A successful job search requires finding the best job opportunities that let you shine. But the so-called hidden job market means the job you want may not exist yet, and may never be posted online.
Instead, your dream job might result from a message on LinkedIn, a conversation at a professional event, or a chance meeting while volunteering.
Let’s explore why job boards aren’t always your best option and how you can tap into the hidden market.
Why Is There A Hidden Job Market?
Jobs may remain out of public view because a person is earmarked for the role through other channels. Reasons for ‘hidden’ roles include:
- Growing companies don’t have time to formalise open positions and add headcount quickly through referrals or networks.
- New lines of business are developed, and part of making the case for their establishment is finding the right personnel or connection first.
- Employees quit or retire just as a talented candidate “falls into the lap” of the hiring manager.
- Employers want to seamlessly replace roles with minimal disruption to other employees, meaning hiring is done quietly.
Is it a case of right person, right time? Availability and proximity do improve your chances of being in the running for hidden jobs.
A company like Transgrid might fast-track a senior contract lawyer they hired for a short-term construction project into a full-time General Counsel role – because of their pre-existing relationship.
But it’s more than good luck — you can proactively position yourself as an appealing option before an employer’s need arises.
(Related: Learn The Golden Rules Of Personal Branding).
How To Impress Hiring Managers And Recruiters.
Due to employee shortages of 2023, recruiters commonly approach already employed people, hoping to entice them to switch jobs.
But a recruiter initiating contact to create a pool of suitably qualified candidates isn’t quite the same as being specifically targeted for coveted positions that will never be listed on Seek or Indeed.
Shown above: Australia’s unemployment rate has trended downwards since the pandemic. (Source: Tradingeconomics.com).
Headhunters and executive search recruiters go in-depth to identify and entice a preferred professional based on their experience, attitude and reputation.
So, evaluate your performance and goals by asking:
- How do you stack up against peers in your industry or field?
- In what ways do you add value or deliver better than others?
- How do others feel about the experience of working with you?
- Are your aspirations aligned with your strongest attributes?
Where any doubts exist that you’re worthy of being recommended or poached, focus on what must be done to prepare.
- Ask your manager or respected peers how to improve (and listen to their feedback).
- Find a mentor who holds a position you aspire to reach.
- Set yourself a deadline for lifting your performance (with 3, 6 and 12-month goalposts).
- Take on stretch projects and commit to excellent execution.
- Address knowledge gaps with training or professional development.
- Improve your communication by taking on public speaking gigs.
- Hone your interpersonal skills to become more likeable and respected.
Drive is only part of the equation. You must have a track record of success that justifies your ambition.
How To Master Hidden Job Market Networking.
Once you’re confident you’ve got what it takes to be in-demand, tapping into the hidden job market means dedicating yourself to building your personal brand and building relationships.
The real figure is likely lower in a digital economy with multiple, far-reaching apps and niche platforms for accessing talent.
But what remains true is that networking is critical.
(Related: What Are The Hardest Jobs In The World?)
Direct connections and referrals from employees, colleagues and respected recruiters tend to be a more trusted source for senior leaders — especially when hiring specialist or strategic roles.
Maintaining a network requires regular contact, not just when you need a new job. A LinkedIn survey of more than 15,000 people globally found 79% of professionals think networking is important for career success, yet less than half make the time to stay in touch while things are going well in their careers.
7 Tips To Stand Out During Job Search.
Use the tactics below to connect with, and impress, relevant decision-makers and gain knowledge of unadvertised jobs.
1. Know Your Elevator Pitch.
Could you sell yourself in 30 seconds or less if you found yourself confined to an elevator with your ideal boss?
- Develop and practice a concise spiel about the value you offer.
- Keep your language simple, conversational and sincere.
- Don’t start with a chronological preamble that describes your career history. You are not Dostoyevsky.
- Frame your contribution around a higher purpose, what others need or care about.
- Quantify your commercial value (e.g., I help sales and marketing teams communicate better. On average, I improve conversion rates by 20% and reduce lead acquisition costs by 40%).
- Be ready to back up your claims with multiple achievements. Quantify (e.g., “I saved Telstra $10 million in 2023 by renegotiating 5 of their worst-performing supplier contracts).
When you know your elevator pitch you can quickly convey to anyone what you do and why it matters, in a memorable way.
2. Reach Out Directly.
Fortune favours the brave. Hiring managers may not always have the time to speak with you (and may not always seem pleased that you called), but they will respect your grit and tenacity for making a cold approach.
- Pick up the phone and call decision-makers in your industry to ask about opportunities in their business. You can find the mobile phone numbers of most senior executives, including ASX-listed CEOs, by using ZoomInfo.
- Talk to colleagues who work at organisations you admire, ask whether their workplace has a referral program in place and whether they’d consider putting your name forward.
Have your elevator pitch ready and rehearsed before you take this step, so you can speak confidently and naturally about the value you bring to the table.
3. Connect With Recruiters.
Foster a relationship with executive recruiters or recruiters that specialise in your industry.
Reach out and explain the kind of roles you’re looking for and be willing to spend time speaking with the recruiter and providing an up-to-date, tailored resume.
Recruiters are bombarded with hundreds of calls from candidates each week.
(Related: Showcase Strong Communication Skills In A Resume).
While it’s possible to sometimes get through by being persistent, the brutal reality is they’ll only speak with the most attractive candidates.
If recruiters aren’t calling you back, read the “How To Impress Hiring Managers & Recruiters” section again.
4. Stay Active On Social Networks.
Social networking is a valid and convenient path to broadening your connections and influence.
- Update your profile to match your desired career direction, with a compelling description and — in the case of LinkedIn — relevant experiences and achievements.
- Actively engage by sharing your thoughts on industry trends, commenting on posts from your connections and industry thought leaders, and sharing updates about your personal career journey. Create a regular habit by doing it at pre-set times (e.g., between 730-8 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays).
- Join groups and discussions where you feel you can genuinely contribute, and then be generous with your ideas and feedback.
5. Attend Events And Conferences.
Many events are held with networking in mind, such as meetups planned by industry bodies, professional associations or chamber of commerce organisations.
Conferences, trade shows, seminars and workshops also offer networking opportunities.
(Related: How To Nail The Corporate Dress Code).
Don’t just add more of these gatherings to your calendar. Show up and hold yourself accountable to targets:
- Commit to starting at least 5 conversations with people who are more senior than you. You don’t get to leave the event until you do.
- Create consequences to prevent excuses. For example, if you fail to reach your target, commit to donating $100 to a charity.
Once inside, move around, join conversations and be friendly. If you meet someone you admire, connect and start engaging with them on LinkedIn or email them and invite them to grab a coffee.
Consider putting your hand up to be a speaker or facilitator at events where your insights would be valued. This will raise your profile. You can further leverage by recording the event and posting snippets of it as “shorts” on social media.
6. Volunteer Your Time And Expertise.
Volunteering is a powerful way to demonstrate your values and build relationships, helping you separate yourself from ‘ordinary’ job seekers and be considered for ‘hidden’ jobs.
All volunteering has the potential to expand your professional network, but don’t waste time on events that are unlikely to attract decision-makers or high performers.
- High-profile events sponsored by a company you want to work for.
- Joining surf lifesaving clubs,especially in areas like Bondi and Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
- Giving talks at co-working spaces in your city.
7. Get Involved In Professional Associations.
Yes, this will involve sacrificing some evenings. Yes, it will probably cost you $500-$2,000 annually. But these are reasons exactly why you should do it.
(Related: Complete Guide To Setting Career Goals In 2023).
Don’t join associations with low fees, or are open to anyone with an undergraduate degree. You’ll end up in rooms of people with very little to offer you (but will ask for a lot).
This is why this year’s VIP ticket to the All In Summit is USD $7,500. People who pay this will likely recoup it through the quality of connections they build.
Consider becoming an AICD member if you’re in a senior leadership position or are a business owner.
Uncover Your Next Role In The Hidden Job Market.
Access to the hidden job market is, first and foremost, about being capable of attracting an employer’s attention. Then it comes down to the relationships you’ve nurtured and the networking skills you’ve built.
Traditional job searching is easier and less demanding but limits your chances of building a brilliant career.
So, if you want to be tapped on the shoulder for an exciting opportunity — develop wide and deep connections across areas that interest you and support your career goals.