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Three Ways to Uncover the Hidden Job Market

The “hidden job market” can be a confusing expression, as most employers aren’t going out of their way to actually hide available jobs. In fact, the hidden job market simply refers to open positions that are not listed in the public domain for candidates to discover and apply for. So, why would a business choose not to publish an open position? There are many reasons:

  • The company needs to replace an employee who is not performing well, and human resources doesn’t want the current occupant to know he or she is being terminated until the replacement has accepted the position.

  • The employer is concerned about revealing strategic or confidential initiatives to its competitors through a job posting.

  • To avoid being inundated with unqualified applicants, the organization chooses to use other recruitment channels, such as employee referrals or direct sourcing.

  • Openings are not posted because the company fills these roles through a search firm or a recruiter. This is particularly common for executive-level positions.

There’s no way to tell how many hidden jobs are filled each year, but one thing you can count on is that there’s far less competition for hidden jobs than for those that are advertised. To advance your career by finding and tapping into the hidden job market, follow these three strategies:

Think “outbound.”As the term implies, this tactic consists of reaching out to and engaging individuals within your network, connecting with hiring authorities, and targeting companies that could help your job search. To improve your ability to engage the right people

  • identify the top 25-50 employers based on the most important criteria for you, and maintain a laser focus on what’s going on in their organizations

  • send a personalized invitation — five sentences or fewer — to key contacts, such as heads of supply chain, department leaders, general managers of factories and distribution centers, and employees who do the same work as you

  • join supply chain associations; attend their networking events; and leverage membership directories to schedule meetings with members from your local chapter who could help with your job search, especially those who work at your target employers

  • keep in touch with classmates and facilitate networking opportunities through alumni associations, or search for and reach out to supply chain professionals on LinkedIn who attended your university

  • make an effort to reconnect with former colleagues — you never know where they might be working now

  • join LinkedIn groups related to your profession or interests and engage in conversations with the goal of helping others, sharing useful articles and the like.

Think “inbound.”Attract the hidden job market to you. The methods here are similar to search engine optimization, which is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of search engine results. Keywords are critical to success — the terms themselves and where and how often they are used. Whether it’s your LinkedIn profile, a personal website, your blog or your resume, when written correctly, you can significantly improve your ability to attract job offers. Start by writing down a list of the most popular keywords used to describe your job; industry; and functional, technical and leadership skills. Use a keyword research tool to learn the most common keywords being searched for on the internet by people with your background, skills and experience. Next, search for the most popular keywords — in particular, in the job title and keyword search fields — on LinkedIn’s advanced search page. This will help you find LinkedIn members who work in your profession and have similar skill sets and industry focus. Pay very close attention to the profiles that appear on the first page of the search results and ask yourself why they are at the top of the list. Analyze these profiles, taking notes on what keywords are used most often and where they appear within each profile. Without copying from anyone’s profile, as this would be a form of plagiarism, use what you learn to optimize your own information — on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Quora, your professional website or blog, and other websites. Keep in mind that improvements to your search rankings won’t happen overnight; you may need to experiment and tweak the information you present to drive better results. Then, set your LinkedIn profile to “open to new opportunities” to signal that you are receptive to being contacted by recruiters. You can check a box to hide the setting from your current employer. (Keep in mind that nothing is fool-proof, and it’s always possible that someone from your current organization will see that you have triggered this preference.) Write and publish content in your areas of expertise. There are numerous media platforms for publishing content: supply chain trade magazines such as SCM Now (learn more at, Reddit, Medium and many more. This is a great way to showcase your experience, know-how, and always highly valuable communication skills to peers and potential employers. Similarly, consider giving a speech or presentation to your local ASCM chapter; other industry associations or networking avenues such as ToastMasters, which is dedicated to the art of public speaking.

Think “nurture.”No one wants to receive a call from someone seeking employment help after years of zero contact. Don’t make the mistake of only interacting during an active job search. Keep your network alive — it is a primary conduit to the hidden job market and a key factor in your career success. Stay active online; think about how you can help others; and schedule time on your calendar each week to engage, share articles, offer advice, find new contacts and comment on posts. Consider using a low-cost customer relationship management solution to store contacts and notes and set recurring reminders to prompt you to reconnect with someone. Following these steps will help you engage and attract others while cultivating your network. This way, when a great hidden opportunity does come along, your qualifications will be no secret.

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