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How to Navigate the Hidden Job Market

So, it’s time for you to take the next step in your career—you’re searching for a change. Maybe you want to level up in your career or just want to work somewhere new. Where do you start with your job search? According to iHire, 49.4 percent—nearly half—of job seekers start their search on general job boards. Around 22 percent look toward an industry-specific job board. This makes sense, right? These job boards are basically a convenient catalog of positions. Plus, most job boards enable job searchers to filter out exactly what they are seeking—remote work, location-specific positions, targeted pay ranges, and more. But the challenge with job boards is—as we said above—that nearly half of job searchers turn to them first. That means the competition for these listed positions is fierce, making it harder to land a role. So where can you turn to if you want to cut through the competition? That’s where the hidden job market can help. In this post, we’ll explain what the hidden job market is as well as how to locate and navigate it.

What is the hidden job market? As we all know, job searching can be tough. So we understand the eye roll that might accompany hearing something called “the hidden job market.” It’s hard enough finding a role using a job board or applying to positions listed on company websites. Now we’re telling you to search for something that’s hidden? (No, thank you.) But the thing is, the hidden job market can actually make the job search easier and secure you a more fulfilling position. So let’s get started.

Basically, the hidden job market is comprised of jobs that have not been listed. That means they aren’t on job boards, social media, or even on a company’s website. This might sound counterintuitive at first. If a company is searching for someone to fill an open position, wouldn’t advertising that position be the most effective way to do that?

Reasons for not advertising a job There are several reasons why companies don’t advertise open positions. Below, we’ll highlight a few.

Cost of listing a job Posting a job can cost hundreds of dollars, and that’s far less expensive than bringing on an external recruiter. Especially for smaller businesses and startups, that’s an added expense that they might not have.

Companies want to look within first Often, businesses want to look within before opening a job to the outside world. In fact, many even offer bonuses to employees for referrals. Going this route is less expensive than posting to a job board. It also invites employees to have an active role in bringing in new teammates they already know and have a good rapport with. Other times, decision-makers want to make sure they are promoting those within, so the company opens the position internally first. Promoting someone within the company means less training on the way things are done there, which also means money saved.

Desire for privacy Another reason companies don’t advertise their open positions is because of privacy. Maybe they are starting a new section of their business or expanding in a way they can’t yet share with the public. Either way, they need to hire discreetly, and the hidden job market enables them to do this.

How to find opportunities in the hidden job market But how do you navigate the hidden job market? Below, we’ll highlight a few ways you can seek it out during your job search.

Networking The main way to take on the hidden job market is through networking. You need to find a way to get yourself in front of those making the hiring decisions. Here’s how:

  1. List the companies where you’d like to work and the positions you’d like to fill.

  2. Research these companies to the best of your ability. Learn about their mission, content, team, and even read offline publications/thought pieces.

  3. Locate the contact information for the supervisor in your role. Think of who would be the hiring manager for the position you are seeking.

  4. Reach out to them and make a connection. If they are on social media, interact with their posts. Email them about something they’ve written or an accomplishment they’ve had. However, you can, get your name in front of them and try to build a relationship with them.

  5. Identify any pain points they are feeling within their roles and propose ways to help them, if possible.

  6. Talk to them about what you hope to do and ask if they have any openings. If not, keep in touch and tell them you’d love to know when one opens up at the company.

Volunteering Another way to get your foot in the door and be among the first to know of open positions within a company is through volunteering. Many businesses have volunteer programs. If you don’t see one on their website, reach out and see if they are looking for any volunteers. By volunteering, you’ll get face time with those making the hiring decisions. They’ll also be able to see how hard of a worker you are, making them more likely to consider you for a role before opening it to the public.

Look within your company Maybe you like the business where you work, but you want to change your department. This is another opportunity to dive into the hidden job market, though one you need to navigate discreetly. Ask around about opportunities in different departments. When a role opens up within those departments, make sure to apply and talk to the hiring manager about why you’re the right choice for it.

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