How Do I Find a Job in the “Hidden” Job Market?

by Meg Guiseppi on July 28, 2014

You’ve probably heard about the hidden executive job market, but do you really know what it is, why it exists, and how to take advantage of it?

Find the Hidden Job Market

No one knows for sure how many jobs are unlisted, but it’s estimated to be around 80 – 90%.

Why aren’t more jobs posted online?

One reason could be that the company has a merger or acquisition pending, keeping them from announcing openings.

The main reason is that sourcing and screening candidates online through social networks (especially LinkedIn) is more cost effective and less time-consuming than posting openings online and reviewing thousands of resumes, many of which are submitted by unqualified candidates.

Executive recruiters and employers find good-fit candidates by searching LinkedIn, for the most part, and other social networks, using relevant keywords.

That means you need to build your personal brand and online presence over multiple channels, using the right keywords, in the right places, so they’ll find plenty of information about you to support your candidacy.

So, what is this mystical world of the hidden job market?

  • Jobs created to accommodate specific candidates, once they connected with and had dialog with companies’ hiring decision makers.
  • Existing positions in which an incumbent is replaced when someone better comes along.
  • An open slot, waiting to be filled, that isn’t advertised outside the company. Only internal people know about it.
  • Jobs that, for whatever reason, are not advertised or visible, and can only be uncovered and accessed through networking.

The perfect job for you may never be posted anywhere! It may only exist in the hidden job market.

Many of my c-suite and senior-level executive clients tell me that they haven’t been in a job search for at least 5 years. In the past, they were in demand by executive recruiters and easily slid from one job to the next, or reached out to connections and networked their way into their next job.

But they seem to forget how well networking worked for them. They’ve now come to believe that, in order to embrace the new online job search strategies, they have to spend most of their job search time responding to postings on job boards. They don’t realize that perhaps only 5% of them will land jobs there.

They’re kidding themselves into thinking they’re hard at work looking for a job, when the majority of their efforts consist of perusing job board postings and hitting the resume “send” button.

How do you find out about hidden jobs?

Probably no surprise . . . through focused networking.

That means starting first with a good list of companies, say 15-20, that are a mutual good-fit, positioning yourself as a good fit for them in your career collaterals (resume, bio, LinkedIn profile, etc.), and then networking your way towards hiring decision makers at each one, so that you can circumvent the gatekeepers (Human Resources) and, hopefully, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

Here’s a key piece of information many job seekers don’t know . . .

Being connected to employees, or even one employee, at pretty much any professional level, gets you an “in” at that company.

  • Employees usually know about openings at their companies that may never be advertised.
  • Employers like to hire people they know. Getting an introduction from an employee makes you a known, recommended commodity . . . and more highly valued as a candidate.
  • Many companies offer employees monetary incentives to bring in candidates to fill openings.

Look to connect with people at your target companies, nurture those relationships through “give to get” networking and, in time, you should be able to ask for introductions to hiring decision makers at those companies.

How do you find employees at your target companies?

LinkedIn is a great place to start.

Look for a LinkedIn Company page for each one. Many companies will have one.

On those pages, you’ll find employees who have LinkedIn profiles, along with lots of other company information for your due diligence and market intelligence research.

If you already know some of these employees, reach out to them to connect on LinkedIn.

If you don’t know them, here are some tips on how to connect with them.

Of course, you’ll also need to connect with executive recruiters in your niche. You can also find them on LinkedIn, through keyword searches.

And here is a whole host of ways and places to network your way into the hidden job market.

More Information About Networking and Job Search

7 Things Successful Executive Job Seekers Know

Use Job Boards for Research … Not to Find Jobs

LinkedIn, Personal Branding & Executive Job Search: Perfect Together

The 3 Most Important LinkedIn Profile SEO Places for Relevant Keywords

How to Connect on LinkedIn with People You Don’t Know . . . and Get Action

10 Best Ways to Build Your Personal Brand Online

Why You Need to Self-Google Once a Week



Many of the LinkedIn profiles of potential c-suite clients I review have not been touched by human hands. The LinkedIn member has not changed the default headline automatically populated for this spot, based upon their current, or most recent job title.

LinkedIn Headline Mistakes

A headline like “CIO at XYZ company” may or may not work for them.

Not only is your headline one of the first things people will see on your profile – second to your photo – it’s the thumbprint first impression that’s carried along throughout all your LinkedIn activities, to help describe and distinguish your value.

  • Post something to a LinkedIn Group . . . your headline and photo go along with you.
  • Post an update to your profile . . . your headline and photo accompany your update when your network is notified.
  • Send someone a LinkedIn InMail . . . your headline and photo go with you there, too.

And most especially, your headline is the most important SEO (search engine optimization) spot on your profile.

One of the main ways recruiters and hiring decision makers at your target companies identify good-fit candidates is by searching relevant keywords on LinkedIn. Through company and industry research, you need to identify which keywords and phrases must be in your headline and elsewhere in your LinkedIn profile.

Want to get the most impact from your LinkedIn profile?

Don’t make these 3 mistakes in your LinkedIn professional headline:

1.  Neglecting the right keywords

As much as I’d like people to reinforce their personal brand by getting some personality in their headline, I feel packing it with keywords is more important. For the most part, save the descriptive adjectives for your Summary and Experience sections, and elsewhere.

You should use your headline as a means to draw people to your profile. That means making sure it contains the keywords the people you want to attract will be searching on LinkedIn to find people like you.

2.  Typos, misspellings, abbreviations, and spacing issues

LinkedIn and other search engines may not recognize phrases that vary from the exact words in any way.

  • Proofread diligently for typos and misspellings.
  • Avoid abbreviations.
  • Be careful using characters to separate words and phrases. Leave a space between commas, slashes (“/”), dashes (“–“), pipes (“|”), etc.

For instance, the phrase “CFO, Senior Finance Manager” may be doomed, if it looks like any of these:

CFO, Senior Finance Manger (Manager is misspelled)
CFO, Senior Finance Mgr (Manager is abbreviated)
CFO/Senior Finance Manager (slash with no spaces)
CFO|Senior Finance Manager (pipe with no spaces)
CFO–Senior Finance Manager (dash with no spaces)

3.  Too many superfluous words

Space is limited in the headline to 120 characters and spaces. You must use that space to your best advantage.

An expressive word or two is okay (such as “gutsy” or “Pioneer”) for emphasis, but you should be concentrating on getting the best keywords and phrases in there.

Place statements like “seeking opportunities in XYZ” or even jazzy ones like “I help sales teams soar” in your Summary section instead.

Here’s a well-written headline that may be doomed because of formatting issues. Can you spot the errors?

CFO-Senior Finance/Operations Excutive – Alternative & Mobile Paymts Pioneer, Global Montization, E-commerce, SaaS, M&A

Here’s one (at 115 characters and spaces) that is much more likely to help that person’s profile land higher in search results. It’s better to sacrifice one of the keywords, so that the rest of them will be parsed correctly by search engines.

CFO, Senior Finance & Operations Executive – Alternative & Mobile Payments Pioneer, Global Monetization, E-commerce, M&A

More Posts About LinkedIn:

How to Make Your LinkedIn Profile Professional Headline SEO-Friendly

The 3 Most Important LinkedIn Profile SEO Places for Relevant Keywords

Add Special Bullet Point Pizzazz to Your LinkedIn Profile

2 LinkedIn Personal Branding Tips You Don’t Know

Your Personal Brand Online and the LinkedIn Privacy Dilemma

graphic by Meredith Atwater