Most job seekers on LinkedIn wait to be contacted about an open job. They’re all waiting for the inbound call instead of digging into the hidden job market to find jobs that aren’t even open yet.
Most growing companies budget in advance the hires they need to make for a whole year. For example, if a company plans to hire five people in the coming year, or 50, or 500, they can’t absorb them all on January 2. So, they budget a few roles per month in a hiring plan. Every month, the appropriate jobs open up and HR begins the hiring process, which includes posting the job publicly online.
The hidden job market consists of those jobs that companies know they need to fill but haven’t made public yet — those budgeted jobs that aren’t known to anyone outside the company at this point.
When a manager finds the right talent for a job, they can move the hiring process forward — even if the job hasn’t gone public yet. This is why the hidden job market is so valuable: If you find a role before anyone else does, you can land it with little or no competition.
Here is how to find hidden jobs on LinkedIn:
1. Optimize Your Profile
To get results on LinkedIn, you must first understand how the system works. When a recruiter conducts a keyword search of the site, LinkedIn uses a complex formula to surface and rank profiles relevant to the search. The more relevant LinkedIn deems your profile, the higher you’ll appear in the search results — and the more likely the recruiter will be to contact you.
What does LinkedIn’s algorithm take into account when judging a profile’s relevance? A number of factors are weighed, including: the number of times the keywords being searched for appear in your profile, how closely you and the recruiter are connected, how large your network is, and how often you come up in similar searches.
Typically, a recruiter contacts 10 of the first 50 profiles. Your goal, then, is to consistently appear in the top 50 results when recruiters search for keywords relevant to your profession. This is no small feat, as there are hundreds or thousands of others in your field.
Start optimizing your profile by experimenting with some searches of your own. Search for keywords and titles that are relevant to your profile and see where you land in the results. Keyword repetition and shared connections will boost your relevance, so improve your ranking by adding more instances of important keywords and connecting with people in and around your target industry. Regularly retest and tweak your profile as needed.
2. Connect With Recruiters and HR Pros
You want corporate and search-firm recruiters in your network. They are the power users of the system, and they typically have huge networks. Becoming connections with these people increases your chance of having shared connections with other recruiters — thus boosting your relevance in keyword searches.
Don’t wait for recruiters to come to you. Reach out and invite them into your network. The most advantageous way to do this is to first create a list of companies where you’d love to work. Then, follow these companies on LinkedIn.
Next, search for each company’s HR pros and talent acquisition team members. Finding these people is as easy as typing “[company name] HR” into the search field. Scroll through the results. If you have second-degree connections to any of the company’s HR pros or recruiters, send them a nicely worded invitation to connect. In this very short note, let them know you are in search mode, have always liked their company, know people in the firm who say nice things about it (if true), and would like to be part of their network in case there is ever a need for someone like you. They are more likely than not to accept, and you will become a first-degree connection of a power user at one of your dream companies!
3. Connect With Your Future Bosses
The third step also involves using LinkedIn to find people, but this time, you’re hunting for your prospective bosses, their bosses, or their bosses’ bosses. These are the people who will know about upcoming jobs.
As with the HR pros and recruiters above, you are looking for bosses who are your second-degree connections. This time, however, you’re going to ask you first-degree shared connections to make an introduction.
You can surface your future bosses by searching LinkedIn for keywords related to your work, department, or function. Then, use the location, connection, and current company search filters to zero in on people near you who are first- and second-degree connections who work for your target company. Scroll through the results, looking for titles that indicate authority. Once you find a future boss, contact your shared first-degree connection and ask them to introduce you. Most people find roughly a third of their requests turn into meetings, which is a high enough rate to make a big difference in the effectiveness of your job search.
The meeting with your future boss is your key to getting into the hidden job market. The good news is that it’s your meeting: You called it, so you set the agenda and you ask the questions. The sole goal of the meeting is to get the manager to think, “I like this person.” If they like you, they will naturally start to think about where in their group they could use you. If you’re a match for an upcoming job, they will let you know.
Not every meeting you have will result in an invitation to interview for a job, but neither will every job you apply for online nor every recruiter’s call. Following these three steps, however, will maximize your chances and help you run an effective search campaign.
David Denaro is vice president of Keystone Associates, a division of Keystone Partners.