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Accessing the Hidden Job Market

19 Sep, 2013

Accessing the Hidden Job Market

The Truth Behind the Open Job Market

Most job seekers rely on the open job market which includes job posting boards and help wanted advertisements in local newspapers to source job leads. While it appears on the surface that these search vehicles have an abundant number of job leads, the reality is that very few people secure their positions through these methods of search. Only about 5-10% of people in search find their jobs using these two methods combined.

One of the main reasons it is so difficult to land a job through a job board is that the job seeker is faced with insurmountable competition and limited means to differentiate their candidacy. It’s not unusual for a hiring manager to receive over 500 resumes for one open position. With no personal relationship with the hiring authority, the job seeker is forced to rely on technology and hope that the resume they submitted for an online opportunity contains enough keywords and consistency with the job spec to garner an acknowledgement from the hiring manager.

The sad truth is that the number of companies that even acknowledge receipt of the resume is under 25% and the percentage of companies that offer candidates any additional information regarding their candidacy is in the single digits.

How to Make Time Spent in the Open Job Market More Effective

So what’s a job seeker to do? Send their resume out into cyberspace, cross their fingers, and hope for the best? Absolutely not. Far too many people waste valuable hours of search time sending their resumes into a virtual black hole. If an unemployed job seeker considers their full-time job to be finding a job and an employed job seeker considers their search to be a part-time job, no more than two hours of each week should be dedicated to posting for jobs online. Candidates should be frugal with the amount of time they spend online and take advantage of time saving online search methods such as using aggregate boards such as SimplyHired, Indeed, and Jobster which cull information from numerous online boards or setting up job email alerts on several large or niche board sites.

Why There is More Opportunity in the Hidden Job Market

Once the two hours of online search is accounted for, the job seeker still has several hours per week to dedicate to the rest of their search. Most people (over 80%) find their jobs through the hidden job market, the jobs that are not posted and that are communicated word of mouth. Open positions might not be listed on job boards for several reasons. Perhaps the company once had the position on a board and was unsuccessful in finding a candidate, so they are now searching offline. Maybe the company doesn’t have the money to post online.

Many companies consider their employee referral programs a better source of hires and promote the program extensively throughout the firm. Or a situation exists in the office where someone is on performance counseling and will probably be managed out of the organization in the coming months. Still other companies have policies regarding internal posting practices and make opportunities available to their current employees before looking outside for potential candidates. In some instances a company plans to expand in a particular area but doesn’t want to post online for fear of tipping off the competition regarding their future expansion plans. These are all reasons why a viable position might not be posted online.

Finding Job Leads Through Cold Call Techniques

There are two main ways to access jobs in the hidden job market. The first is to cold call into an organization and try to find a connection to the person who is capable of making a hiring decision. Approximately 10-20% of people in search find their jobs by cold calling into companies. The cold call is made regardless of whether there is an open position or not. The goal is to identify industries and companies that provide a good fit for the job seeker based on their competencies, achievements, and geography and try to gain an introduction to someone in the company to convince them that you are a person worth knowing. By proactively establishing the relationship before the hiring authority has an actual need, you increase your chances of being the go to guy once a viable position surfaces.

Prospecting for a new job is very similar to sales prospecting. The difference is that in the first scenario you are marketing yourself. There are numerous ways to find leads into companies. The public library houses an abundance of company-relevant reference guides that you can use to cull valuable information about an industry, company, or decision maker. Some of the many valuable resources available include Hoovers, The Corporate Directory of U.S. Public Companies, Consulting and Consulting Organization Directory, Gold Book of Venture Capital Firms, Thomas Register of Manufacturing Firms, and the Corporate Finance Sourcebook. In addition, there are professional research firms such as FTT Research that specialize in finding decision makers within companies.

Networking Your Way to Your Next Job

The second and most successful method of sourcing jobs through the hidden job market is networking. Over 70% of people in search find their jobs through networking. Networking at its most fundamental level is information sharing and relationship building. When you network effectively, you seek out opportunities to meet new people, share information about yourself, learn about other people, and offer assistance to others whenever possible.

Good networkers agree to meet with people to try to help them even if on the surface there is nothing in it for them. They open up their minds and their rolodex, share contacts and try to make recommendations in an effort to help people get closer to their personal and professional goals. Networking is not about asking for favors or asking for jobs. As a matter of fact, when you network you should never ask for a job. Doing so might make the other person uncomfortable, because they may not know of a job opening or the appropriate decision maker. Good networkers ask for information about an industry, company, or person to get one step closer to the decision maker. The problem that most people face when they network is that their circle of contacts has stagnated over the years because they have become far too comfortable within their inner circles. But it’s never too late to jump start your network and start planning for your future.

Job seekers can start to accelerate their networking efforts by first identifying people in their immediate world. This may include friends, family, members of local community or religious organizations, doctors, dentist, accountants, etc. Everyone you know knows approximately 200 other people and one goal of networking is to try to tap into the people that your acquaintances know to extend your visibility and reach and try to pinpoint others who can help you in your search. Next try to identify companies you are interested in and people who work for those companies. They don’t have to be people who do what you do; they act as a bridge between you and the people you need to meet at a company. They can offer you invaluable information about the company’s culture, how open jobs are handled, where employees hang out after hours, etc. They can introduce you to others in that company who may be one step closer to your ultimate decision maker.

Excellent resources for finding members of companies you are interested in include professional associations, virtual social/business networking sites such as LinkedIn, Ryze, and and school alumni sites including those listed on your undergraduate/graduate school home page and Classmates.com.

Whether you are currently in job search or are planning for a new position or career in the future, it is imperative that you begin to tap into the hidden job market now to build relationships with people and companies that can help you secure a place for yourself in another organization in the future. Make networking an integral part of your career strategy today so you can reap the rewards of the process for years to come.

Copyrighted — Barbara Safani. May not be used or reproduced without express permission.

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