I often get asked the question, “What is the Hidden Job Market?” I think it is a weird phrase that is now generally used to describe it, but I work with what I have, so here is the best description I could find.

“The hidden job market consists of job openings that are not advertised yet, openings that result from recent retirements, firings, company expansions and anticipated future openings, along with jobs which do not currently exist, but which are created for individuals.”

Different studies have shown that from fifty to eighty percent of all jobs are never advertised, and are located in the hidden job market. I normally reference this New York Department of Labor page when someone asks me about the source of this number.

Most jobs never make it as far as want ads online or employment agencies; they are filled by people using direct contact methods. Employers usually use formal job posting methods only when jobs are not filled through the hidden job market. Even though they may not be aware of what the hidden job market is, they use it!

Hiring is a hassle and is expensive, so a lot of time employers put it off until absolutely necessary. Even worse, some employers even post jobs online even though they have already filled the position through the hidden job market. They do this to satisfy company policy and it is completely legal, though they will never even look at the resumes.

Jobs are rarely posted without receiving hundreds of applicants since the demand for jobs is so high. I always suggest to use the hidden job market and directly contact a person that is in charge of hiring at a company so that you don’t have to compete with hundreds of applicants and you get to do the talking, not your resume.

Competition is stiff. NPR has this article about a job seeker who put up a job post to see what is competition was like. He put up for an administrative job in Manhattan for twelve to thirteen dollars an hour, which received over six-hundred resumes after only one day.

The takeaway they received from this was that:

“Employers won’t notice me by my résumé alone….Am I really going to stand out in a tidal wave of 626 applications? Probably not. What I should do is figure out methods to grab the employer’s attention…”

The best way to get noticed is to contact key managers and people in charge of hiring at a company. If you don’t have access to the hidden job market, the most desirable positions will most likely be filled before you are even made aware of them. That’s one of the major reasons that you are hearing about others landing great jobs that you never even had a chance to apply for.

The most important tool to access the hidden job market is having the right contacts in your industry. We have all heard it’s about who you know, not what you know, and that’s true. The hard part is finding the right connections and contacts. It is likely that your friends and family don’t have connections with many people in your industry, and random networking events rarely get you in touch with the people you need to know.

So, work to get the right tools to access the hidden job market. Primarily, the right contacts.