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Entrée tips into the not-so-secret hidden job market

4 min read


If you have been job-searching during the past few years, you probably are aware that there is a hidden or unadvertised job market.

It’s likely that you have heard from friends and colleagues who found jobs through a networking contact or word of mouth and not by answering a classified advertisement, uploading a resume or completing an online application. Many such jobs are filled before they are announced to the public.

Post-recession, there are fewer outside recruiters filling fewer corporate positions; in general, the job market is less fluid because there are fewer jobs being created and less employee turnover. The modern employer’s job market (as opposed to candidate’s job market, where the candidates rule the roost) means that individual job-seekers must be more informed, more knowledgeable and be willing to work harder to find and land a job.

The hidden job market contains real positions. These roles are usually not intentionally kept secret by employers; when companies face a challenge, they rarely can keep this a total secret. However, circumstances may delay an announcement or obscure visibility to all but a few insiders. Every active and potential job-seeker should be aware of and know how to access the hidden job market.

Ignoring this huge proportion of the market essentially means reducing your chances for career success. The trick to accessing these unadvertised jobs is being connected to those who have authority to create a position or who know first about potential openings. Advertised positions produce a large volume of resumes and applicants, often more than the employer can effectively manage. Candidate able learn early about a prospective open position gain a competitive advantage.

It should be the goal of every serious candidate to access potential opportunities before they are public and to connect directly with hiring officials through a customized presentation, not a standard resume or just a LinkedIn profile. Such presentations should promote relevant abilities that exceed the employer’s basic requirements and make a favorable, memorable impression that will be top of mind for the hiring authority in the short-term and retained in the future.

Penetrating the hidden job market is no simple task. Strong networking, strategic target marketing, compelling skills presentation, unrelenting persistence and steady follow-up are among the best tactics. The unadvertised job market falls into three main sectors:

  1.  A position that is created just for a particular candidate. Such an opening is in response to the solution or candidate being available to the employer at the right time for both to reach an employment agreement. The job opening did not exist until that individual and the employer connected and identified a new role justifying a hire.
  1. A position whose incumbent will be eliminated when a replacement is found. There is no vacant position; the new person smoothly slips in allowing the old one to leave. Sometimes employers are too busy, do not want to make the required investment or have another business reason for keeping the status quo. But, if or when the right solution/candidate appears, then the company reorganizes, makes a hire and transfers or relieves the existing employee.
  1. A position that is approved, budgeted and vacant, but it is only known to insiders. It is not an official opening, is not publicly advertised and comes with a desire is to find the right candidate through a trustworthy referral. The employer is counting on its network to streamline the process, identify a credible, well-qualified prospect and avoid screening a lot of resume submissions.

To summarize, people land an unadvertised position in the hidden job market when:

  • a position gets created just for them (being at the right place at the right time);
  • an employer restructures to hire them; or
  • a candidate is known by the hiring authority or has a connection to a close trusted, confidante of the hiring authority, and the candidate provides solutions to the employer’s challenges.

The secret to penetrating the hidden job market today and getting a choice new position is having the right inside contacts before a job is officially announced or advertised and being the hiring decision maker’s top choice. The right inside connections are like “career insurance” — direct, early access to job leads, visibility to recruiters and personal networking contacts for plum roles.

Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz, a nationally recognized executive talent agent and job search expert who implements swift, strategic, customized senior level job search campaigns personally making live C-level and board member introductions. Contact her at to expedite your professional ascent.