Work your insider connections even as you try the official channels.
By Debra Feldman
The "unadvertised" or "hidden" job market comprises positions that are not advertised to the general public or included on the company's employment Web site.
These employment opportunities are usually accessed through an inside connection who is aware of an opening or a need before the job is officially announced. Such career opportunities or needs include circumstances such as:
- A leave of absence
- An unexpected retirement
- An employee resignation or termination
- M&A activities
- New products or services
- The opening of a new facility or territory
- An internal reorganization
These job leads are passed along through a network of linked contacts. They may include existing positions or positions that could be created for the right person at the right time.
Who are these insiders?
The hidden job market is accessed through people who know about openings, plans and employer needs. These individuals are primarily:
- Employees (current and former)
- Business partners
- Direct competitors
- Others with connections to company insiders.
Today, networking is the name of the game. We're seeing the rise of social-networking sites, personal and corporate blogs, career-support groups and alumni networks as they become better-recognized sources of information about unadvertised opportunities. After all, relevant news and leads are passed among contacts (by word of mouth electronically and verbally) along with recommendations and endorsements that fuel networking introductions and unofficial recruiting.
Employers have always relied on their networks to source talent, especially at the more senior levels. Recruiting is not just the domain of HR, recruiters and advertising. Everyone in a company recruits. In today's economy, networking as a major recruiting method is on the rise. The employer's network may be faster, cheaper and more effective than advertising or delegating this to the HR department or an external recruiter.
Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that somewhere between 70 percent and 80 percent of jobs are never advertised. While networking does not come naturally to most job seekers, today's tight job market demands extraordinary efforts to command employers' attention. If you are not getting enough positive responses from your job-search efforts, it's time to increase your time spent identifying unadvertised jobs.
For those looking for a new career challenge today, it is not just what you know or even who you know but who knows what you know.
This means that candidates have to offer prospective employers what they need, when they need it, on acceptable terms. If you can stay on the employer's radar, then when changes create new, appropriate opportunities, you'll be first in line to hear about them. The lucky ones being hired today are likely to have connected with employers through networking relationships.
Traditional methods like submitting credentials, relying on recruiter initiatives and responding to an advertisement are less effective than cold calling, Web 2.0 tactics and networking purposefully with influential contacts. These are the reasons for prospective candidates to be proactive and focus on the hidden job market to identify their next challenge.
Here's how to jump-start a campaign targeting the unadvertised or hidden job market.
1. Assemble a list of target employers. Conduct research to identify prospective companies.
2. Be proactive! Initiate contact with the hiring decision-maker. The preferred method is to obtain an introduction through a mutual contact such as a company insider, a former or current employee, trusted colleague of a hiring decision maker, respected consultant or professional advisor.
- Network purposefully todevelop relationships designed to establish referrals and access insider information. If you don't have a common contact, cold calling is an effective means to get attention and start a conversation if the value proposition is compelling and meaningful to the recipient.
3. Develop a remarkable value proposition to command attention from employers. Generate trust and show an ethical character. The trick is courteously to remain front and center as the reliable solution to be remembered as new needs or challenges surface.
4. Follow up on a regular basis. Polite, persistent pings move the process forward. Offer assistance. Share an idea. Send a link. Stay on the decision-maker's radar. Build trust and encourage interaction beyond the first contact.
Networking is all about being generous, not merely getting names to contact.
Networking won't be productive unless it involves two-way relationships, not one-time-only transactions. Look for ways to be supportive; it may take some creative thinking. Building a network purposefully is an investment that can create long-term career insurance, providing leads to new challenges as well as important business resources, professional support and advice.
The emphasis is on promoting a mutually beneficial relationship where each makes the effort to keep in touch and be helpful to the other.