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Tap the hidden job market

Sep. 20, 2013
 

The process of finding employment has quietly undergone an evolution. Job seekers are discovering that many positions are not posted to the public. In fact, the online career guidance resource Quintessential Careers reports that only 15 to 20 percent of available jobs post to newspapers, online job boards or employment agencies.

“Not advertised?” ask many exasperated, out-of-work job candidates who regularly scour newspapers and websites in the hopes of finding a job. If this traditional search yields just a fraction of available employment opportunities, where are the bulk of open positions hiding? Welcome to the new hidden job market.

The hidden job market is real, and as discussed on LinkedIn, reportedly more effective than the old conventional way.

“At least half of all new hires find employment through networking,” says Jason Rinsky, national director of Career Services at the Brown Mackie College system of schools.

Yes, good old-fashioned word-of-mouth can help you find the back door to employment options.

Why is the hidden job market so huge?

“Recruiters want to minimize the amount they spend on advertising,” said Cynthia Scarlett, chair of the Graduate Business and Organizational Leadership programs at Argosy University, Denver. “If they can get a recommendation, it puts them one step ahead in the vetting process.”

Hiring managers, too, seem more likely to hire a person who has been recommended by a co-worker or trusted associate. A 2012 New York Federal Reserve Bank study bears this out, citing that referred candidates were twice as likely to land interviews compared to those who were not referred, and 40 percent more likely to be hired.

“Hiring managers will often consider people inside the company for a new position, or people they know. Often, the next step is to seek recommendations from trusted sources. A referred candidate saves time over total stranger,” Scarlett said. “Networking is a vital step when looking for a job.”

Reinvigorate your networking efforts

Networking is not a new idea. It is simply building relationships with people. Attending networking events may seem daunting to some; however, Rinsky points out, “Each experience tends to increase confidence in the participant.”

A little preparation goes a long way toward building a professional network. Scarlett advises everyone to practice the elevator pitch and think about ways to open conversations.

“Brainstorm questions about what to ask those in your industry. And, of course, have your resume prepared and ready to go,” she said.

Manage your networking expectations

Few people are likely to attend a single networking event and come away with a job.

“Don’t go to a big professional meeting and hand out hundreds of business cards. Try to come away from each event with two relevant contacts,” Scarlett said. “Focus on quality, not quantity. This won’t get you a job next week, but it will provide a manageable way to follow up with your new contacts.”

Follow up with new contacts

Remember, this is your job search, your professional life. Take the initiative to follow up with new contacts to support your connection.

“You could ask if they are interested in an email from you about the topic you’ve been discussing,” Scarlett said. “Or, suggest that you meet for coffee and continue the conversation next week.”

One step at a time, you are building a relationship.

Network by keyboard with purpose

Many people are tapping LinkedIn, the popular business social network, to connect with professional groups and find work.

“This is a tool that should be used in a professional way, Rinsky said. “It is not a Facebook equivalent; however it is a smart way to connect with people in your industry.”

Don't overlook serendipity

You never know when the person next to you at the grocery store, or sitting behind you in a restaurant, is a hiring manager with a position to fill.

“Networking can happen anywhere, in a bank or at volunteer events,” Scarlett said. “It does happen that way; every now and again, someone lands a job by way of a chance encounter.”

It pays to be prepared in how you might present yourself, and the questions you might ask of people you meet in your everyday life.

Networking is the key to the hidden job market.

“When you’re looking for a job, one person has only so much capacity, Rinsky said. “With each person who helps, you’ve got multiple eyes and ears working on your behalf. The more people involved, the greater your chances will be to find that dream job.”

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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