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Tapping into the Hidden Job Market Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

The Hidden Job Market

Hidden Job Market Essentials Part One of Three - What Exactly Is The 'Hidden Job Market?'

Looking for a job online and applying to positions on the websites of employers, are great ways to find the 'advertised' positions: that is, postings that are publicly displayed.

In total, these types of opportunities make up a pretty good chunk of all the work that's available. Where then are all the other the jobs concealed?

They're in the so-called 'hidden job market,' which is made up of openings that become available but don't get widely published. This happens many times every workday. For instance, someone may quit unannounced, leaving an immediate gap. Or else a company might land a major new client and need to hire like crazy (but they don't want to pay for advertising the jobs or going through recruiters). These types of examples form the hidden job market -- positions that are filled by, or created for, candidates (job seekers) who come to an employer's attention through employee recommendations, referrals from trusted associates, direct inquiries and the networking efforts of a job seeker.

While continuing to scour the job banks, you can also use a variety of tactics to find work that hasn't been broadcast. No matter how you approach it, though, your search for work is just like a marketing campaign -- where employers are the buyers, and you're the product! There are two basic paths you can take here. One is called Cold Marketing , which simply means that the employers you apply to do not know you previously, and thus you are 'going in cold.' The other type is called Warm Marketing . As its name implies, here your path has been paved for you by someone who has a connection to the employer. As a result, you receive a 'warm welcome' instead of a cooler reception.

Cold Marketing, when you get down to it, is all about getting your RESUME in front of people who can hire you. Warm Marketing, on the other hand, is all about getting YOU in front of people who can hire you. In the next two columns we'll cover the techniques you can use for each of these integrated marketing approaches into the hidden job market. I hope you'll join us for the entire series.

Part Two of Three - Finding Hidden Jobs by Going In Cold 'Hidden Jobs' are those that aren't advertised widely. Unlike the wide variety of positions you will find on job boards and student newspapers, the idea here is to reach an employer before they even publicize a new position.

One way to do this is to use 'Cold Marketing' techniques. In essence, you are going in cold to an employer because they don't know who you are yet. There's a couple of different approaches under this heading. You can use them in combination with 'Warm Marketing,' which we'll cover in next week's column.

The most common route under Cold Marketing is mass mailing . This is when you gather the names of companies and organizations that are in a geographic area you'd consider working in. Say, close to home. Or in a certain area of a province. You don't know if they have job openings or not right now. Still, you send as many of them as you can your resume, either by post or e-mail. Usually you address the message generically, as in 'Dear Sir/Madame,' or 'To Human Resources.' It's a low percentage strategy -- whether you're mailing or phoning - but it does get your name out to a wide swath of employers.

A slightly more efficient route is targeted mailings . Again you're sending out your application to places where you don't know if they're hiring or not. Only now you take the time to customize each letter. Things that can boost your chances? Getting the correct name, title and spelling of the hiring manager. Researching the employer beforehand and including a bit of what you know about them in your cover letter. Then following up within five business days of sending your application with a polite phone call, asking if they've received it, and if you might come in to discuss opportunities.

Then there's the old standard: the resume drop off . This is actually not a bad way to go for clerical jobs such as administrative assistants, accounting clerks, waitstaff, retail help and the like. Since there are many more positions in this pay range than at higher levels, and since the turnover is therefore that much higher, an employer may just keep your resume on file because something may crop up sooner than later. Also while you're there dropping off your application, you can ask to see the manager and introduce yourself in person.

Another popular step is to work with personnel agencies . Check out my article on this very topic.

Here's a few more avenues. Uploading your resume to a job bank the goal being to be on the radar screen when employers come searching for qualified candidates. Or using a resume blaster to get your application in front of hundreds of recruiters at a time. Even putting up your own website to advertise your resume (though if you do so I'd strongly advise you to protect your privacy by only including your name, city and an e-mail address as contact info. No need to give out your phone number and street address to strangers).

Making your way through the hidden job market takes time and effort. By using some of the methods described above you pretty much cover the Cold Marketing road. Mesh it with Warm Marketing -- and include a healthy dose of job hunting online with Workopolis, Monster, and other similar sites -- and you have a winning game plan!


Part Three - Finding Work The 'Warm' Way Searching for jobs online is easy and productive. When you move into the 'hidden job market' -- where postings aren't advertised -- the best way to look for work is by networking. This is where you try to make tons of contacts within your chosen field. The goal is to eventually meet someone who knows someone who's looking for an employee just like you.

Network As Much As Possible

Talk to friends, relatives, teachers, etc. Get out into your professional and local community and meet people who share similar interests as yourself.

Networking is a term we hear a lot about but don't always fully understand. It's not about e-mailing everyone you know to ask them for a job. Rather it's a way of politely leveraging the people you already know (family, instructors, friends, former work associates) to get introduced to decision makers at employers you would consider working for. In essence, networking is a strategic way of establishing and maintaining a rapport with other individuals in your field -- and ultimately those who can hire you. It may involve quite a bit of time and effort on your part. However its effects can be dramatic, as unforeseen opportunities begin to arise in areas you may never have thought possible.

A quick example. Dara, 21, was about two months away from graduating with a four year degree in biology from an eastern Canadian university. She began her work search by visiting Then a friend of hers mentioned that Dara should also be 'leveraging her personal network.' Dara was concerned because she had spent so much time in the laboratory poring over experiment results that she barely knew anyone outside her department. Who could she possibly network with to tap into the hidden jobs her friends were talking about?

As it turns out, by simply chatting to her friends about her concerns and goals, Dara started the ball rolling. One friend mentioned that her mom happened to be a senior nursing supervisor at the big hospital nearby. The friend introduced Dara to her mom. (Back to this in a minute). Dara also approached her own lab supervisor, a respected member of the local science community. He was only too happy to introduce his dedicated student to several of his colleagues, all of whom worked in established positions for reputable science and healthcare organizations.

Now back to the nursing supervisor mom that Dara had met with. The mom was so impressed with Dara's drive, knowledge and enthusiasm that she gave Dara the name and work number of a close friend who was heading up the research department at a pharmaceutical firm in the city. He agreed to meet Dara for a half hour one morning two weeks later. Again Dara made a great impression and he in turn spoke about her briefly to one of the managers that reported to him -- a manager who had just that week received a budget increase and needed a new lab assistant. Guess who got asked in for an interview before nearly anyone else?

Does this sound like a whole lot of running around to make yourself known to others who may or may not be able to assist you? It absolutely is. But one of the keys to networking is to start by letting a wide variety of people know about your skills and availability. You never know who knows whom!

Other steps you can take to generate contacts and meetings:
  • Consider joining a relevant industry or professional trade association on a student basis. During their meetings you can network with decision-makers and learn about leading edge trends.
  • Attend relevant trade shows by visiting the free exhibitor area and talking with suppliers. They sometimes hear of openings at the customer firms they deal with.
  • Harness the powerof,, and related social networking sites.

Regardless of the venues you include in your search, make sure to be sincere with people. And show a genuine interest in the industry and people's personal experiences. Most individuals can tell very easily when you're using them disrespectfully. Remember, your approach is the most important aspect of networking. Courteous and appreciative is how to go.

One more networking tip: don't overlook smaller companies. Far more job growth overall occurs within smaller firms (85% of new jobs in Canada) and they don't necessarily have the big budgets to spend on advertising job openings. They are a perfect example of those companies that you should seek out in the hidden job market while continuing to use the online job boards.

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