If you want to get ahead in your career, you might need to think about an underground job, and we don’t mean mining. Michele Tydd uncovers the hidden job market.
The term ‘hidden job market’ may sound intimidating even sinister but not so.
This market comprises jobs that are not advertised. While not new (think head hunting), it has evolved as a potentially effective method of job seeking and recruitment thanks to a seismic shift in workplace processes facilitated by technological innovations.
For the jobseeker, it could be called making your own luck by swapping job queues for primarily networking, cold calling and managing one’s online profile. But there are guidelines to observe to optimise chances of bagging that dream job.
Nuala O’Donnell, UOW’s interim Director of Graduate Career Development and Employability believes for best results the hidden job market should be combined with traditional forms of job hunting.
She estimates at least 50 per cent of jobs are sourced through the hidden job market although some pundits put it much higher, but by its hidden nature, it is difficult to accurately quantify.
“The Department of Employment put it at one third while some studies estimate it to be as high as 60 per cent,’’ says O’Donnell.
But what is clear is that it provides a legitimate and growing source of job opportunities, and she says job seekers need to be aware of it and how to develop skills necessary to crack it.
“Our philosophy is about helping students to help themselves independently manage their careers regardless of what methods of job finding they use,’’ says O’Donnell.
She maintains no method of job seeking will produce fruit without preparation.
At UOW students are encouraged first and foremost to cultivate a deeper understanding of who they are and what defines them in terms of interest, values, personality and skills.
“After that the hidden job market is about creative even cunning ways to raise your profile both online and off to leave a polished professional footprint that can be tracked by recruiters,’’ says O’Donnell.
“Networking is essential, contributing in a meaningful way to online forum discussions and getting out to events such as industry breakfasts or award nights.
I commonly describe talent attraction, recruitment and selection as matchmaking.
“If you are an engineer, for example, you need to become a member of a professional association of qualified engineers… any forum where you meet and talk to people in your industry because those people might have a job opening or know of somebody who is hiring.’’
On a cautionary note, O’Donnell says the worst thing you can do in networking is to openly announce within the first two minutes you are looking for work.
“It’s about getting to know people first and talking about everything but work before you move on to common ground which is why you are all there.”
Cold calling, which involves contacting organisations by phone or email, is another successful strategy.
“It too can be used creatively but again avoid saying, ‘I’m looking for a job’, but perhaps suggest ideas like job shadowing somebody for a day or two,’’ says O’Donnell.
“This gives you visibility and at the end of your stay you leave your resume to ensure you are on their radar. There are obviously insurance hurdles to deal with but we find at UOW the employers we liaise with are quite open to shadowing.”
O’Donnell says while the hidden job market is about putting yourself out there, it is not necessarily reserved for the extroverts.
“Some people are naturals at this kind of self-promotion and others less so, but there are plenty of strategies to build the confidence and communication skills needed in a professional environment.”
On the flipside, the hidden job market has many benefits for the recruiter beyond saving money on advertising, says UOW’s Business School lecturer, Dr Sharna Wiblen.
“I commonly describe talent attraction, recruitment and selection as matchmaking – matching an individual to the right job at the right time in the right organisation with the right team and boss,’’ she says.
“While the traditional method of recruiting is frequently described as the most effective, it follows a linear process that potentially limits organisations accessing the best person.
“This is because it only allows organisations to pick the best person from the formally advertised applicant pool. Promoting jobs through social media or asking existing employees for suitable people they know for the position allows the organisations to access both active and passive candidates.”
“This enhances the talent pool in terms of variety and diversity and increases the likelihood the best person is selected for the job.”
Dr Wiblen maintains that while much is written about what an individual jobseeker should do, consideration should also be given to what the company needs in a potential employee.
“If you are interested in a particular company make sure you are aware of their current and future strategic ambitions and think how you could add value to those ambitions,’’ she says.
UOW alumna Dr Neryl East, an international expert on reputation and credibility, says what people think of you in the digital world is crucial for jobseekers, particularly those who use the hidden job market.
Dr Neryl East
“Reputation has always been important but now in the digital age where it’s so easy to share opinions it’s absolutely critical you make sure you are comfortable with your posts being viewed by a prospective employer,’’ she says.
“My main message is that reputation starts at home even though it’s about what people think of you. You can do a lot to influence that and it’s not just a passive exercise.
“Polished and professional is what you aim for, but it’s not a façade. You need an authentic presence that reflects your actual self,’’ she says.
“There’s not much point building up this amazing digital persona if that’s not reflected in the way you behave because it will be a massive turnoff for people when they actually meet you.”
Dr East says once you work out who you are as a person and what you stand for that authenticity will shine through.
“And be consistent across your platforms so that the type of things you are saying on Facebook is similar to what you are saying on other platforms like Twitter and Instagram.
“The reality is we have to be aware that people and potential employers are watching and judging us and that they have every right to do so if it is in a public domain.”
You need an authentic presence that reflects your actual self.
Dr East says common mistakes often come down to inconsistencies in style and frequency of posts.
“You have to be clear about your lane and your area of expertise and what you want to be known for in areas of thought leadership – you have to stick to that lane and don’t just post rubbish,’’ she says.
Dr Neryl East
Master of Arts (Journalism), 1993
Doctor of Philosophy (Journalism), 1999
Bachelor of Arts, 1986