Finding a Job Using the Hidden Job Market by Jean Spahr

Finding a Job Using the Hidden Job Market

Looking for a job is rarely easy -- It may feel like you’re fighting your way through a dense fog. Many job seekers spend most of their time applying for posted positions. Experts report that 60-80% of job opportunities are never advertised so it makes sense to spend a substantial amount of time networking and discovering opportunities. Remember the adage, looking for a job is a job. It takes time and determination.

Not all jobs are advertised

  • If a qualified individual reaches out to the right person at the right time that individual may be offered a position. This can save the organization time and money.
  • Often hiring managers will ask colleagues for recommendations when a position needs to be staffed. If a job seeker is recommended by a trusted colleague that job seeker has a huge advantage.
  • Some organizations offer an incentive to current employees who recommend qualified candidates who are hired. Few people will refer someone unless that person is a top performer. And when a referred candidate joins a company, it contributes to team building. 
  • Another avenue of the hidden job market is traveled when a job seeker researches a company and then contacts the appropriate person with a work proposal. There may be no current openings, but the proactive job seeker suggests what he/she can and will do, if hired. 

Steps to finding an unadvertised position

  • First, you must know what skills and experiences you have to offer and be prepared to give evidence of your abilities and accomplishments. You must know your strengths and weakness. Your resume should be polished to perfection and tailored to each contact.

Task:  List five of your skills that you would like to use in your next job. 

Task:  Incorporate these skills and evidence of these skills on your resume.

  • Determine which employers could use your talents. For example, if you want to work in higher education, what colleges and universities appeal?  If you want to work in a hospital, compile a list of all hospitals within driving distance.
  • Research thoroughly five to ten employers that interest  you. You can do a google search or use Reference USA which is available through many libraries. Librarians can help you refine your search techniques. 
  • Go to the company website to get an idea about company culture and open positions. Some employers advertise on their own pages consistently and only periodically advertise more widely.  If there are suitable jobs, you can apply for them as directed online. You may want to send a resume and cover letter to the hiring manager.  You can search for contact information on LinkedIn, the website, or even by calling the organization.
  • If there are no suitable offerings being advertised on the website, you will want to send a letter or email of inquiry and make a proposal to the person who could offer you a job.
  • Describe what can you do for the company. Ask for an opportunity to meet. The inquiry and proposal approach isn’t familiar or necessary comfortable at first. It becomes easier with practice.

Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,

The American Company has been recognized as one of the best places to work in the country for IT professionals.

You have deliberately set out to create this culture, and it shows! It is my understanding that you have been deluged with resumes since Computerland released their list of the best companies at which to work.

Mine is one more, but I do have some experience that is hard to come by, and sets me apart from my peers.

My IT experience gives me a unique ability to apply technology, in all its forms, to business processes. Some of my business process knowledge includes accounting, finance, facilities, inventory control, budgeting, vendor management and various operational processes.

I have experience with merger/acquisition events, high growth challenges, technology replacement projects and IT process improvement.

I have delivered large technology projects on schedule/on budget and in alignment with the business strategy. Companies I have worked for include ICM, HEP, IBX and SED.

I would appreciate an opportunity to talk with you or someone in your organization to see where my skill set would be of the greatest benefit to your company.


Your Signature (hard copy letter)

Your Typed Name

Task:  Write a letter of inquiry that can be customized for each employer.

  • If nothing develops with the first five-ten contacts, move on to another five-ten employers.  Sometimes slow is fast!  Take the time to research and thoughtfully reach out.  It is better to target five or ten employers than use a scattered shotgun approach.  Will this work everytime?  No, but it works more often than you might imagine. 
  • Keep the pipeline flowing….don’t stop the process until you are employed.
  • What is the difference between a cover letter/email and a letter/email of inquiry?  The cover letter explains why you are a qualified candidate for an advertised position. The letter of inquiry states why you want to work for the organization and why you would be a good addition to the organization. The hiring manager may be able to create a position or you may come to mind when a suitable position opens.

Important aspects of networking to uncover unadvertised opportunities

  • Reach out to family, friends, former colleagues, neighbors -- don’t be shy about asking for job information and contacts.

Task:  List people you could contact to uncover hidden jobs.

Task:  Practice briefly explaining the skills you have and asking for recommendations of companies or people you can contact about work.

  • Polish up your social media pages and let folks know what you have to offer.
  • Say yes to invitations --- get out among people.
  • Volunteer -- while you’re doing good, something good may develop for you.  People you meet as a volunteer may know people you should contact. Your self-esteem will benefit from your volunteer work.
  • Professional associations are wonderful places to meet people and learn of potential employers. 
  • Reach out to your alumni association and college career center.
  • Ask service people that you come into contact with if they know of employers that might hire.  My daughter found her first job from a referral made by a man installing blinds at the house. She wanted to work in property management and he had a client who ran an HOA in town.
  • Social clubs and places of worship are likely places to meet people who can give you some ideas and/or contacts.
  • Job clubs, similar to the Discovery Job Network, are great places to meet others and share information.
  • Be willing to help others as you search.  And, once you’ve obtain a new position, be willing to reach back and help someone.

If you have never explored the hidden job market and have been reluctant to prospect for jobs, start now and see what happens. You have little to lose and much to gain!


J.Spahr for DJN, January 2018