It’s fairly well-understood at this point that online job postings aren’t the best way to secure a new job. In our recent post examining how you can take charge and have an active-rather-than-passive approach to your job search, we discussed a few of the big limitations of job boards. For example, high volumes of often unqualified applicants leads HR departments to assign their most junior employees to sort through applications, and these junior employees often aren’t experienced enough to evaluate the specifics of why you might be good for a role. Suffice it to say, job boards are a relatively ineffective way of getting into a new role.
As this great US News article outlines, by some estimates only 15% of positions are filled through job boards. Companies are – by and large – using their referral networks, recruitment specialists, and internal hires to fill roles. Which is nothing new. Even though job posting and Applicant Tracking systems have become more sophisticated than ever, that doesn’t mean that hiring managers are hiring more from job board postings. Anyone who’s applied to online job postings extensively knows how fruitless it can seem. And yet, hiring continues – with internal applicants, referrals, and agency-represented candidates earning the bulk of new positions.
It’s another open secret in the hiring world that a high number of jobs go unposted. According to some estimates, up to 70% of jobs are never posted at all. Make no mistake, the invisible job market is real – and it’s more influential than ever.
Before we continue, there are a few things worth mentioning about the hidden job market as compared to the “public” job market:
- Jobs are less likely to be posted publicly the more senior they are. Many “hidden jobs” are concentrated at the Vice President level and above. This means that if you’re looking for career growth and solid progression, you’re going to have to learn to play in the hidden job market at some point – and it’s better to learn sooner rather than later. It also means that learning how to navigate the hidden job market is a solid way to accelerate your career.
- Jobs are also less likely to be posted publicly if they’re contract opportunities with the potential to go permanent. In these cases, companies are often looking to fill roles quickly, so as a result they’re hesitant to post a contract job publicly and have to spend the time combing through hundreds of resumes.
- Companies sometime post jobs externally just for doing due diligence or regulatory requirements even they already have their eye on an internal candidate, which means that applying for job board positions is sometimes utterly pointless. The problem is that there’s no way to tell which posted jobs fall into this category, meaning that you’re risking your time whenever you apply for a publicly posted job.
What access to the invisible job market comes down to, like so many career topics in this day and age, is personal branding and networking. These are two career-long skills that pay off immeasurably over the course of a career. They’re also tricky to learn how to do.
This is a skill that causes anxiety in many. It conjures images of highly-sophisticated schmoozers, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Many of us are too shy (and self-effacing about our skills and value) to put ourselves out there in a networking context. But what effective networking really comes down to is the forming of continued relationships with professionals you encounter, beyond any particular role or in-job interaction. This means the sharing of information and understanding – of skills, best practices, etc. – with the ultimate goal of potential mutual sharing of opportunities, whether that involves tip offs about job opportunities or referrals, or not. This article highlights some great networking strategies, including using social media for networking purposes.
The key aspect of networking is that you shouldn’t expect anything in return. So if you make sure to keep up connections with people you’ve worked with, or suppliers or other connections you’ve encountered, don’t carry the expectation that you’ll receive job tip-offs. Make it about a mutual sharing of information. Make it a small part of your routine to reach out to people every day. And reach out to network with people whose presence or expertise you’ve legitimately enjoyed or found valuable – which makes it worthwhile for its own sake. Put in the work to network before you go looking for a job, and it’ll pay huge dividends when that time comes.
This is the other great long-term career skill that can seem intimidating or “for other people.” But just like with networking, if you dedicate a small amount of time to personal branding every day, and work on it in advance of a job search, it’ll pay dividends in terms of the access to the invisible job market. This happens primarily through recruiters – both in house and agency (like Argentus). What personal branding in this context comes down to is having well-curated, completed social media profiles (especially LinkedIn), that are rich with keywords, quantifiable data, and accomplishments, as well as a professional-looking picture.
What is now commonly called thought leadership also goes a long way towards making yourself more visible to recruiters and hiring managers; LinkedIn’s publishing platform is a great avenue for this. Dedicating just a few minutes a day to improving your personal branding will pay off hugely when the time comes to make a move – and will give you access to the hidden job market by having recruiters and hiring managers reach out to you with opportunities, instead of crossing your fingers that you’ll be picked out of a hundred job board applicants.
So there you have it! A few tips about how to work on those intangible, outside factors that can afford you access to the invisible job market. In terms of effort to pay-off, it’s extremely advantageous to gain access to unadvertised jobs, and hopefully these tips are a start.