Tag Archives: Hidden Job Market

A risk not taken in the job search, is an opportunity lost

Many people are standing around a tranquil body of water with their fishing lines cast in it. They believe the water is abundant with fish. They’re content standing there exchanging a word or two, speaking of hope and opportunity. They feel like old friends who are in it together.

Before a cave stands one man looking into it, and from within the cave eyes stare at him. The eyes are frightening, for they could be the eyes of monsters; but on the other hand they could be the eyes of friendly people. The man’s just not sure of which. So he waits.

The people are comfortable standing around that body of water with fishing lines dangling from their poles. There’s comfort in numbers. The weather is fine—fine as in real fine, not sticky hot. Life is grand.

Because the man in front of the cave is afraid of dark spaces, he won’t enter it even if someone were to beat him with a stick. It’s better to wait.

Eventually the people grow tired of standing around the body of water with nothing happening. They get hungry and their arms get tired from holding their light fishing poles. They start lowering their poles, grumbling from hunger. Life isn’t so grand.

Because the man standing before the cave doesn’t feel particularly courageous, he stands there wondering if it’s worth entering. It’s damn cold out and whatever’s inside the cave seem to be comfortable. Whoever’s in there continue to look out, almost taunting him. It’s as if they know something he doesn’t, and this begins to bug him.

Risks are hard to measure and the outcomes are not certain. Because they’re hard to measure, safety (as in numbers) and a common belief (there has to be fish in the water) seem to be more viable. This is exactly why the man is having a hard time entering that cave; it’s risky. Soon he’ll discover that he is a risk taker, an explorer. At the moment he’s unsure of what to do.

The people around the body of water, who are now beginning to drop their fishing poles and swear about being hungry, aren’t risk takers. And look what it’s getting them. They’re getting no fish. Further, they’re beginning to think that even if there are fish in the water, there are too many people with whom to share the fish…if there are fish.

Eventually the man standing at the entrance of the cave decides that entering the unknown is better than standing there and getting nothing accomplished. He takes a breath and puts one step forward, backs up, takes another breath, again puts the foot forward, then puts the other foot forward, until he’s in the cave. And guess what, it doesn’t seem that dark when his eyes adjust.

What he sees around him are opportunities that were hidden from him until he took a risk—only it wasn’t really a risk, as it turns out. He only has one regret; he wishes he’d entered the cave a lot sooner.

Meanwhile the people round the body of water leave, each believing that there are fish in the water. The fish weren’t biting today, but tomorrow will be a new day with hope renewed. They’ll discover much later that the promise of fish was an empty one.

6 steps to penetrate the Hidden Job Market

snow bank

When I think about the time my wife and I were shoveling our walkway last winter, I see that time as analogous to the Hidden Job Market (HJM).

The problem I had that day was trying to locate another shovel whose location was only known by my wife. It’s under the snow pile, she told me.

Where exactly? I replied.

Under that huge pile, she pointed to a mountainous heap.

Similar to a jobseeker who needs to know where the jobs are, I needed to know where the shovel was. My wife represented a knowledgeable contact who knew generally where the shovel was.

Fortunately I knew there was a shovel and simply had to ask where it was. In many cases the hunt for a job is not that easy for the typical jobseeker. They’re competing in a stiff job market which favors the employer (a buyer’s market), who prefers to hire people they know and trust.

HJMIt’s estimated that 75%-80% of the good jobs are hidden. This means that 25%-20% are advertised. Unfortunately an estimated 85% of job seekers concentrate on the advertised jobs, creating intense competition and very little chance for success.

What is the solution to getting known and trusted by the employer? Take the following steps:

1. Develop a list of companies for which you’d like to work. This can be done by Googling your occupation, industry, and desired location. On LinkedIn, go to the Companies page, select a company, and scroll down to the right side of the page where similar companies are listed.

Instead of spending a great deal of time applying for jobs through the job boards, use more time researching your target companies. This is part of your labor market research. You can also talk to people who work at these companies, people who would know more about them.

2. Make contact with the appropriate people at these companies and send them an approach letter or put in a call, asking for an informational meeting. The result of this meeting should impress your new contact so much that he/she is willing to recommend you to a hiring manager.

Another result from informational meetings is developing your network with quality connections. Ask for contact information for other quality connections before leaving your informational meeting.

3. Attend networking events, where people who are currently working can provide valuable information as to where jobs may exist, maybe at their own company. Google for business networking events in your area, as well as industry specific affiliations.

Also attend job seeker networking events, where you’ll give and receive information and advice from people who are also looking for work. Don’t expect immediate gratification; rather go with the intention of building relationships.

4. Schedule appointments with selected connections. For example, get together for coffee with former colleagues who have been keeping their ear to the pavement for you. Some believe this approach is most effective. In other words, less is better.

It’s important to keep these valuable connections in the loop by sending emails letting them know your progress in the job search. Don’t make it all about the job search, though. Send an occasional email inquiring about your connections’ personal life.

5. Connect with people in the community. Sometimes this can be the most effective way to locate opportunities. Ask your neighbor who works at one of your desired companies if he/she would be willing to deliver your résumé to a hiring manager.

One of my customers approached me about how he landed a job, bragging that he didn’t have to network. He told me he handed his résumé to his neighbor who then delivered it to the hiring manager in the department. My customer got an interview and landed his job. I didn’t want to bust his bubble, but he networked to get the job.

6. A more passive way to penetrate the HJM is to let recruiters do the seeking. Make your LinkedIn campaign as fruitful as possible by developing a kick-ass profile, connecting with people in your industry, and engaging with your connections. The idea here is to prompt employers to contact you after they’ve read your profile.

There are two major benefits derived by the smart employer who is looking for awesome talent via LinkedIn.

  • They save the cost of a traditional hiring process which can run into the thousands, including advertising on the job boards, potentially hiring a search agency to locate and filter candidates, the people power it takes to review résumés and then interviewing candidates.
  • The second benefit is precluding the need to interview complete strangers. Instead an employer can initiate contact via phone or e-mail and engage a discussion with job seekers. Job seekers essentially become a known commodity before the employer decides to invite them in for an interview.

My wife, mostly, and  I finished shoveling the walkway because she knew where the second shovel was. Had she not known, I would have had to shovel the walkway on my own. I suppose I could have found the shovel if I dug through a ton of snow, but I probably would have given up the search.

Flickr: Grant McDonald

10 tips job seekers must heed for a successful job search

And a short story about how my son didn’t listen.

The other day, my son and I were shooting hoops. He was loving it. I was hating it, for the mere fact that my fingers were numb from the cold. To add to my frustration, I was telling him to layup the ball with his opposite hand, but he wasn’t listening. “Why do I need to do layups with my left hand?” he asked me.


“Because you need to be multi-talented,” I told him. “You need to be able to layup the ball with your opposite hand when you’re forced to the left side.” I’ve never played organized basketball, so I’m not sure my advice was sound; but it sounded good.

While I was “coaching” my 14-year-old kid, I got to thinking about the advice I give job seekers, most of whom listen and others (like my son) who don’t. The ones who listen are those who send me e-mails or even stop by the career center to tell me about their upcoming interviews or, best of all, their new jobs. It’s all about the effort they put into their job search that makes the difference. They do the hard work, while I simply provide the theory. Such as:

1. Begin with a proper attitude. All too often I hear negativity from my job seekers. “I’ll never get hired because I’m overqualified.” Or, “There are no jobs out there.” Talk like this will get you nowhere, as I tell my customers.

People are more likely to help people who appear positive, as opposed to negative. I’m not saying you must feel positive; I’m just saying appear positive. As the saying goes, “Fake it till you make it.”

2. Your first impressions matter more than you think. First of all, are you dressed for the job search? What do you mean, you wonder. I mean you’re on stage every time you leave the house, so don’t walk around in clothes you’d wear while cutting the lawn. Always look people in the eyes while delivering a firm handshake that doesn’t crush their hand.

3. Network, network, network. Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work. Be clear as to what you want to do and where you want to do it. Clearly explain your occupation (human resources vs. human services is a big difference), your greatest attributes, and your extensive experience.

Whenever you talk with someone in your community and the opportunity arises, mention you’re between jobs. Attend job seeker networking events to gain leads and provide leads; remember, networking is a two-way street.

4. Penetrate the Hidden Job Market. Which coincidentally has a great deal to do with networking. Look for jobs where most people aren’t. “Why?” as my son would ask me. Simple, employers gain a lot more from not advertising their positions than they do if they advertise. They prefer to promote from within or get referrals from trusted sources.

Advertising comes with a slew of problems–tons of résumés to read and interviewing strangers. What really frustrates me is when I ask my customers how they’re looking for work, and they list a slew of job boards…and that’s it.

5. Approach growing companies. This will require gathering your Labor Market Information, which can be done in a number of ways. I suggest developing a list of companies for which you’d like to work and visit their websites to see if there’s growth.

Growth equals possibly hiring in the future. Sources like business journals, the stock market, networking in the community and at organized events, are all viable options. Once you know which companies are growing, send them an approach letter or call them to get a networking meeting.

6. When applying for jobs: research, research, research. Always know the requirements for the jobs for which you apply. Which major skills are most important, and do you have relevant accomplishments to tout.

Know about the companies in terms of their products, services, mission statement, etc. This will come in handy when you write your résumé and other written marketing material, as well as when you interview.

7. Market yourself with professional targeted résumés. DO NOT send a one-fits-all résumé that fails to show the love; rather tailor your résumés for each job. Your résumés should include relevant quantified accomplishments and a strong Performance Profile that makes the employer want to read on.

Don’t limit accomplishments to the Work History; include some accomplishment statements in the Performance Profile…the better to get employers’ attention.

8. Send a cover letter with each résumé, unless instructed not to. True, some recruiters do not read cover letters, but many do. And if your job will involve writing, you must send a well-written targeted cover letter.

A cover letter does a great job of demonstrating your enthusiasm for the job and company to which you’re applying. It also points the reader to the relevant accomplishments on your résumé.

9. Start a LinkedIn, FaceBook, or Twitter networking campaign. Online networking should not replace face-to-face networking; rather it should supplement your networking efforts.

I lean more toward LinkedIn as an online networking and branding site. It is for professionals looking for jobs and advancing their business. Your LinkedIn profile should be outstanding like your résumé. If not, don’t advertise it.

10. Dribble with your left hand. Yesterday I had our networking group do an exercise that was intended to have them think of other ways to look for work, as most of them were probably using the same methods without success.

If looking for jobs six hours a day on the Internet isn’t working, try networking, or contacting a recruiter, or reaching out to your alumni, or retraining, etc.

My son didn’t listen to me when I told him to layup with his opposite hand, despite my constant harping. But he’ll soon learn his lesson when it comes game time and defenders will force him to his left. And my customers will hopefully follow these ten tips in order to make their job search shorter.

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10 ways to prepare before leaving your job

soccerOne of my good friends is gainfully employed as an accountant at a large company. He’s pulling in a nice salary and enjoying the great things in life. But he’s worried about his future with the company for which he works. He’s probably no different than most people. No job is entirely secure. No job.

We had a moment as we were watching a professional soccer match. The kind of moment that isn’t the most comfortable, but a good reality check. It began when he told me he comes home everyday feeling like he hates his job and fears that most days will be his last.

I asked him if he’s looking for another job, and he gave me a response that’s very typical for people who are paralyzed by the fear of losing a miserable job. No, he hasn’t and doesn’t know where he’d look. Furthermore, he’s afraid that he’ll be unprepared if he has to look for another job. “I don’t even have a résumé,” he admitted.

I was glad that he at least realizes he needs a résumé. Many people don’t think about this until they wake up the morning after when their job no longer exists. Further they don’t realize they should be updating their résumé while they’re still employed, adding accomplishments as they are achieved.

I asked him if he’s touched his LinkedIn profile lately. No to that. No time with the kids’ activities. “Do you want help with your résumé and profile,” I volunteered. He’s not one who likes to reach out for help, a proud guy. No, his wife would whip one together when the time comes.

If we had time to talk more…rather if I wanted to push the issue, I would have laid out a plan for him in terms of looking for a job while working. I would have included 10 ongoing steps I’d recommend to everyone in his situation:

  1. Resign yourself to the fact that it’s your right to prepare for your next job would be my first bit of advice for him. When you know your company is hurting or you’re unhappy for any reason, it’s fine to look elsewhere. Loyalty is a great attribute to possess and well admired, but being loyal may not be to your benefit, especially if your company cannot sustain itself. Many people try to ride out the inevitable only to find themselves unemployed along with hundreds of other people.
  2. Don’t use the company’s office equipment, including computer, phone, and fax machine. Conduct all you computer work at home or at a public place. Use your cell phone during lunch, not during office hours, as this is most likely a violation of company policy. Most companies/organizations understand you’ll be looking for work if you’re unhappy, but don’t flaunt it in their face.
  3. Get that résumé in order. Let me reiterate the importance of having an updated résumé that includes, most importantly, quantified accomplishments with numbers, dollars and percentages. How have you increased revenue or productivity? Have you decreased cost or time? Improved processes that increased productivity? Scrambling to write a resume, as my friend intimated, will only put more pressure on him…and his spouse who’s writing it.
  4. Compile an accomplishment sheet that includes 10-15 accomplishments. I put this challenge to my workshop attendees because this can be a great networking tool, as well as nice to have by your side during a telephone interview. In addition, it gets you to think about the value you bring to employers. Take the accomplishments already on your résumé and try to add more, even if they’re from your volunteerism.
  5. Update your LinkedIn profile. Many people are starting to realize that LinkedIn plays a major role in hiring authorities vetting talent. For them it doesn’t involve reading a huge pile of résumés and interviewing many strange people, thus enabling the Hidden Job Market (HJM). Rather they visit people’s profiles to see if the skills and experience they’re seeking are on them. If so, a nice conversation or two may ensue, leading to a real interview…for the formal process.
  6. Speaking of the HJM…get out of the office and do some networking. My friend works where he can get away for an “hour” lunch, which is a great opportunity for him to meet up with some targeted networking partners. Locate people through LinkedIn or referrals from a group of trusted people, and call them for lunch or discrete meetups. “Honey, I’ll be home late” may be a necessity in this situation.
  7. Don’t confine your networking to people who are in your industry; let other people know you’re unhappy at your current company and that you would consider new opportunities. My friend volunteered that he’s unhappy, which set my job-search advice wheels into motion. Now I’m thinking of ways to assist him in his job search, perhaps by writing his résumé. Sometimes it’s the superficial connections who come through with leads when you least expect it.
  8. Think beyond your comfort zone. I asked my friend if he would consider companies smaller than the one at which he currently works. He was slow to answer, which makes me think he’ll need some persuasion. While larger companies are appealing–offer higher salaries–smaller companies combined hire more people per capita. Plus there’s more competition from a slew of people who are applying to the blue-chip companies.
  9. Start cutting back on the luxuries. If you see the writing on the wall and know your days are numbered, make plans to spend less money. Perhaps start paying off bills so they won’t be hanging over your head should you lose your job.
  10. Have an earnest discussion with your boss. If you trust your direct supervisor, ask for a moment of his/her time and discus your concern about the future of your position. Perhaps your concerns are unwarranted, or as my wife would accurately tell me at times, I was being paranoid.

This was an uncomfortable conversation between my friend and I, and it’s a difficult topic to write about. Nonetheless, it is a reality that anyone’s job is not 100% secure. It’s important, therefor, to take measures to prepare for the possibility of losing your job. Perhaps my friend, who’s been at his company for 30 years has nothing to worry about, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, as the cliché goes.

My nomination for Person of the Year

Time just came out with their Person of the Year award and, as we all know, the winner is The Protesters, which I think is grand. A great deal of good came out of protests in the Middle East, and I won’t comment on the Occupiers in fear of offending one side of the political spectrum or the other. Time’s choice was…interesting.

Some thought Steve Jobs should have won Person of the Year. He didn’t even make the Short List. The leader of the Elite Six Navy Seals, William McRaven, made the short list; great choice. Kate Middleton made the short list as well? The fact is you’ll never get everyone to agree on the same person/people. But my Person of the Year should have at least made the Short List.

My person of the year is The Jobseeker. The Jobseeker carried him/herself with dignity and professionalism. He/she networked and paid it forward, wrote powerful résumés resulting in interviews, and finally (after more than a year, in some cases), landed a job.

But there were many Jobseekers who demonstrated true heroism throughout the entire year, simply by the way they handled themselves. Perhaps they didn’t land their job, but they never gave up in the face of adversity. And they’ll continue to put forth the same effort that make them honorable, in my mind. They:

  • Woke up every morning to put in a full day of hunting for work, leaving no stones unturned and considering every possibility.
  • Maintained that screw-the-economy-I-will-get-a-job attitude.
  • Knew that every day was a day when they might have run into a person who could hire them, or someone who knew a person who could have hired them; thus dressed ready for the moment, even in my workshops.
  • Took a break every once and awhile to recharge the batteries, but not too long of a break. A day or two at the most. They networked during the holidays.
  • Followed their career plan of revising the résumé, creating a list of companies they research and contacted, building a LinkedIn profile that meets today’s standards, and other best practices.
  • Attended workshops and took advantage of job-search pundits’ advice, learning that things have changed in the past ten years but, nonetheless, trudged on.
  • Accepted and embraced the Hidden Job Market, making penetrating it a priority in their job search plan.
  • Attended interview after interview until they hit a homerun with an employer smart enough to hire them. The Jobseeker never gave up, despite the challenges they encountered.
  • Never forgot the important things in life, like family and friends, and taking care of their health. They didn’t let the job search consume them.
  • Faced the despondency or depression they encountered with courage and perseverance.

These are just a few of the reasons why The Jobseeker gets my vote for Person of the Year. If you think of others, let us know by commenting on this article. I think I should send my reasons to Time and demand a recount.

Soccer and doing what it takes; 7 things to do in your job search

The other day, my son and I were shooting the soccer ball at the net. He was loving it, and I was hating it for the mere fact that my feet were numb from the cold. Regardless, I was constantly telling him to shoot with his opposite foot. “Why?”he asked me.

“Because you need to be multi-talented,” I told him. “You need to be able to shoot the ball with whichever foot it comes to. If you have to turn your body so you can shoot with your left, you’ll lose opportunities.” I’ve played some soccer in my day, so my advice was sound, albeit not what he wanted to hear.

While I was “coaching” my 10-year-old kid, I got to thinking about the advice I give jobseekers, most of whom listen and others who don’t. The ones who listen are those who send me e-mails or even stop by the career center to tell me about their upcoming interviews or, best of all, their new jobs. It’s all about the effort they put into their job search that makes the difference. They do the hard work, while I simply provide the theory. Such as:

  1. Network, network, network. Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work. Be clear as to what you want to do and where you want to do it. Clearly explain your occupation (human resources vs. human services is a big difference), your greatest attributes, and your extensive experience.
  2. Look for a job where most people aren’t. In other words, penetrate the Hidden Job Market, which, coincidently, has a great deal to do with networking. “Why?” as my son would ask me. Simple, employers gain a lot more from not advertising than they do from advertising their positions. When they advertise, they spend more money, have to read hundreds of résumés, and interview strange people.
  3. Research, research, research. Always know the requirements for the jobs for which you apply. Know about the companies as well. This will come in handy when you write your résumé and other written marketing material, as well as when you interview for said positions.
  4. Market yourself with targeted résumés for each job, rich with quantified accomplishments and a strong personal profile that makes the employer want to read on. One of my respected contacts on LinkedIn, Laura Smith-Proulx, wrote a great article called Is Your Resume Summary Boring Employers? In it she advises jobseekers to include a substantial, quantified accomplishment in the professional profile.
  5. Send a cover letter with each résumé, unless instructed not to. True, some recruiters do not read cover letters, but many do. And if your job will involve writing, you must send a well-written, targeted cover letter that isn’t boring. Refrain from using a pat opening line that reads something like this, “I was pleased to read on Monster.com of an opening for a project manager….”
  6. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Never go to an interview unprepared. You’ve researched the position and company, so you should have an understanding of what questions might be asked. Prepare your answers for a behavioral-based interview using the STAR formula (Situation, Task, Action, Result). If you are asked traditional questions, you’ll be better prepared to answer them because you’ll have examples to share.
  7. Finally, consider building a LinkedIn, FaceBook, or Twitter networking campaign. Online networking should not replace face-to-face networking; rather it should supplement your networking efforts. LinkedIn is considered the premiere professional networking site, but the other two have garnered results for some people.

I explain some very basic job search methods, yet some jobseekers refuse or don’t understand how to begin and follow through with the basic tenets of the job search. Like my son who shies away from shooting with his opposite foot and, thus, will miss opportunities; these jobseekers will find it more difficult to find a job.