It’s true that landing a job depends on your skills, your experience, and your interview technique — but your ability to find a position also relies heavily on being in the right place at the right time. Your chances of a getting a job will be massively boosted if your perfectly suited resume lands on the desk of the right recruiter at the right time.
But what is the “right time” when it comes to finding a job? It is when an employer has just realized it needs to make a new hire, but before the employer has begun to advertise the open role. This is the window of opportunity in which you can get your resume in front of a hiring manager with little or no competition, giving you a chance to really impress the company.
By all means, keep scoping out the job boards for new opportunities – but you should also have a strategy for finding jobs before they are even advertised, in what has been termed the “secret job market.” Research suggests that nearly half of all available job openings are never advertised, meaning the secret job market is roughly the same size as the open job market.
It’s obviously more difficult to access the highly privileged secret job market than it is to access the open job market, but the riches and rewards of the secret market are potentially much better. That is why job seekers should be spending at least a quarter of the time trying to find jobs before they are advertised – and here are some tips to help them do just that:
1. Work in a Temporary, Part-Time, or Freelance Position and Put Your Ear to the Ground
Studies show that companies are making increasing use of contingent labor, so why not get a temporary job with an employer of choice and use this as a way to access jobs at the company before they are advertised? After all, roughly 70 percent of temp roles turn into permanent positions, according to some estimates.
Working in a temporary role has proven to be a great way to find out about jobs before they ever see the light of day. To increase your chances or learning about — and landing — these jobs, you’ll need to show dedication and commitment during your temp work. Go above and beyond the call of duty. Put yourself in a prime position to be selected for a job on the internal job market.
Temp work isn’t the only way to go: you can also work for a company as a freelancer or part-time worker to gain the same sort of access to the secret job market.
2. Speculative Job Applications
One way to get your foot in the door for a job before it is advertised is to make a speculative job application to an employer — that is, ask an organization for a job even if it is not currently advertising an open role.
The 2015 Source of Employment Survey Report shows that speculative job applications are not as effective as they were 10 years ago, so you’ll need to be clever and selective in your approach. To be truly effective with your speculative job application, you really need to time your application that so you hit the sweet spot when demand for help is high, but the company hasn’t been able to start the recruitment process just yet.
This is the time when your speculative letter is most likely to be noticed and acted upon, as you’ll be a potential solution to an urgent problem. In my experience, outside of these times, it’s likely that your speculative letter will be seen as a very low priority and buried under a pile of more important things.
Before sending a speculative application, you need to make sure that you are a perfect fit for your potential role – otherwise, the firm will simply think, “We can do better” and go to the open market anyway.
Speculative letters can work, but they need to be targeted with pinpoint accuracy. The best way to be accurate is to have insider information. Do extensive research of recruitment patterns of a few target organizations. Network with current employees if you can. You might need to wait for a while before an opportunity arises, but when it does, you can strike with your impeccably timed application.
3. Get a Tip-Off or Referral
According to the Source of Employment Survey mentioned above, 24.1 percent of job seekers landed their last jobs via tip-offs from friends or family members or through employee referrals. The lesson here is, don’t be shy or embarrassed. Literally ask your friends, family , and professional contacts if they know of upcoming vacancies at their or other organizations. Many of them will.
Beware, though: some people will be reluctant to refer you if they think you’ll reflect badly on them. Approach these people professionally, with a business card and a resume, so that they know you are a serious, responsible candidate.