How to Take Advantage of the Hidden Job Market

Did you know that a considerable proportion of job openings are never publicly advertised? If your typical job search revolves around examining the job listings, you are missing out on a vital opportunity to put yourself forward for these “hidden” job roles. They may not be in the public domain but that does not mean that you can’t find out about them. I know for myself, half of the jobs I have gotten have been hidden. Who knew?! Here are some things I have learned about advantage of the hidden job market.

Speculative Applications

Are there companies that you would love to work for? Don’t wait until you see a job advert – send them your resume anyway. Even if they are not hiring right now, you will be getting yourself in front of them for when they are looking to do this. There is also the possibility that hiring someone with your skills has not previously occurred to them until they come across your resume.

How do you approach a company when your application is purely speculative? There are several things that you will want to flag up in your cover letter. These include the job role that you are putting yourself forward for, your relevant experience, why you feel you would be a good fit for the company, and a request for a meeting to discuss your credentials in more detail. If you are successful in arranging a meeting, you can use the opportunity to request an interview when vacancies open up.

Where possible, make sure that you send it to the most appropriate person in the company. Your application is purely speculative and will not be expected so it is vital to get it to someone who is more likely to take notice of it. Sometimes, companies just will not have the need or the finances to take on another member of staff but taking a speculative approach can be well worth a shot.

Cold Calling

Many people are wary of cold calling and this is understandable. First impressions are crucial and interrupting someone with an unsolicited approach can mean that you are off to a bad start straight away. Firstly, ask if this is a good time to talk. If they are busy, arrange a mutually convenient time and leave it at that. When you do get the chance to talk, keep things brief. Explain how you are and what you do but try not to go overboard. The main intention is to secure a face-to-face meeting, which is your main chance to impress.


In the hidden job market, getting that all-important “in” can be vital. For jobs that are not publicly advertised, your contacts can alert you to their existence. They may also be able to put in a good word for you to help your cause. I have used LinkedIn to help me with this. I keep in touch with old colleagues through it which keeps me on the radar for new opportunities.

Volunteering and Unpaid Work

It isn’t ideal but if you have your heart set on working in a specific field or with a certain company, unpaid work can secure you a role that would not otherwise be available to you. This can be useful if you do not have a lot of experience and are looking to boost your credentials. You are also in a strong position when the company is looking to bring in new staff. You will already have shown what you can do and through being part of the team, you will probably become aware of job openings before they are advertised externally.

I once volunteered on a community health advisory board. This opportunity allowed me to practice my management skills. The next time a management job opened up, I actually had the skills to apply which without that volunteer experience I wouldn’t have had.

It can be difficult to find the jobs that are not promoted in the public heart but with some perseverance, you might just find your dream job. Employers are often keen to hire someone that they are already familiar with or who is referred to them by a trusted contact. This means that many job openings are filled before the recruiter even considers posting a job vacancy. By expanding your job search to target these “hidden” roles, you can take advantage of this.

So, have you ever gotten a job that wasn’t posted? What was your strategy?


How to Take Advantage of the Hidden Job Market — 21 Comments

  1. I think this is all true. The company that I work for is not technically hiring….but if the right person walked through the door we would be.

  2. Dear Miss T,
    I initially became aware of this a few years ago. I didn’t even realize it existed to the extent it does, but I began reading and hearing about it more and more. Then, I saw it work as I was being considered for jobs that I didn’t know even existed. It sounds weird, and it is so hard to prove what was going on, but I am a believer that accessing this job market is one of the best ways to get jobs nowadays.

    • I thought it was strange when I first witnessed it too. It is like it went against anything I was taught about watching job boards etc. However, last week I was in a meeting with the Big big boss and at the meeting he asked for my CV. It was quite out of context and I wasn’t sure how to take it but people tell me it is a good thing. It means they are considering me for more responsibility.

  3. Great points, especially on the networking and volunteering. It’s not what you know, but who you know as the saying goes. By networking you can open yourself up to meeting others, as well as when volunteering…which that also allows you to showcase your talents as well.

  4. The most recent job I got was not posted. It all started with my wife’s networking. She learned that a company in town had Business Coach positions and thought I’d be well suited. None were open, but my wife’s contact recommended I contact the manager who oversaw the business coaches and ask for an “informational interview.” She was good enough to oblige. We had an informal 30-minute chat where I got to learn more about the position and the manager learned more about me. About nine months later an abrupt opening occurred–one of the business coaches was out for weeks with an injury. The manager called me and asked if I could fill in temporarily. I ended up working there over 3 years.

  5. I remember seeing a news story a couple of years ago where a guy stood outside a large office building with a large sign hanging around his neck. It had his qualifications on it. I thought it was pretty funny but very outside of the box.

  6. People underestimate the hidden job market. Both the jobs I had so far was “created” for me due to my networking. My husband recently changed jobs, he didn’t apply for any jobs. Yet, we ended up with 3 just by word of mouth. With the recent economy most companies have a “public hiring freeze” but if someone brings in the right person, they are most certainly hiring.

    • I am glad networking has paid off for you. Networking has really helped me meet people that are hiring which is great. It has also helped me in getting some pretty awesome references to use when I am up for a job. I swear those references have landed me the job in the past.

  7. I think the number one way to get a good job is through networking. People are hiring their friends more than ever now and it’s a harsh reality but it’s what I’ve seen countless times in my industry.

    When I was looking for work after I graduated, I applied for a rotational program with 10 openings. I didn’t even get an interview, I was shocked. I ended up getting in contact with someone who worked there(friend of a friend) and they got me an interview and I was hired a few weeks later under a different program for the same company.

  8. I’ve gotten jobs using many of these methods, too! One time I just took my application in and handed it in in person. Worked! I had a bit of luck with my timing, though.

    I’m careful about volunteering my work within my profession. If it’s something like you did, like sitting on a professional board, that’s one thing. But just doing my job for free is something I try to avoid as people tend to abuse it; why would they hire me if they know they can get me to volunteer?

  9. Networking is the ONLY way I’ve ever gotten jobs. I’ve never landed a job through a traditional application process (other than summer jobs while I was in high school / college). Every professional, post-college job I’ve had has been the direct result of networking.

  10. Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the
    issues. It was really informative. Your website is very helpful.
    Many thanks for sharing!

  11. Hello there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that
    would be okay. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog
    and look forward to new posts.

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