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Tips on how to access the hidden job market

The hidden job market is a term used to describe jobs that aren’t posted online or advertised. Job seekers can tap the hidden job market by using networking connections to help find unadvertised job openings. Many employers choose to hire internally or through their professional network to avoid the lengthy process of open online applications. Instead of posting a job opening, some employers will choose other alternatives such as going through a recruiting firm, headhunters, and referrals from current employees. It is possible to find these opportunities as a potential applicant by:

  • Expanding your network connections and

  • Revealing your professional objectives

Employers are finding that when they list an opening on a free job board, the number of unqualified applicants that reply overwhelms them, and they wind up spending untold hours and resources trying to screen each candidate. “Therefore, it is much easier for them to look on social media platforms for good candidates for their open position. They can screen applicants on LinkedIn and Google+ and other platforms without excessive costs.

Who’s in your network? Make a list of people you know and trust who might have connections to places you’d like to work. To get you started, here’s a list of people you could consider as part of your network:

  • family members and close friends

  • neighbours and family friends

  • club members

  • teammates and classmates

  • teachers and coaches

  • employers and co-workers

  • community leaders

  • employment services centre advisors or counsellors

  • librarians

  • doctors/dentists

Using your network Once you’ve identified people in your network, contact each one of them individually to let them know you’re looking for work and to ask if they know of any available jobs. They might not know of any opportunities right away, but it’s always helpful to put the fact that you’re looking for a job on their radar. The beauty of networking is that the people in your network also have networks of their own. When you talk to the people in your network, it’s always a good idea to ask if they know of anyone else you could talk to about job opportunities. This might seem obvious, but remember to be polite and professional. Good networkers share in the lives of others by giving and receiving information, advice, support, and commitment. It’s important to find a healthy balance between natural conversation and being clear and direct about what you’re looking for, without coming across too strong or pushy.

Expanding your network Networking is all about leveraging relationships, so if you want to expand the network of people you’re currently connected to, all you need to do is get to know more people! Here are some ways you can expand your professional networks:

Volunteer and join associations A great way to learn new skills, gain work experience, and meet new people is through volunteering. Many groups and associations can help you meet people in a particular industry or area of interest. Check out the following page for more information on volunteering:

  • Volunteer work

Contact potential employers Make a list of places where you’d like to work or people you’d like to work for. Find their contact information online and, if they don’t have a job-posting section, you can phone the personnel department or a hiring manager to discuss any potential openings. Even if they don’t have openings at the time, they might keep you in mind when an opening does become available, or they might know of someone else who is looking to hire.

Informational interviews The information interview can be a useful way to find out more about the kind of industry or company you would like to work for. While this technique is not designed for finding a job, the contacts you make may lead you to job openings. Fred Coon, an author, licensed employment agent, and CEO of Stewart, Cooper & Coon, says experts estimate that between 80% and 85% of all jobs openings are unlisted.

15 tips for networking

  1. Know what you have to offer. Do a skills inventory to help you learn what you have to offer an employer.

  2. Make connections. Think about what kind of job you want, and identify people in your network who can help get you closer to your goal; Talk to insiders. “Try to talk with executives in various companies and industries to learn what is happening in their spaces so you know where to align your career path as well as your job-search efforts,” he says. “Your next great opportunity may be in a space you never thought possible, but you’ll never know if you don’t explore.”

  3. Think about what you want to say. Before calling an employer, prepare a blurb you’re comfortable with. For example: “Hello, my name is (add your name here). I understand that your company does (add the field of activity of your business here), and that’s my area of career interest. I was wondering if you had any current job openings.”

  4. Refresh their memory. When contacting acquaintances you haven’t been in contact with for a while, help jog their memory by letting them know who you are and how they know you.

  5. Be yourself. Networking is all about building relationships. Don’t pretend to be someone else; your healthiest and strongest relationships are often the ones where you are completely yourself.

  6. Be humble. Focus on sharing what you have to offer, not bragging.

  7. Manners count. Be polite. People are more likely to do a favour for someone nice and tactful than someone who comes across as pushy.

  8. Follow up, but don’t be annoying. Following up on conversations or opportunities is a good idea. Nagging? Not so much.

  9. Join industry-related groups. Join associations, Chambers of Commerce, meet-up groups, Toastmasters, etc., and start building contacts before you need them, Coon says. “Consider volunteering to give a talk at a meeting of one of these entities, as this is a great way to get noticed.”

  10. Establish yourself as a source of information in your industry. Send each of your individual contacts within your network links to articles of interest once or twice a year, Coon suggests. “When you send these links, keep your email short: ‘Saw this and thought you might be interested…’ This way, your name becomes associated with good information and you are seen as a valuable, well-read resource.”

  11. Pay attention to the news. Stay on top of any local business journals and TV news for information on what’s happening with companies in your area. “If you hear someone interviewed on news-radio, send them a note that you appreciated what they had to say and would like to get together over coffee to learn more,” Coon says.

  12. Search company “Careers” pages. “Research and target companies you are interested in — most companies will post on their own website and never go to outside job boards or recruiters.” In fact, many companies have internal referral programs in place, so existing employees make referrals and thereby eliminate the need for the company to conduct a formal search.

  13. Build and maintain relationships with recruiters. “The best way to do this is to update your resume every few months so you can send the latest version to them,” Coon says.

  14. Use LinkedIn wisely. Keep your profile up-to-date, and refresh it regularly. “Join groups and participate in discussions so people become familiar with your name and may seek you out,” he says. “Remember, recruiters and companies often purchase memberships that give them a ‘back door’ to see who is active in their field and what they are saying, so be certain to keep your discussions positive and constructive.”

  15. Target carefully. Pick the companies where you would like to work; do your homework on why you want to work there; and identify those things that you can relate to and like about the company.

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