One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your job search is to over-rely on the Visible Job Market and underpenetrate the Hidden Job Market.
Let’s define those 2 terms right off the bat. The Visible Job Market is made up of all those open jobs which have been published outside the hiring organization. This includes jobs posted on job boards, listed with recruiters, and published in websites or print newspapers/journals – in short, any job listing you can see on the Internet.
Here’s the critical thing to note: The Visible Job Market contains only about 15% of the jobs available – the millions of jobs you see listed on job boards are but the tip of the iceberg in terms of the career opportunities available at any given moment.
So how do you access the 85% of jobs that aren’t published? That’s the Hidden Job Market – the jobs that exist now or are about to exist that haven’t yet been published or made public in any way. Someone may have retired or quit in one of your target companies, and the opening has yet to be formally published. Or, a target company may be in the midst of a reorganization and just decided to hire someone just like you, but haven’t yet had the chance to discuss it with HR.
The key to penetrating the Hidden Job Market is to target specific companies and build relationships with hiring executives in those organizations. In this way you “get in line” for emerging opportunities before or as they begin to develop (and hence may have an opportunity to influence their scope).
Enter LinkedIn, which is the perfect tool to use to help you penetrate the Hidden Job Market in your target industries.
Identify & court target companies. Using LinkedIn’s advanced search feature, search for target companies by the combination of factors most important and relevant to your needs. LinkedIn allows you to search by:
- level of connection
- company name
- company size
- key words
Once you’ve identified one or more target companies, navigate to their LinkedIn company profile page. LinkedIn will show you a list of folks in your network who have connections to the company – use these connections to source the name(s) of hiring executives in your target functions or departments. Build online relationships with these executives as an entry point to a phone or face-to-face networking conversation.
Leverage 1st, 2nd, & alumni connections. Even without a target company search you can request recommendations from your network for the names of target companies and/or hiring executives that may meet your needs. Segment your network by industry through LinkedIn’s advanced search function and identify 1st, 2nd, and alumni connections you have within your target industries.
Be specific in phrasing your request by noting the type of culture, company size, location, hiring executives, and industry(ies) you are most interested in. Craft your message once and copy/paste into the LI messaging system and then slightly personalize it for each person or type of connection. Make sure you write a quick thank you to everyone who replies. LinkedIn allows you to send 50 messages to your network per day, so if yours is extensive this process will take several days to weeks to complete.
Cultivate a presence in LI industry groups. You can accomplish this same task within your LinkedIn Groups, either on a global basis (targeting the membership as a whole) or an individual basis (one member at a time), depending on which suits your needs best. You can post a message in the discussion area seeking specific hiring executive or company recommendations or use LinkedIn’s advanced search function to identify specific group members in your network. Here again it makes sense to craft your message once and parse it out to 50 group peers a day if you choose to approach group peers one by one.
For either option 2 or 3 above, note that you can request a LinkedIn introduction to a specific hiring executive if you like. Out of courtesy to your connections, I would suggest using this option sparingly. Reserve it for terrific contacts within your top 1-3 target companies, for example.
If you also employ LinkedIn to conduct market/industry research and use the information and insight gained to inform your communications with the hiring executives you’ve sourced, you should be able to craft very specific UVP-driven (Unique Value Proposition) notes for each one.
Yes, this approach is hands-on and takes a little work. But the payoff is huge – targeting companies directly is the #2 best and fastest way to land a new job, surpassed only by networking (which you are also leveraging if you proceed as recommended). In essence, this approach combines the best of the best job search methodologies which makes it a can’t lose proposition.