“How to Crack the Hidden Job Market”

Let me tell you about the “hidden” job market and how you can use it to get hired.

First, let’s dispense with a common misconception — the hidden job market isn’t really hidden at all. It’s just not in plain sight. It’s referred to as the “hidden” job market because of how positions are created and filled. In most cases, jobs are created in one of three ways:

  1. A company is growing and creates a new job;
  2. An employee quits, vacating an existing job; or
  3. An employee is fired from an existing job.

When a company is growing, the owner, president, or other hiring authority may know they need new employees, but haven’t initiated the process. They may not have the time, the budget, or the willingness to go through the hassle of advertising and interviewing. So, while the need is real, the job itself remains hidden inside the head of the hiring manager.

When someone quits or is fired, managers will first decide if they can eliminate the job, or combine it with another position. If they decide a new person is needed, they will first look inside their organization for someone to fill the role. If that doesn’t work, they’ll likely ask employee for referrals. And if that doesn’t work, they may opt to run an ad through HR, or hire a headhunter.

Companies often contact a headhunter when secrecy is required, because good recruiters can conduct a search without anyone ever knowing. This is especially important if an employee is going to be replaced without their knowledge – loose lips not only sink ships, they can also damage company morale.

In all of these cases, jobs remain hidden to the outside world for weeks if not months. Hence the term hidden job market.

The only way for you to access the hidden job market successfully is to reach out to hiring managers directly before they opt to go the advertising or HR route. The hidden job market is your private laboratory to test the best methods for finding your dream job.

Now let’s look at one of the Top 10 Strategies Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters uses to access the hidden job market …


Strategy: Do Targeted Research

One quick way to discover new opportunities is by doing structured search engine queries. And it’s fairly easy to do. Here’s how to do targeted research, in two easy steps:

Step #1 Develop a list of companies you want to work for.

Here’s how you build that list. Before you start, you have to answer two questions: What job do you want? and Where do you want to do it?

Let’s say you want an advertising job in New York City. We’ll visit Google.com and use the Advanced Search option. The search string shown below instructs Google to search for a directory of advertising firms in New York or an industry conference on advertising held in New York. This will bring back leads for prospective employers.

Google Advanced search

Your search query should look like that in the picture above.

My search returned many hits, including one for Local Online Advertising Conference – 3rd on the list below. 

Click it a and see where it goes.


Notice the list of attendees?  Handy or what?

There were also hits for directories of advertising companies in New York, complete with web site addresses, phone numbers, and profiles of the owners. Pay dirt!

Now, it’s on to …


Step #2 Find People Who Can Hire You:

Once you have a target list of companies, you need to find out who the people are in those companies that can actually hire you. A good headhunter would pick up the telephone, call and ask. You might not be so inclined, so here’s another way to get the names of hiring authorities …

Visit each company’s web site and look for names of people who can say yes. Who are you looking for? Executives, not human resource people – the latter group can only say NO … unless you’re another human resources professional. If you’re lucky, every corporate web site will identify its senior executives, including names, titles, phone numbers, career summaries and sometimes email and photos!  Web information should be up-to-date, but I would still call the receptionist to confirm it.

Let’s go back to our advertising example. Let’s say I’m looking for a sales job in an ad agency in New York City. Who would have the power to hire a sales rep? I would scour company web sites for the name(s) of a VP of Sales, VP of Sales & Marketing or a General Manager.

If you’re having trouble finding names on a web site, go back to Google’s advanced search box and type in the company name in the first box and “Vice President Sales Marketing Director” in the third box. (By the way, you don’t need to put the words in brackets and don’t include commas or punctuation.)

That search string will bring you:

  • All the people who are, or have ever been, VPs or President or Directors of Sales and/or Marketing for that company.
  • The resumes of a whole pile of people from that company whom you may be able to call and solicit for information.

Once you have the name of the person one rung up the ladder from the job you want, you need to process their name through Google again. This time put their first and last name in the first box and the company name in the third box.

This will produce a list of press releases, and news articles in which they are mentioned, as well as conferences they’ve attended. Read an article or two and clip something memorable to use in your Narrow Cast letter, in which you demonstrate your knowledge of the person, the company, and how you can help both. (You can view an example Narrow Cast letter at this link).

When you send your letter, you can to write. “I read your article in … about … which prompted me to write.” Very powerful, and a great way to get interviews.


Article by David E. Perry, author of Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters and the Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters Blog. Kevin Donlin, also contributed.