It’s fairly well understood at this point that online job postings aren’t the best way to secure a new job. In our recent post examining how you can take an active approach to your job search, we discussed a few of the big limitations of job boards. For example, high volumes of often unqualified applicants lead HR departments to assign their most junior employees to sort through applications, and these junior employees often aren’t experienced enough to evaluate your candidacy in a totally accurate way.
By some estimates only 15 percent of positions are filled through job boards. Companies are by and large using referral networks, recruitment specialists, and internal hires to fill roles. Even though job posting platforms and applicant tracking systems have become more sophisticated than ever, that doesn’t mean that hiring managers are hiring more from job board postings. Anyone who’s applied to online job postings extensively knows how fruitless it can seem.
It’s an open secret in the hiring world that a high number of jobs go entirely unposted. According to some estimates, up to 70 percent of jobs are never posted at all. Make no mistake, the invisible job market is real – and it’s more influential than ever.
Before we continue, there are a few things worth mentioning about the hidden job market as compared to the public job market:
- Jobs are less likely to be posted publicly the more senior they are. Many hidden jobs are concentrated at the vice president level and above. This means that, if you’re looking for career growth and solid progression, you’re going to have to learn to play in the hidden job market at some point – and it’s better to learn sooner rather than later. It also means that learning how to navigate the hidden job market is a solid way to accelerate your career.
- Jobs are also less likely to be posted publicly if they’re contract opportunities with the potential to go permanent. In these cases, companies are often looking to fill roles quickly. As a result, they’re hesitant to post a contract job publicly and spend time combing through hundreds of resumes.
- Companies sometime post jobs externally simply because of due diligence or regulatory requirements. In these cases, companies already have their eyes on internal candidates, which means that applying for job board positions is sometimes utterly pointless. The problem is that there’s no way to tell which posted jobs fall into this category, meaning that you’re risking your time whenever you apply for a publicly posted job.
Access to the invisible job market comes down to personal branding and networking skills. These are two career-long skills that can pay off immeasurably over the course of a career. They’re also tricky to master.
This skill causes anxiety in many. It conjures images of highly-sophisticated schmoozers, but networking doesn’t have to be that way. Many of us are too shy (and self-effacing about our skills and value) to put ourselves out there in a networking context. But what effective networking really comes down to is the forming of continued relationships with professionals you encounter, beyond any particular role or in-job interactions. This means the sharing of information and understanding – of skills, best practices, etc. – with the ultimate goal of building a mutually beneficial relationship. Often, that relationship results in tip-offs regarding job opportunities.
The key aspect of networking is that you shouldn’t expect anything in return. If you make sure to keep up connections with people with whom you’ve worked, suppliers, or other contacts you’ve encountered, you can’t carry the expectation that you’ll receive job tip-offs. Make your relationship about a mutual sharing of information. Make it a small part of your routine to reach out to people every day. Network with people whose presence or expertise you’ve legitimately enjoyed or found valuable. Put in the work to network before you go looking for a job, and it’ll pay huge dividends when that time comes.
This is the other great long-term career skill that can seem intimidating. However, personal branding is just like networking: If you dedicate a small amount of time to personal branding every day and work on it in advance of a job search, it’ll pay dividends in terms of the access to the invisible job market.
This happens primarily through recruiters, both in house and agency. What personal branding in this context comes down to is having well-curated, completed social media profiles (especially on LinkedIn) that are rich with keywords, quantifiable data, and accomplishments.
What is now commonly called “thought leadership” also goes a long way toward making yourself more visible to recruiters and hiring managers. LinkedIn’s publishing platform is a great avenue for this. Dedicating just a few minutes a day to improving your personal branding will pay off hugely when the time comes to make a move – and it will give you access to the hidden job market by having recruiters and hiring managers reach out to you with opportunities, instead of crossing your fingers that you’ll be picked out of a hundred job board applicants.
So there you have it! A few tips about how to work on those intangible factors that can afford you access to the invisible job market. It’s extremely advantageous to gain access to unadvertised jobs, and hopefully these tips will help you do just that.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Argentus blog.