Conventional wisdom suggests that job seekers look for “openings” or “vacancies.” According to this approach, if you connect with people who don’t have or know of openings, you’re wasting time. However, data reveals that only 10%-20% of good jobs are advertised. Consider the following:
- Mark is looking for a sales job. His friend, Tim, loves his job at a dental supply company in Chicago and suggests that Mark meet with the St. Louis manager for a get-acquainted conversation. There are no current openings, but Mark follows his friend’s advice. The meeting goes well. He likes what he hears about the company, and his St. Louis contact tells him about the potential of a spring hire. Mark is invited to meet with a couple of other local employees, and he learns that a salesperson just left. Less than a week later, Mark is offered and accepts that former-salesperson’s job. The position was never advertised.
- Kelly applied for an advertised position in the marketing department of an architectural firm. Interviews went well, but Kelly realized that the job wouldn’t play to her strengths. She expressed both her interest in the firm and her concern about the job’s fit, and regretfully declined the offer. Asked by the firm to stay in touch, she did. Several weeks later Kelly was offered a higher-level (and higher-paying) position that was a better fit. The offer resulted from the termination of an under-performing employee. Although the job Kelly applied for was published, the job she was offered and accepted was never advertised.
- Through an information-gathering meeting at a local university, Lisa was referred to another person at that institution. Unknown to Sharon, a job had been advertised and interviews with 3 finalists had already been arranged. Even though the deadline had passed and her resume would probably not have made it through the HR screening process, her poise and focus so impressed her contacts that she was invited to interview as a last-minute, 4th candidate. After a strong round of interviews, she was hired, even over an internal candidate with more experience. Though the position was advertised, Sharon didn’t know that; she was invited to interview, even after the official deadline had passed.
- Jon had a referral meeting with the Executive Director of a non-profit agency whose services he had used several years earlier. Jon believed in the agency’s service and mission. His enthusiasm and business background impressed the Director. Although he knew that Jon would be a great addition to his staff, there wasn’t money to offer him a job. Two months later, the agency was approved for a new program. The director contacted Jon and created a position for him. The opportunity was never advertised.
Unlike most job hunters, Mark, Kelly, Lisa, and Jon did not restrict themselves to the frustrating, even maddening, conventional-wisdom approach of looking only for openings. They tapped into the hidden—the unpublished—market. If they’d looked only for official, advertised vacancies, they’d be among the legions of applicants hoping and praying for invitations to interview.
What is the Hidden Job Market?
The hidden job market consists of any unmet need an employer has, before it’s made public. Unadvertised opportunities result from reorganizations, promotions, resignations, and growth. Even downsizing can create opportunities! Ironically, the best jobs can emerge from a need an employer doesn’t know she has until she meets you.
Phase 1 –> No need; no action. The company or department is fully staffed. –>Thus, “no openings.” (Jon met with the Director at this stage.)
Phase 2 –> A need emerges; no formal action taken. Possible addition of staff, reorganizing, early retirement, an underperformer, staff member leaving. –> Thus, “no openings.” (Mark’s contact with the St. Louis manager happened at this stage.)
Phase 3 –> A need is clear; unpublished action begins. Proposal for adding staff (awaiting financial and/or Human Resources approval), sudden departure of an employee, rapid growth, anticipated need. –> Still, “no openings.” (Kelly’s interview for the position that opened up after her first interview.)
Phase 4 –> The need is clear, and it’s published—on the company website, online (Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, craigslist.org; in the paper; in professional publications). –> Finally, an “opening.” (Lisa’s contact ended up here, though she was unaware of the advertised position.)
Implications for Your Search
Don’t confine your job search just to openings. Purposeful contact with hiring decision makers, even when there are no vacancies (stages 1-3), yields far more opportunities than intensive scouring of online postings, newspapers, and trade publications.
This approach saves trying to penetrate the impersonal fortress created by Human Resources departments. You learn about unmet needs, possible opportunities, and openings-yet-to-be published. You have contact long before the thundering horde appears, giving you an inside track—and reduced competition.
Hiring decision makers benefit, too. Good employers are always on the lookout for talent. By cultivating broad and deep networks of contacts and referral sources, they are spared the frustration, time, and expense of finding suitable candidates in the more burdensome traditional approach.
Now make a commitment to expand your job search beyond openings. Take control by tapping into the most productive part of the job market. HOW to uncover the hidden market is the subject of a future newsletter. All the best to you!
Doug Clark began his new job as Vice President of Commercial and Industrial Lending at Heartland Bank in August.
In each newsletter issue I’ll recommend a career resource. The resource may be a website, book, local group, or meeting.
This issue’s resource is The Riley Guide. It’s the single most comprehensive career website I know of both in terms of quality and quantity of information.
Riley, a high-tech reference librarian with strong ties and experience in the career arena, hosts and maintains the site. Topics covered include:
–How to Job Search
–Before You Search
–Career Research Center
–Resumes and Cover Letters
and many more
It’s worthy of a bookmark on your web browser.
Consider a CAP (Career Action Planning) Session if you:
- Feel stuck or stalled in your career
- Are worried about a layoff
- Wonder if it’s not just a new job but a new career you need
- Have been looking for work but not getting results
In this 90-120 minute meeting, we can get to the root of your career problem and come up with a plan to solve it. Contact me for more information.
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