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Debra Feldman
Debra Feldman

Hidden job market secrets

Three types of unadvertised jobs and how to discover them.

October 18, 2012
by Debra Feldman

If you have been looking for a new executive position or have been an executive job seeker during the past few years, you probably know about the hidden or unadvertised job market. It’s likely that you have heard that many more individuals land a job through a personal referral, networking, or word of mouth than those who answer ads or get recruited out of their current job.

The positions on the hidden job market are usually not intentionally kept under wraps by employers. When companies have a challenge, they rarely keep this a total secret. (Problems don’t disappear without intervention!) However, circumstances may delay announcements or obscure visibility to all but a few insiders.

Every active and future job seeker should be aware of and know how to access the hidden job market. The trick to accessing these unadvertised jobs or the hidden job market is getting on the inside track by being connected to those who have authority to create a new position or know first about potential openings.

Advertised positions quickly produce a large volume of résumés and applicants, often more than the employer can effectively manage. If a candidate is able to be among the first to learn about a prospective open position and get in front of the decision-maker early in the recruiting process, this is a competitive advantage.

It should be the goal of every serious candidate to know about potential opportunities before official public announcements and to connect directly with the hiring decision-maker with a customized presentation, not a standard résumé or a LinkedIn profile, to express his or her extraordinary qualifications, promote relevant abilities that exceed the employer’s basic requirements and make a favorable, memorable impression that will stand out with the hiring authority and remain top of mind for any future opportunities.

The unadvertised job market falls into three main categories that are detailed below. Penetrating the hidden job market is no simple task. Strong networking, strategic target marketing, compelling skills presentation, unrelenting persistence, and steady follow-up are the best ways to get on and stay on hiring authorities’ radar screens and be valued as a top candidate.

  1. A position is created for a particular candidate in response to the candidate’s being available to the employer at the right time to reach an employment agreement. The job opening did not exist until that individual and the employer connected and identified a new role justifying a hire.
  2. A position whose current incumbent will be eliminated when a replacement is found. There is no vacant position; the new person steps in, allowing the incumbent to leave. Sometimes employers are too busy or do not want to make the required investment or another business reason is keeping the status quo. But when the right candidate appears, the company reorganizes and hires a new employee into that position (and the present employee in that job may be reassigned or terminated).
  3. A position that is approved, budgeted, and vacant, but it is known only to insiders, those with a direct connection with the hiring decision-maker. It is not an official opening and is not publicly advertised, and the goal is to find the right employee through a trustworthy referral. The employer is counting on its network to streamline the process and help identify a credible, well-qualified prospect and avoid screening a lot of résumé submissions.
The secret to penetrating the hidden job market and getting a choice new position is having the right inside contacts before a job is officially announced or advertised and being the hiring decision-maker’s top choice. The right inside connections are like “career insurance.” They offer access to new job leads before positions are advertised along with the possibility of being recruited and being able to nominate yourself and others for plum roles.


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Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz, an executive talent agent and job search expert. She worked as a management consultant for more than 15 years before founding the Job Whiz website in 2000.