Is the Hidden Job Market a Myth? 4 Steps to Finding The Hidden Job Market

I have never heard this before… people asking, “Is the hidden job market a myth??” Or, that it doesn’t exist. Normally I wouldn’t give it two seconds of my attention except that a well-respected recruiter/career person is the one making the claim.

Gerry Crispin apparently said (in 2009) some of the following (quoted from Miriam Salpeter’s Examiner article addressing the question is the hidden job market a myth):

that the hidden job market is one of the biggest myths of job-hunting; that, in fact, it doesn’t exist: “Maybe a few thousand out of 20 million jobs are unpublished, and they are primarily at or near the C-level,”

is the hidden job market a myth, really?

Is the Hidden Job Market a Myth, Really??

I can’t agree with that – it just doesn’t seem to make sense.  I think Gerry came to this conclusion from polling people.  If that is the case I’d guess his sample was not the right sample.

Here’s a comprehensive writeup from Kathy Hansen, founder of  It has a lot more info about this, including quotes and thoughts from industry insiders.  One conclusion is that the word  “hidden” should be changed to “unpublished” or something like that.

my opinion on is the hidden job market a myth

Here’s my two cents: regardless of what you call it, there is a segment of open positions out there that you won’t find published on a job board, or made known to the general population.  Many of you have seen this happen… it goes something like this:

  1. The boss knows there is a need for another person on the team…. the boss works on putting together a proposal or justification for a while (perhaps months).
  2. When the new position is approved, the boss asks some people on the team if they know anyone who might be the right person.
  3. The position is known FROM WITHIN for a while (days?  weeks?) before anyone puts the position on the company job board, or monster, or something like that.
  4. People who are networked into anyone on that team know about, and can apply to, the job before anyone else hears about it.

That is the “hidden job market.” It’s hard to think you have to network with, or be known by, the insiders… that’s a lot of work!  Is it even humanly possible?

But this scenario is real.  I’ve seen it at multiple companies I’ve worked at and I know some of my JibberJobber users have gotten jobs because of their mad networking skills…

What do you think?  Is the hidden job market a myth?  Or is this simply an issue or renaming it?

is the hidden job market a myth?

15 thoughts on “Is the Hidden Job Market a Myth? 4 Steps to Finding The Hidden Job Market”

  1. It’s not a myth. I’ve had clients get jobs this way as well. Remember that recruiters have a vested interest in us believing there is no hidden job market. If we all could successfully network our way to those hidden jobs, recruiters would have less to do.

    And now I’m waiting for the recruiters to jump on me for that statement. 😉

  2. I definitely agree that it’s not a myth. I’ve been a hiring manager before who hired people for an unposted position, and I’ve been on the other end as being hired for a position that wasn’t posted so to say that the hidden job market doesn’t exist is not a true statement.

    Like Juli, I think that maybe some recruiters are just trying to protect their own interest as they want to make money just like the rest of us!

  3. It might be semantics, Jason. I think there are two kinds of hidden jobs. One are those jobs that are never advertised in any formal recruiting type media. In fact, at, we know that about 70% of the approximately 450,000 jobs are NEVER advertised except on the company’s own website. So, are they hidden? For the big percentage of job hunters who don’t realize how efficient finding a job on a company’s website can be, via, it is hidden.
    And then there are hidden jobs always available in almost any company IF you can prove to the hiring manager or company that you can contribute quickly to added profits. In both our companies, for example, even though you and I are not hiring, perhaps, if a sales person would come along and prove to us that he can sell, badabing, we would hire him in a heartbeat.
    There are lots of jobs like that, that companies do not advertise but need filled/

  4. Jason, there are a couple of things in your posting and in Kathy’s article that we’ve been tracking at ExecuNet for a while that supports the unpublished executive job market:

    1. Just 11% of $200k jobs are publicly posted, companies told us earlier this year. This figure has been roughly the same the past few years.
    2. Recruiters publicly posted 32% of $200k positions, and this has been steadily dropping over the years.
    3. Our findings concur with Robert Williams in Kathy’s article: “The employer needs to confidentially replace a non-performer.” Consistently in our monthly surveys, we find more than half of companies are expected to “trade up” executive talent. Therefore, those searches stay under the radar.
    4. 68% of our recently surveyed executives find career options through networking, compared to 13% who responded to job postings.

    These are the most recent stats from our market intelligence report (excerpt here: and while the numbers have changed over the years, the trends point to that the unpublished executive job market not only exists, it is the primary method for finding opportunity.

    Thanks for bringing this information to the forefront!

  5. Jason,

    As a recruiter, I can tell you there is definitely a hidden job market. Perhaps it should be renamed the underground job market. In my opinion, It’s not in a recruiters vested interest to make job seekers think there isn’t one, in fact, the opposite is true.

    I have had many an occasion where a company that I have a good relationship has asked me confidentially to “keep my eyes open” for an individual with a certain talent. They usually say something like, “We’re anticipating an opening but we’re not going to post it if we don’t have to.”

    This is why it pays to develop a strong relationship with a good recruiter. I’ve filled positions by approaching an individual that I have a relationship with by saying, “Look, I have a company that might be interested in your skills and background. I can’t tell you who but I’d like to confidentially tell them about you. It may be nothing but there is a possibility and I think you should have the chance to be seen.”

    On another note, I’m offering a Summer Career Tune-Up Special, check my website.



  6. And what about positions that are filled internally without anyone knowing or externally because someone knew someone who was the perfect fit and told them to apply. I believe it happens and at all levels. I know my youngest son has had his custom curb installation job for 3 years because I told the owner’s wife to let me know if she saw any opportunity in the near future for him. A month later he was hired. Did they advertise or post it? I don’t know but no one here saw an ad, I got an e-mail, he sent his resume, and he was interviewed and hired. He loves the job and his employer, the projects they have created have been in the Parade of Homes every year.

  7. I absolutely had a job created for me when I was able to convince the company I could fill a need and I have a friend who has done this multiple times (he’s well known in his niche and seen as a valuable “catch”) My current company circulates a list of open positions among its employees, but as far as I know this is not posted publicly anywhere. A lot of the hiring is from personal referrals, that’s how I got my current job, and since I got here I’ve been asked if I knew people with specific skills as well.

  8. Jason, I agree that you are 100% correct. From both informational interviewing and informal chatting at networking events, I hear from most people that they were actively recruited by their current employers. More often than not, this usually occurred when they were happily employed elsewhere and not even looking for another job, which explains why it’s so hard for unemployed people to find new positions.

  9. I’d say there’s not so much a hidden job market as the job market we see in the job ads is a portion of the larger job market – the jobs filled by promotion from within, people that know people, etc. It is only hidden in that many people don’t know how to get into it (via networking skills) or aren’t paying attention to it.

    When you network, more of the job market is revealed to you.

  10. The hidden job market is no myth. In fact, below I share a different myth where I reinforce the idea that the hidden job market exists. The reality is, when you create quality, or what I call Pay It Forward type, connections with others, you learn about opportunities long before they’re posted. You hear or are made privy to intel like, “We have 2 new hires slated for Q3, so get me your resume and I will turn it into recruiting asap and before the posting hits the job boards.” THAT’s the hidden job market and being a pro at effective networking is the way to get access to it.

    Networking Myths Debunked #3:

    Myth: You must have above average charisma to be a good networker.
    Reality: You merely need to be thoughtful, sincere and genuinely helpful. You get offered a job or opportunities from people who are trusting of you. There IS a hidden job market out there, but you have to be willing to be open and giving to be part of it.

    (Disclosure: I’m the author of “I’m at a Networking Event–Now What???” and Jason was my editor! Feel free to check out my site to read more about the book.)

  11. I do network like mad, but I have to say I’m either not networking the right way or I have currently a very unhelpful network 🙁

  12. I agree that there are two kinds of “hidden” jobs and, in my opinion, the scenario of convincing an employer to create a job just for you doesn’t happen as often as some jobhunting experts would have you believe, no matter how well you sell yourself. (And there’s not always a happy ending: Once, a hiring manager did create a new position for me after I had interviewed for another (posted) position. However, it was with a state agency with strict recruiting practices and they were required to post the new position. Someone with more experience applied for “my job” and got it!)

    Most of the “hidden” jobs, then, are vacant or newly-created positions that are never posted and are filled internally or through recruiting or word of mouth. If there’s an internal candidate, then you’re usually out of luck; if not, networking is your only chance.

  13. Jason,
    I’d like to state that the “Hidden Job Market” is nothing like it used to be… 10-15 years ago. Sure, there are jobs that aren’t posted, yet. Sure there are internal hires that never make it to job boards etc., but the term “hidden job market” was much more prevalent in the days of newspaper classified advertisements.

    10-15+ years ago, when classifieds ads were still the primary job advertisement method employers didn’t pay to advertise all jobs because it cost too much.

    Today, it’s much different.

    Sure there are a lot more jobs listed than in the past, but I would agree there are still a minority of positions that never make it to the company website, if not for more than 24 hours to satisfy the EEOC and DOL labor laws, even if a candidate has already been tapped for the position.

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