What Is the Hidden Job Market?

As if scouring job search sites and poring over emailed job alerts wasn’t exhausting enough, now the human resources world is abuzz with talk of the “hidden job market.” You may be wondering what exactly the hidden job market is—and, if it’s “hidden,” how you can land your dream job on it. Don’t worry: You can crack the hidden job market with the right strategy.


Unwrapping the “hidden job market”

The definition of the hidden job market is simple: It’s the extremely high percentage of job postings that are never publicized and are instead quietly filled by internal candidates or referrals. The exact percentage of hidden job market positions is unknown, though some industry experts believe more than half of all positions are filled without being publicized.

Why would a hiring manager prefer the hidden job market to a good old-fashioned job posting, which might attract some unknown unicorn of a job candidate? The answer: The hidden job market is cheaper and more reliable. The cost of advertising open positions has increased too, along with the price of eggs and butter. And often the candidates who answer an open job posting have almost none of the required skills. While large companies and institutions can rely on sophisticated application tracking systems that pick up desired keywords on resumes, smaller organizations often use standard-issue job posting sites that make it easy for anyone to haphazardly apply to a position. As most hiring managers will attest, some of these people are clearly playing a numbers game with their job search.

So why waste the money on long-shot applicants when you can play it safe? If you only post a position internally or rely on personal and employee referrals to secure applicants, you’ll know your candidates by reputation. It’s less of a gamble.

There’s another reason companies rely on the hidden job market: maintaining a competitive edge. Companies moving into a new marketplace or city often don’t want to show their hand to competitors by posting open positions.

Finding success on the hidden job market

You may find the idea of the hidden job market frustrating or feel like you’ll never be able to escape your current company or industry. That’s not the case. The key is to always be laying the groundwork for your next opportunity.

  • Don’t wait until you want a new job to start networking. Continually cultivate your personal and professional network. You want your neighbor and your racquetball partner to have a general idea of your skill set. You want them to think of you when they hear of open jobs. Similarly, take steps to get involved in your profession. If possible, join a professional association and volunteer to work at the annual conference or participate in a task force. You’ll meet other likeminded professionals who may think of you when they are hiring for hidden roles.
  • Apply for internal positions when they become available. Obviously, you want to apply for internal positions judiciously and strategically, being open with your current supervisor. But throwing your hat in the ring for an open internal position shows youre interested in growing and could get you valuable facetime with the higher-ups. Even if this internal role isn’t the right one for you, the next one very well could be.
  • Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date. Rather than spending time sifting through hundreds of resumes that don’t hit the mark, many recruiters are searching LinkedIn for candidates who fit their clients’ needs. Make sure your profile accurately showcases your latest professional accomplishments.
  • Monitor the local business scene. If a major company is expanding in your area, a major company will be hiring in your area. Do your own online sleuthing to see how you might be connected to the new company, and don’t be afraid to ask someone for coffee or an informational interview.

The best jobs often seemingly fall from the sky when you least expect them. But maybe they’re just playing hide and seek.

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