Accessing the Hidden Job Market

Spread the word
How others can help
How you can prepare
Call the hiring manager
Do your homework

Most job openings are not advertised. These jobs that are not advertised are found in what’s called the “hidden job market.” From 60% to 90% of all job opportunities are part of the hidden job market. Advertising jobs in the newspaper or on the Web costs employers money and time. For each ad they place, they could get thousands of résumés. Only a few of the applicants are qualified but all résumés must be looked at. Hiring managers would much rather hire someone who has been recommended by a colleague or friend. How do you, the job seeker, make sure it’s your name the colleague or friend is recommending?

Spread the word
Start by spreading the word that you are looking for work. Tell everyone you know. This includes:

  • family
  • friends
  • neighbours
  • classmates
  • people in your community
  • people in your place of worship
  • people where you volunteer
  • the person who owns the corner variety store
  • your letter carrier
  • the local busybody1
  • everyone you know

Most of us feel embarrassed about asking for help in our job search, but friends and family ask for help all the time. You wouldn’t think it odd if a friend asked you for help fixing his roof or moving her across town or feeding his cat for a week – all of these tasks are much more difficult than helping you with your job search.

How others can help
Be specific about how your friends and contacts can help you. Depending on where these people work, you can ask them to:

  • keep their eyes peeled2 for internal postings in their company
  • mention they know a job seeker whenever they mingle3 with their own networks
  • check with the human resources department where they work to see if they expect any job openings soon
  • pass your calling card on to anyone who may have a job lead for you. (A calling card is like business card except that instead of the job you have listed, it lists the job you want. On one side is your name, anticipated job title, phone number and e-mail address, on the other side you list 3 or 4 of your most marketable skills. You can easily give this card to people when you meet them so that they will have your contact information should they hear of an appropriate job opportunity.)

Ask your contact to get specific information, at least names and phone numbers. Ask your contact if you can use his/her name. Call all referrals as soon as possible, even the ones that don’t seem appropriate, so your contact knows you are taking your job search seriously.

Make sure they understand that any and all leads are good leads.

How you can prepare
When you ask people you know to help you with your job search, it is important that you give them enough information. You must give them specific details so they can be specific with their contacts. It doesn’t help you if your uncle runs into someone who is hiring but he can’t remember what job you are looking for and what your background is.

Be specific about the type of position are you looking for:

  • “I am looking for an accounting job in a small manufacturing firm.”
  • “I am looking for a project management position in an engineering firm.”

Be specific about what you have to offer an employer.

  • “I have 15 years accounting experience and I have started studying for my Certified General Accounting certification at Georgian College.”
  • “I have 10 years project management and engineering experience and have begun the process to get my Canadian certification.”

Asking your acquaintances to help you is sometimes difficult but most people are happy to help. The more people you ask, the more who will say yes and the easier it will be for you to find work.

Call the hiring manager
Remember that for each position an employer advertises they could receive thousands of résumés. Hiring managers would much rather have the perfect candidate call and offer his or her services. Why not make that hiring manager’s day by calling and offering your services?

  • Knock on the door of any company that interests you, whether they have any vacancies listed or not, and tell them you are looking for work.
  • Ask if you can leave your résumé. The fact that you showed enough initiative to actually go to the office might work in your favour.
  • Look in the local Yellow Pages for any company that employs people that do the kind of work you do and ask if they are hiring for the type of position you are looking for.
  • If they don’t have any positions, ask if they know of any company that is hiring.

Do your homework
Instead of asking for a job, it’s better to tell the employer how you, as an experienced professional, can add value to his/her company. In order to do this, though, you need to know about the company and what skills you have that would be seen as an asset to that employer. Start by doing some research. Most Employment Resource Centres and libraries have directories that list local corporations and agencies. Look in the local Yellow Pages under subjects/fields that interest you.

After you have found some company names, start doing informational interviews to find out which companies you would like to work for. Ask questions to determine if the company has a corporate culture that would be healthy for you. When you have found a place that seems like a good fit4, call.