Who Hid All the Jobs? The Case of the Hidden Job Market

Our CEO, Jennifer Fremont-Smith, mentioned a pretty startling statistic in one of her recent “…er” posts: “Over 12.3 million people are unemployed in the U.S., yet 3.7 million jobs are unfilled.” Jennifer attributes it to a skills gap, and that’s definitely part of the problem, but, as anyone who’s looked for a job in the past couple years knows, they’re hard to find!  I thought I’d go looking for all these untaken jobs.
How can you find hidden jobs?First up on my Private I-I-I (“Investigative Intern using the Internet”) agenda was a pretty simple question. Why are these jobs hidden? 

Susan Adams of Forbes thinks it’s basically a question of ease. “Given the choice of sorting through hundreds of difficult-to-distinguish applications, and taking the recommendation of a contact, or considering an applicant who has demonstrated initiative and enthusiasm by getting in touch directly, most hiring managers will take the most efficient path,” she explains.

According to David Perry, a headhunter, the hidden job market is really just the consequence of people leaving their jobs, which companies don’t want to advertise. “Every year there’s 20-25% turn over,” Perry told Fortune. “So in a 1,000-person company, 200 or 250 people are going to turn over, either through attrition, or someone moves.”

Okay, so how do you land at the vacant desk of one of those 200 to 250 people?

It’ll probably help you to adjust your definition of “job.” Once you stop considering a “job” to be a single, concrete item, of which a company only mints one or two at a time, the hidden job market snaps into focus: the game is to be available and desirable, not to find the exact desk you want to sit at.

As Angie Jones puts it in Carreerealism, “Often, the employer isn’t aware of the need to hire until the perfect candidate presents him/herself. It isn’t unusual for an employer to create a position for a great candidate.”

Keeping your new definition of job in mind, return to your job search. Do the same things you were doing before – research the company, network to get closer to hiring managers, let your contacts know you’re looking, position yourself as the solution to the company’s most immediate problems – just realign your targets.

Once you set your sights on the hidden job market, you’ll be on the fast track to employment. It’s simply a case of probability. What’s more likely – that you’ll be the best candidate with the right keywords in a pile of six hundred resumes being fed through a machine, or that your favorite company has a problem you could solve? If the second’s not true, the first won’t be either. Find the problems you can solve, and let some hiring managers know! 

The jobs aren’t hidden under a rock. They’re not a secret. All “hidden job market” means, as it turns out, is that hiring managers aren’t looking for people who sound exactly like a job description — they’re looking for solutions to problems.