Secrets to the “hidden” job market revealed!

What is the hidden job market and why does it exist?

The widely quoted statistic is that up to 80% of jobs get filled without ever being publicly advertised! These unpublicised jobs are referred to as the “hidden job market”.  Simply put, if you are only applying for advertised vacancies, you are missing out on all the jobs that are in this hidden job market. The following are some of the reasons why some vacancies are not released to the public:

  • The manager is still awaiting budget approval, but has discreetly put the word out to invite applications.
  • The role is open but the job description is still being finalised.
  • The position is not open yet, but it will soon be (e.g. someone has just resigned or has been dismissed).
  • The company is trying to fill the role internally first, but if a really good external application comes along, it is likely to be considered.
  • The company prefers to work through quality referrals from employees and not go through a lengthy recruitment process.
  • The company either has no budget for adverts or does not want to receive hundreds of applications by public advertisements.

Most of these “hidden jobs” are eventually filled through internal advertising, candidates making speculative or non-solicited applications, through word of mouth or by people networking.  This is why job seekers should not only be focusing on applying to advertised jobs, but be also proactively sending unsolicited applications to companies and people within their networks.



How do you tap into the hidden job market?

The best way to tap into the hidden job market is to be proactive.  This means you need to “fish out” these opportunities by making unsolicited or speculative job applications. This requires approaching an organisation to ask whether they have suitable vacancies or submitting applications when no vacancy for what you are applying for has been announced. As a job seeker, making unsolicited or speculative job applications aims to generate the attention and interest of the employer in the hope that a role may exist in the company or one will be created based on your application. Some jobs do not exist until the right person appears!

Approach Employers

Speculative applications are most effective when you research the company first before making your approach. This demonstrates real interest in the company you are applying to and illustrates your resourcefulness. Here steps to making an unsolicited or speculative application to employers.


  • Research who to approach or “cold email” (the email equivalent of cold calling). Be resourceful about finding hiring managers emails through LinkedIn, personal networks and company websites. Research the type of companies who hire people in your desired role and make a list of them, use this list to research actual people working at these particular companies.


  • Be brief and to the point. When you make unsolicited applications, provide a short profile of yourself in the body of the email to entice the reader to open your CV. The email body should ideally not be more than 250 words. Attach only your CV and do not bombard the hiring manager with all your documents until requested otherwise.


  • Have an impactful subject line. Your subject line in an unsolicited job application email should entice the hiring manager to want to open the message especially if you are competing with other emails in a busy inbox. Provide some reference to the email contents e.g. Sales Manager with 12 Years Retail experience.


  • Be personal.  Do some research on the hiring manager or the person you are sending an email to. If your message is generic, it is likely to be ignored. Try find some commonality between you and the reader e.g. “I read your article on the HR Matters website last month” or “I noticed that we both went to ABC University”.


  • Always suggest next steps. End your email with a suggested next step e.g. “Kindly let me know if we can have an exploratory interview to discuss further”.


  • Follow up with non-responders. Do not be discouraged if you do not get a response from every email that you send. Send a follow up message after a reasonable period e.g. two weeks. My rule of thumb is maximum three follow ups and then move on.

Network Network Network!

Tapping into the hidden job market is not only about talking to people in senior positions within companies, it is about talking to as many people as possible to uncover potential job leads. It’s not about who has power, but who has information! Cab drivers, hair dressers, security guards etc. interact with many people daily and may come across information that leads to your next job. The more people who are aware about your job search, the higher your chances of someone coming across information that may be of use to you. You do not always know who knows who and hidden jobs can often be found because someone you know, knows someone looking to hire.

Attending industry conferences and events will help you establish relationships with people within your industry and through this you may get to hear about unpublicised jobs. Additionally, make use of online platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with people working at your target companies and develop a relationship with them through requesting for informational interviews, asking for advice and engaging in their posts.

Follow Current Events

Following the news is another great way to speculate job openings. Certain events will often activate vacancies within a company. It is a good time to send that speculative job application if you read that a company has; landed a new contract, is opening new branches, is moving to a new location, is merging with another company or hiring a new CEO. Be the first one to get your CV in before they get flooded with applications once they advertise new vacancies.

Go Ahead – Tap Into That Hidden Job Market!

Being proactive is one of the only means to gain access to all the vacancies that potentially exist regardless of whether or not they are publicised. Tapping into the hidden job market will often mean your application will face little to no competition, as in the case of advertised jobs where your CV is often in a pool with hundreds of other applications  Whilst you may not get results from every speculative or unsolicited application you send, it is a great method of fishing out those lesser known vacancies.  Do not wait for adverts, make those applications now!