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Taking Advantage of the Hidden Job Market


The "hidden job market" refers to job opportunities that are not advertised or publicly listed on job boards. We touched on this very briefly when you were learning about dealing with applicant tracking systems, but now we’ll talk about it in more detail.

There are a number of reasons companies might use this methodology to fill open positions.

  • It’s perceived as less risky to hire a candidate that they or one of their employees know personally.
  • They want to bring an existing employee into the role who is already familiar with their company culture and practices.
  • The role is sensitive for some reason and they’re trying to fill it discreetly.
  • They don’t want to publicize the salary.
  • Posting on job boards can be expensive.
  • They don’t have a standardized hiring process.
  • In addition to job seekers, public postings are viewable by their competition who they may not want to provide that visibility to.
  • Regardless of the reasons for it, the hidden job market makes up a substantial portion of all jobs. This share of jobs in this category grows considerably if you take into account positions that are listed on job boards as a formality while the employer is actively working to source candidates through less public methods. Understanding and tapping into this market can be a crucial strategy for job seekers.

Hidden Job Market Sources​

While the hidden job market refers to any job that is filled through channels other than public job board, these opportunities usually come from one of the following sources:

Networking & Referrals

Hiring managers often like to fill roles with people they, a trusted employee, or a respected industry colleague has an existing rapport with. This may be an existing personal or professional connection.

Internal Hires

Many companies prefer to transfer or promote employees from within when they can. In addition to minimizing the cost of onboarding, employers often find it to be a good tool for providing the career growth their employees are interested in and reduce staff turnover.

Direct Hires

The most common example of this is when recruiters reach out to candidates with unsolicited job opportunities. This is most frequently a method companies use when they have a role with very specific requirements and are trying to avoid wading through resumes that won’t meet their needs or when there are fewer job seekers and they’re having trouble sourcing candidates publicly.

Company Websites

Company websites don’t technically count as part of the hidden job market because positions listed can usually be viewed publicly. For the purpose of this lesson, we’re going to group them in with other hidden job market sources because it’s one job seekers often overlook and because companies often list a direct email that can help you get in front of an actual person.

Strategies to Access the Hidden Job Market​

There are a number of things you can do to increase your access to the hidden job market. The goal of most of them is to increase your chances of being the person who is thought of by someone who has a say in hiring when a job position opens up.

Networking: Earlier in the program, you learned about how to network effectively. Don’t wait until you need a job to start doing this! Since networking is all about building relationships, you need to dedicate the time to establishing genuine connections with other folks in the industry for this to be effective. In addition to meetups, you can accomplish this by attending and interacting at industry events, keeping in touch with former colleagues, seeking out mentorship, and taking the time to engage with your current network. Make an active effort to participate in conversations that do not directly benefit you and take an interest in others. If you only ever speak up when you think you might get a job out of it, you’ll come across as uninterested in a mutually beneficial connection, which can really put contacts off.

Social Media and Online Presence: The aim here is twofold. Connections you don’t actively engage with may fade over time, so the more you keep up with your network, the more likely they are to remember you for a position you might be a good fit for. Some easy ways to do this are commenting on your LinkedIn contacts’ posts or sending occasional messages to check in with folks. Having an online presence by sharing information on social media or perhaps running a blog can also make you more visible in the industry in general, increasing the likelihood that connections will come to you.

Informational Interviews: Request informal meetings with individuals in your field to learn about their company and personal journey. One of the best ways to figure out how to do something is to ask someone who has already done it. It’s important to focus on the learning opportunity rather than potential job openings, but if you make a good impression and take a genuine interest in them, they may think of you for a role when one does open up. Informational interviews can also be a great springboard into finding a mentor in the industry.

Direct Approach: Research companies you're interested in and reach out directly with a tailored resume and cover letter. This can be a little bit tricky, but with some LinkedIn and website sleuthing, you can often find the name and email of the relevant contact at the company. You can also try calling the company directly to find out who would be best to reach out to.

Volunteering: These can provide valuable experience and connections in your desired field. In tech, this could take a number of forms. You could try joining an open source project, participate in a hackathon, volunteer to staff a tech event, or even reach out to a nonprofit and see if there’s work you could do for them. The hidden job market represents a significant segment of the job market. While it requires a different approach than submitting jobs on Indeed or other job boards, successfully navigating it can lead to rewarding job opportunities that might not be accessible through traditional job search methods. Networking and building strong professional relationships are key to tapping into this market.