What is the Hidden Job Market?

Throughout a job search (and even before and after), you may hear reference to something called the hidden job market. It’s considered to be the prime thing to access if you want to be successful in finding a job or a career and it’s considered to be a much larger source of those jobs than the more passive methods of going through job posts. Although it’s incredibly important, many people don’t know what the hidden job market is and here, we are going to lift the veil of mystery.

Defining the Job Search

Before getting into the hidden job market, it’s important to understand how people look for work and employers look for work(ers).

Let’s compare:

How We Look for Work                                                                                                How Employers look for employees

The Pyramid of the Hidden Job Market

Bit of a problem here! The way we look for work the most often is the way that employers least want to find workers! In fact, if you’re going by the posted ads, you’re only tapping a small percentage of the jobs that are actually out there-to the tune of about 20% of them. Oh dear…

Defining the Hidden Job Market

We weren’t going to keep you in suspense!

If posted ads are only 20% of the available jobs out there, then what are the other 80%? Well, that’s the hidden job market; in other words, the ways employers hire employees further down the pyramid. Most jobs are found by tapping things like career fairs, then employment agencies, then the people you know, your network and finally by contacting the employer directly via cold calling, through career fairs, through mutual hobbies and events and so on. Another way to think of this is that the hidden job market is the part of the iceberg that lies below the waves; you only see the tip of it, but that’s actually a very small part of the entire floe.

So what gives? Well, it’s the same thing which drives us to only buy things from companies we know and to only go to movies that have a high rating. We aren’t terribly likely to take chances on something if we can’t get the input of other people we trust to validate (or invalidate) or potential choices. We like to think that if someone else has succeeded with something that we will too and we tend to put more weight on the opinions of people we trust. Therefore, employers are more likely to hire people to whom they have been referred, people they have worked with before and people they have met in other places over pure strangers. If you think about it too, hiring a new employee is a huge investment in time, energy and money, so employers really want to make sure they get it right the first time!

With all this in mind, it’s no wonder that most jobs are not found in the wanted ads or posted online because this would represent the last-ditch efforts on the part of the employer to find someone. If they are posting, it’s because they haven’t found someone in their circle yet to meet that need and now they have to make the investment of time and energy to sort through resumes and conduct interviews.

Tapping the Hidden Job Market

The hidden job market represents a percentage of available jobs that a relatively small percentage of job seekers are aware of, so how do you become part of that percentage? There are a number of ways to go about doing this, but it all boils down to marketing yourself in the most direct and professional ways possible. It also means ensuring that as many people as possible are aware that you are looking for work and what you have to offer to people who are interested. In fact, you don’t even have to put yourself out as a job seeker-a sneaky way to do it is to put yourself out as a “consultant”, looking to help businesses improve themselves. (Repeat it to yourself: I am a consultant who helps businesses do better. That way, you may avoid the self-esteem issue that comes of being a job seeker).

What are some ways to tap this market?

  • Job fairs. This is a chance to meet businesses and learn more about them. It may not pay dirt right away, but at least you’re making yourself known in the business world and you can meet some great contacts.
  • Informational interviews. Informational interviews are a great way to learn all about the business and ensure that they know you exist and want to help them.
  • Cold calling. It may have a bad reputation, but cold-calling is something a very small number of job seekers do, so it really puts you ahead. Make sure to follow up with your resume, cover letter and/or more correspondence information if they want to get in touch with you again!
  • Get out and talk to people! There are many, many people out there and everyone needs something. Find out what that is (for companies you want to work for) and demonstrate that you can fulfill that need.

Tapping the hidden job market may be intimidating, but it’s also the best way to get work. Give it a try today!


Charlene is a full time instructor and published author. She enjoys writing about education, digital career paths, job hunts, and for her books, fantasy/mysteries. You can learn more about her novels at Kellan Publishing.