Applying for jobs can often feel like screaming into a hurricane. You may be putting dozens of applications out a week with little success, especially if you’re looking for entry-level jobs. The volume method of sending dozens of applications on easy-apply job boards has a very low chance of success. At some point, you’ll need to change your strategy.

If you’ve hit a lull in your search, it’s time to learn about the hidden job market. You may be unfamiliar with this term, or you may have heard it without context. This isn’t a black market-type version of Indeed but rather a networking strategy. At its core, the hidden job market refers to jobs that aren’t publicly posted on job boards or a company’s website.

Through some sleuthing, we’ve exposed the mysteries of the hidden job market and how to access it yourself.

What is the hidden job market?

The idea at the center of the hidden job market may seem odd. Why wouldn’t a company openly advertise a job to get the best candidate pool possible?

There are actually lots of good reasons to keep a job opening quiet, as revealed by The Balance Career’s Alison Doyle. Current employees have a good understanding of what it takes to succeed in certain roles, and their referrals can carry greater weight. This leads to a company only looking for referrals. Or maybe the employer has a reason for keeping the position a secret, such as a new branch opening that isn’t yet public.

“Historically, the hidden job market was about unadvertised jobs. Fast forward to 2020, and you’ll find that the process is still about getting to hiring managers and recruiters early in the process, ideally, before the job is posted or engaging with that employer as soon as a listing goes up.” -Hannah Morgan

LinkedIn’s Andrew Seaman says there isn’t a lot of hard data on the size of the hidden market. Polled recruiters were split on the percentage of jobs that never made it to the open market. Some openings never made public include some of the highest-ranking spots in an organization, as those coveted jobs often have a shortlist of candidates. Another reason to keep the opening hidden is if it’s to fill an internal replacement.

Many of these jobs may become public after some time, but tapping into the hidden market early can get you a leg up on the competition.

How to access the hidden market

Getting a head start on your rival applicants is crucial, but how can access this hidden market? Ultimately, it’s a matter of networking.

Forbes cited Job Search Strategist Hannah Morgan, who said, “People typically are good at looking for jobs on the search boards but not through relationships. When you are actively networking and being strategic, you will be more successful.”

Using social media is key, as LinkedIn and Twitter are great places to connect with people, but Morgan says not to sleep on Facebook, as people still spend a lot of time on it. Having a well-rounded and consistently updated social media portfolio is the best start.

Building your LinkedIn network is one of the best ways to tap into the market, thanks to the ease of access in growing your network and keeping in touch with your contacts. Your contacts may look to you before a job is public without you even looking, or they might pass your name off to a recruiter in the know.

Networking can be intimidating, but social media makes it much more accessible. FlexJobs contributor Jessica Howington recommends taking the leap and sending “cold messages” to employees at companies you’re interested in. You certainly don’t want to open by asking for a job, but these connections can be great for informational interviews and learning more about the company, industry, or job title. And when a job opens up, you may be one of the first to find out.

If you don’t have a specific company in mind, Indeed recommends joining networking groups, professional organizations, alumni associations, and signing up for job alerts. And there’s always volunteering, an underrated resume builder and networking tool.

“Companies in the industry may reach out to associations before posting openings publicly. These professional organizations also offer events to build your network with industry peers or alumni who work for your desired companies. These relationships can provide advice for your search and potentially connect you to hidden opportunities.” – Indeed

Wrap up

Many job seekers get locked into one way of applying for jobs, and being aware that there’s an entire hidden world of jobs out there for the taking is a major eye-opener. Being one of the first to apply for a new job is a way to separate yourself from your peers, and by building a strong network you may get that chance. Keep building your network and learning more about your chosen industry, and the hidden market will be wide open!

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