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Dream careers are made in the hidden job market

Dream careers are made in the hidden job market

Lou Adler, a US based best-selling author and hiring coach, wrote recently that the job market is getting hotter, but colder for those applying directly to job ads, and I couldn’t agree more. Whether you’re currently actively job seeking or not, it is critical to acknowledge that the world has well and truly moved on from traditional recruitment methods. We’ve known for some time now that you have a much greater chance of being hired through referral. Lou reports that your chances of getting hired through referral is 1 in 3 compared to less than 1 in 100 when you apply directly to a job posting.

Tell me then, why so many otherwise clever and experienced professionals ignore their networks when changing jobs? Is it a case of inexperience when it comes to job search strategies, blind faith in the ‘process’, or a combination of the two?

Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure: deliberate job search strategies that include leveraging your network yield far superior results. To demonstrate, I want to share two recent client experiences.

Scenario 1. The public job market: for the ‘perfect candidate’.

The first client came to me requesting advice on his cover letter and CV. He mentioned he had applied directly to a dozen employers but was yet to get a bite. In the public market where jobs are advertised and candidates submit applications, candidates are filtered out based on exact requirements such as qualifications, years' experience, and key words. In this process, candidates are often filtered out before hiring managers have even taken a glance. When I enquired as to who my client’s contacts were at the organisations or who he had spoken with to flag his interest and to better understand the opportunities, his answer was ‘no one’. Unless this client perfectly met the job requirements he was unlikely to be successful applying directly to an advertised role (and the odds were still stacked against him). The first client is still job hunting (and this is not an isolated case).

Scenario 2. The hidden job market: for the dream career.

The second client also came to me requesting advice on her cover letter and CV, along with some interview tips and techniques. In contrast, the job search strategy this client employed combined replying to job advertisements and tapping into her professional network. Through these conversations, a previous employer introduced her to a potential employer in my client’s ‘dream’ role and organisation. The potential employer wasn’t advertising however they met and talked about what each might look for and could offer. My client toured their offices and met a number of other employees. A month passed and the employer phoned and offered my client her dream job! My second client had successfully leveraged the hidden job market, where most vacancies and opportunities are not advertised and where she didn’t need to be a perfect candidate. Quite the contrary, my client had networked and co-created her dream career with her new employer.

Flipping traditional recruitment strategies on their head.

From the employer’s perspective, the hidden job market is not a new concept. Particularly as often the candidates organisations are after, aren’t necessarily actively looking for a new job. From my own experience working in recruitment for a number of years, I distinctly recall job advertisements being the ‘last resort’ for employers once they had exhausted their own networks, particularly for senior roles. I can also recall the success of ‘referral bonuses’ during talent shortages to lure candidates via the extensive networks of existing employees. Add to this, changing market conditions and radically reduced recruitment budgets, and all of a sudden ‘thrifty’ approaches to recruitment such as the hidden job market have stuck.

And it seems the benefits of leveraging the hidden job market are countless:

  • Reduced recruitment time and expenditure;
  • Both parties gain a better understanding of each other through informal conversations and thereby cultural ‘fit’ can be more readily determined (long haled as more important than skills and experience alone), and;
  • And a good fit results in greater job satisfaction, engagement, performance, commitment, retention and return on investment (for all parties).

So, what do you need to do?

It seems the trick to accessing the hidden market, is through your network, to remain front of mind and be recommended for a position before it’s advertised, or discover opportunities that organisations are yet to advertise. As I've recommended before, networking is a professional skill that needs to be fostered (particularly the more senior you become). And remember, LinkedIn is a great resource to connect, just ensure you are making meaningful connections (not just collecting 'e-business cards').


The Career Guide can help you to maximise your career potential, including assistance with job search strategies, CV and cover letter reviews. Please do not hesitate to contact us via +61 407 679 847 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. If you liked this post, please click 'follow' at the top of this article or 'follow' 'The Career Guide' company page so I can continue to write and share with you articles on a variety of career-related topics.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.

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