phrase that describes job openings that are not publicly advertised.

There are a variety of reasons why a company would not publicly post a job opening.

•     The cost of advertising an open position can be substantial.

•     They don’t want to be overwhelmed with applications.

•     A new role is being created and they are unsure of the qualifications of the ideal employee.

•     They are replacing an existing employee (who doesn’t know they are being replaced).

Most of these job opportunities are accessed through referrals from current employees of the company. It’s estimated that 60-80 percent of jobs are found through networking. While not all of the jobs found through networking are accessing the hidden job market (after all, your friends/family/acquaintance network can help you access interviews for advertised opportunities too), almost all candidates who get interviews for unadvertised jobs do so through networking.

Current employees can be an excellent source of candidates. Particularly if the company has a strong workplace culture, having existing employees identify prospective candidates can help ensure solid candidates are encouraged to apply. Some companies even reward employees — with cash or gift cards — for recommending a candidate who is eventually hired.

Employee referrals provide an advantage for the jobseeker too. Employee recommendations can carry great weight. Plus, there is less competition for job opportunities accessed through the hidden job market than for openly advertised opportunities.

Being referred by a current employee may also mean that your application is set apart from the typical internal processes that most jobseekers have to navigate — such as an applicant tracking system for online applications.

Recruiters are another source of unadvertised positions. An employer may choose to work with a recruiter to fill a job rather than advertise it publicly. The recruiter sources job candidates, screens prospective hires, and sends the hiring manager a handful of handpicked candidates. This saves the company time and money. In many cases, when working with a third-party recruiter, the company only pays the recruiter if a candidate is hired, and only if he or she stays for a specified period of time (say, six months).