Tapping the Hidden Job Market


When you tap into the jobs in the “hidden job market,” you avoid the intense competition of the jobs on job boards and employer websites.

Employers receive an average of 250 applications for each publicly posted job. That’s a lot of competition!

These are the jobs in the “visible job market” — the jobs everyone can easily find and apply for.

We all hear that “most jobs” (75% to 85%, reportedly) are not posted on the Web or advertised in print.

These invisible jobs are “the hidden job market.”

You reach this gold mine of jobs by networking your way into it, which is not as hard as it sounds in these days of social media, blogging, and email.

Networking is not a “quick fix” (nothing is, if you haven’t already noticed). But with networking you can take steps that will make your job search much more effective — for the rest of your career. Networking, done well, is the closest thing there is to short cut to a new job.

“Givers get” is the mantra of successful networking. Help others succeed or find what they need, and they will usually return the favor. Establishing a good network will make your next job search easier.

Don’t stop networking as soon as you find your next job. You will be job-hunting again some day!

You don’t want to be in the position of starting over again when you need your network for your next job search.

Find Jobs in the Hidden Job Market

1.) PUSH – Reach out to the hidden job market (this post) to find the opportunities that aren’t posted anywhere you can easily find them.

2.) PULL – Bring the hidden job market to you.

3.) MAINTAIN – Keep your network alive.

PUSH: Reaching Out To the “Hidden Job Market”

Reach out to potential employers and potential co-workers, but reach out socially as a student, colleague, business colleague, or mentor not as a job seeker.

Employee referral programs are employers’ favorite external source of job candidates. Focus your PUSH strategy on connecting with employees who can refer you to your next job.

Read How to Make Employee Referral Programs Work for You to understand the process and the strategies to use to be referred by an employee — truly a fast track to a new job.

Collect Information and Expand Your Network with Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are a great way to learn more about a specific employer, profession, industry, or a job. As a result, you will be better informed, avoiding painful or annoying mistakes when you are planning a change to your job or career.

The interview may be in person, or it may be over the phone. Video interviews, like Zoom or Skype, can also work well.

Some informational interviews might be via email or texting, although avoid those if you can because they do not give a real sense of the person’s emotions (like enthusiasm or wariness).

The goal: collect information from people doing what you think you want to do. That information helps you to make the best choice for your next career move. For many reasons, informational interviews are a great idea!

Read the Guide to Informational Interviews for questions to ask, sample emails to set up the interviews, and more tips on successful informational interviews.

Volunteer Smartly for Your Favorite Charity or Political Cause

One of the most effective ways to reach out is to volunteer to help a cause (or a candidate) important to you.

Focus on volunteering in a way that benefits both the organization and you.

Whenever possible, volunteer to do something that is closely related to your field/profession. Volunteering keeps you “current” on your resume. Volunteering can also add experience and new skills to your resume.

For example, if your field is accounting, help your favorite charity/cause with their accounting. Help them transition to new accounting software, teach them how to better use the software they have, or just keep the books and do the monthly reporting. Don’t volunteer to spend all of your time sweeping the floor or calling prospective donors.

Focus on working in your profession as much as possible which will provide the greatest benefit both to you and to the organization you are helping.

There are many benefits to volunteering for a nonprofit or a political campaign/cause, particularly when you are unemployed:

  • Prove you are up-to-date.
  • Increase your skills.
  • Add experiences to your resume.
  • Meet new people with whom you share something important.
  • Get out of the house (and away from your computer) for a good reason.
  • Lift your spirits — when you help someone else, you realize how good you are at your job.
  • Have something concrete to discuss when an interviewer asks you about what you did during “the gap” between “real” jobs.

Volunteering, contributing to society, helps you handle the tough slog that is job search today.

Join Real – and Virtual – Social Groups

Even if you consider yourself to be very shy, these groups can be very helpful in connecting you with potential employers and co-workers, and they can also help you stay up to date with what is happening in an industry or profession.

  1. The Social Media Websites  

These sites are important ways to connect with people you know and meeting new people. Social networks work by offering people the ability to create, and to manage, their public profile. In these social networks, you can tell people who you are and what you do, both directly and indirectly.

We all know the names of these networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are the biggest, best known, and have been around long enough to become integrated into our personal and professional lives:

Very importantly, these social networks are also found in most recruiters’ toolboxes.

Recruiters use these sites, especially LinkedIn, to find qualified candidates for their open jobs.

So they are a very important alternative to job boards — in many cases a much more effective alternative. Recruiters also use them to screen job applicants and job candidates to find those who best fit with their opportunities.

For professionals in a job search, LinkedIn is used by the majority of recruiters. They find candidates qualified for their job opportunities by searching through the LinkedIn Profiles.

For much more information on using social media sites, read the articles in Job-Hunt’s Guide to Social Media and Job Search Section on using social media, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, and scan the resources for job seekers.

In addition, check out Job-Hunt’s FREE Job-Hunt Quick Guide ebooklet on Smart Personal Branding with LinkedIn.

  2. Professional/Industry Associations and Societies  

These are usually plentiful and very useful for job seekers. They can help you in more traditional situations when you add the association’s name to your resume (in a professional or industry affiliations category, for example), and that name is used as a keyword by a recruiter searching through an applicant database on a Web search engine.

Many association websites offer member directories and may also list local chapters where you can meet members face-to-face in person or virtually. Often an association website will also have a job board where employer members can post their jobs or where members can share opportunities.

Many associations have annual conferences that are great for making connections, observing the employers, and learning more about the profession or industry even if you must attend virtually during the pandemic.

If you cannot afford the price of admission to all of the sessions, usually attending the “trade floor” or “exhibits” is free or much lower cost, even virtually. The vendors in the exhibits area often have booths or a video presence where you can learn more about the vendors and their products and services and even meet employees.

See the Guide to Job Search Networking articles by Job-Hunt’s Job Search Networking Experts for ideas and strategies on meeting people and becoming comfortable attending meetings, particularly if you’re a bit on the shy side. To leverage LinkedIn, check out Secret Networking Powerhouse: Employer “Alumni”.

  3. School Alumni Associations  

Your college alumni association can be a very useful resource (your high school, too, if they have an alumni network). Many schools offer the use of the career center to alumni.

You can then tap into the network represented by all the other people who attended the same school. It’s an opportunity to connect, hopefully, with old friends as well as meet new people you share an important life experience with.

In addition, do a search of Google and LinkedIn to find alumni groups and people you remember from your school. LinkedIn can be a great source to find alumni you don’t know — just do an “advanced search” using the school name.

You share personal history, even if you attended at different times or never knew each other. That common background can be a good start for a professional relationship or friendship.

Read LinkedIn Networking Power Tool: Education for a how-to on leveraging the LinkedIn to connect and reconnect with others who attended the same schools.

  4. Employer Alumni Associations  

Many groups are forming of people who are former employees of a specific employer (a.k.a. “company alumni” groups). Sometimes, the groups are supported or sponsored by the employer who sees them as a good source of trained and qualified applicants if needed.

More often, they are just groups that get together occasionally or exchange e-mail, and stay in touch.

Many employers (nearly forty percent) are interested in re-hiring good former employees. Known as “boomerangs,” these employees are often rehired. If you liked working for a former employer (or you’re sorry you left), look into it.

Search Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn to find corporate alumni groups. Just search on the term “[company name] alumni groups” and you may find a group for that employer.

  5. Join a job club or job search support group  

A job club is a group of job seekers who meet, usually at least once a month. Often these groups are led by a career or job search professional. These groups are a great idea, even for introverts, since a solitary job search can be extremely discouraging.

Because of the pandemic, these groups typically meet via Zoom or other video platform, but most are still meeting and still a valuable source of information and a way to expand your professional network.

Members of these groups provide moral support and assistance to each other as well as an extension of that critical personal network.

  • Need a contact inside a specific company? Ask the members of your group if they know anyone there.
  • Need another set of eyes to look at your resume? Ask the members of your group for help.

Of course, demonstrate your intelligence, professionalism, ethics, experience, etc. by helping members of the group in return.

It probably goes without saying, but don’t be a “user.” Look for ways you can help other members, and the help will come back to you.

Support groups can be a win/win situation, and, sometimes, the critical link between you and the perfect job in the Hidden Job Market.

Bring copies of your current resume and a list of employers you want to reach. Ask other attendees if anyone knows the organizations and can help you identify and reach the appropriate hiring managers.

Have agendas, action items, and a focus on positive action to find a job.

To create a support group of your own, check out Barbara Sher’s excellent book Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want (FREE!).

It is a how-to guide for creating your own “success team” — a small group of people who mentor (encourage, assist, and – yes – nag) each other to reach their individual goals — excellent for job searching or help reaching any other goal you have. Your success team is your own personal board of directors.

To find an existing club in the U.S., check the Job Club Finder (from CareerOneStop) for local job clubs. Also, ask your Career One-Stop/American Job Center for assistance in finding an existing support group, or check with local churches to see if they have any groups meeting in their facilities.

Read Beating the Job Search Blues. If you want to start your own job club, the state of New York’s Department of Labor offers this free “Guide to Starting Your Job Club.”

  6. Online discussion groups  

There must be hundreds of thousands of FREE discussion groups, each based on a topic. Find a topic that interests you, and join the list or the group. They can be an excellent source of information and also misinformation, so be cautious about believing everything you read.


  • LinkedIn Groups
    If you are a LinkedIn member (and you really should be!), check out the LinkedIn Groups and join the Groups appropriate for you and the job you want.You can belong to 100 of them, and, if you are unemployed, joining 100 Groups is a good idea because those Groups make you more visible to recruiters, even if you aren’t active.
  • Google Groups and Yahoo Groups
    These lists have been around for decades, but they can still be very useful. Find searchable lists of groups to join at Google Groups (groups.google.com) and Yahoo Groups. You can also start a Group with either Google or Yahoo.

Join groups that will be the most helpful for you. Join groups for:

  • Your profession
  • Your industry
  • Your location
  • Your schools — high school, college, and/or professional schools
  • Job search
  • Local job clubs
  • Professional job clubs
  • Corporate alumni
  • School alumni
  • Your hobbies
  • Your other interests (sports teams, social/political, religious, etc.)

“Lurk” for a while (just monitor the postings without participating) to observe the rules of conduct and get a sense of who belongs and how knowledgeable/helpful they are. When/if you decide to participate, be sure that your posting is relevant to the subject and well-written (good grammar and spelling).

Join the “Discussions.” Read the “News” and post links to good articles you find. Scan the “Jobs.” They are good places to both learn from others and raise your own personal visibility.

As usual, be very careful of your privacy when you join any of these groups.  Use a throw-away e-mail address for participation (e.g. a Gmail account), protecting your privacy when you register for your account.

You will have the greatest success with most groups, online and offline, by being a resource to others. If you pursue others for assistance but don’t provide assistance (or provide poor assistance) in return, you don’t present yourself as an ideal co-worker.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but be careful if that’s all you do.

Whatever you do, don’t send a “nastygram” to someone on the list! People have lost job opportunities because they have demonstrated an apparently nasty temper in an open discussion.

If you wouldn’t be comfortable having your mother, grandmother, or new boss read your message on the front page of the New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, don’t hit the “send” button!

These messages are very public! Employers and recruiters DEFINITELY “Google” job applicants looking for “mistakes” on the application (the facts on the application don’t agree with the facts on the LinkedIn Profile) and also a sense of the applicant’s personality and “fit” with the organization.

Be VERY careful to leave a good impression, even in a so-called “private” group.

Next – PULL – Bring the Hidden Job Market to You!

You’ve learned ways to reach out to potential employers (PUSH, above). Now, learn PULL – making yourself visible in the right areas and the right ways so that employers reach out to you.

Susan P. JoyceAbout the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.
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