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6 steps to penetrate the Hidden Job Market

When I think about the time my wife and I were shoveling our walkway last winter, I see that time as analogous to the Hidden Job Market (HJM). The problem I had that day was trying to locate another shovel whose location was only known by my wife. It’s under the snow pile, she told me. Where exactly? I replied. Under that huge pile, she pointed to a mountainous heap. Similar to a jobseeker who needs to know where the jobs are, I needed to know where the shovel was. My wife represented a knowledgeable contact who knew generally where the shovel was. Fortunately I knew there was a shovel and simply had to ask where it was. In many cases the hunt for a job is not that easy for the typical jobseeker. They’re competing in a stiff job market which favors the employer (a buyer’s market), who prefers to hire people they know and trust. It estimated that 75%-80% of the good jobs are hidden. This means that 25%-20% are advertised. Unfortunately an estimated 85% of job seekers concentrate on the advertised jobs, creating intense competition and very little chance for success. What is the solution to getting known and trusted by the employer? Take the following steps:

1. Develop a list of companies for which you’d like to work. This can be done by Googling your occupation, industry, and desired location. On LinkedIn, go to the Companies page, select a company, and scroll down to the right side of the page where similar companies are listed. Instead of spending a great deal of time applying for jobs through the job boards, use more time researching your target companies. This is part of your labor market research. You can also talk to people who work at these companies, people who would know more about them.

2. Make contact with the appropriate people at these companies and send them an approach letter or put in a call, asking for an informational meeting. The result of this meeting should impress your new contact so much that he/she is willing to recommend you to a hiring manager. Another result from informational meetings is developing your network with quality connections. Ask for contact information for other quality connections before leaving your informational meeting.

3. Attend networking events, where people who are currently working can provide valuable information as to where jobs may exist, maybe at their own company. Google for business networking events in your area, as well as industry specific affiliations. Also attend job seeker networking events, where you’ll give and receive information and advice from people who are also looking for work. Don’t expect immediate gratification; rather go with the intention of building relationships.

4. Schedule appointments with selected connections. For example, get together for coffee with former colleagues who have been keeping their ear to the pavement for you. Some believe this approach is most effective. In other words, less is better. It’s important to keep these valuable connections in the loop by sending emails letting them know your progress in the job search. Don’t make it all about the job search, though. Send an occasional email inquiring about your connections’ personal life.

5. Connect with people in the community. Sometimes this can be the most effective way to locate opportunities. Ask your neighbor who works at one of your desired companies if he/she would be willing to deliver your résumé to a hiring manager. One of my customers approached me about how he landed a job, bragging that he didn’t have to network. He told me he handed his résumé to his neighbor who then delivered it to the hiring manager in the department. My customer got an interview and landed his job. I didn’t want to bust his bubble, but he networked to get the job.

6. A more passive way to penetrate the HJM is to let recruiters do the seeking. Make your LinkedIn campaign as fruitful as possible by developing a kick-ass profile, connecting with people in your industry, and engaging with your connections. The idea here is to prompt employers to contact you after they’ve read your profile. There are two major benefits derived by the smart employer who is looking for awesome talent via LinkedIn.

  • They save the cost of a traditional hiring process which can run into the thousands, including advertising on the job boards, potentially hiring a search agency to locate and filter candidates, the people power it takes to review résumés and then interviewing candidates.

  • The second benefit is precluding the need to interview complete strangers. Instead an employer can initiate contact via phone or e-mail and engage a discussion with job seekers. Job seekers essentially become a known commodity before the employer decides to invite them in for an interview.

My wife, mostly, and I finished shoveling the walkway because she knew where the second shovel was. Had she not known, I would have had to shovel the walkway on my own. I suppose I could have found the shovel if I dug through a ton of snow, but I probably would have given up the search.

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