The Hidden Job Market Controversy: The Hidden Job Market EXISTS (2 Conclusions)

On the Recruiters Online Facebook group there is a debate about the facade that we call the “hidden job market.”  Will Thomson, a corporate recruiter, wrote the post The Hidden Job Market is a Bunch of B.S. I never thought there was a hidden job market controversy… I thought everyone just kind of knew about the hidden job market. Even, and especially, people in the jobs and careers space.

I find the dialog about a hidden job market controversy between recruiters to be interesting.  I think they are all saying there is no hidden job market (hard to tell with the format of Facebook posts).

In Will’s blog post he says:

“Do employers post the “good jobs” anymore? If you said no, I want you to check your pulse. Of course they do!! All employers must post jobs!

Why must employer post jobs? First, there are legal implications. Second, companies want the best-qualified candidates for the job. Third, it helps define the scope of the job.”

Will also says:

“As an advisor and a consultant, I want to tell you to NOT listen to these so called “job experts”.”

the hidden job market controversay ... hm, okay

I think he is talking about people like me… the so called “job expert.”  At the risk of being wrong, and weighing in on a so-called hidden job market controversy, let me offer a different perspective.

What about the jobs/openings that happen BEFORE they ever get to a corporate recruiter’s desk?

Here’s what I think the hidden job market is: When your boss comes to you and says, “I just got approval for a new project manager.  You know what skills we really need to help us move forward – do you know anyone that would be perfect?”

How Is There a Hidden Job Market Controversy???

This happens EVERY DAY all over the place. Whether you have heard about these conversations or not, they happen. I’ve seen it in various organizations.  I’ve been on both sides of this conversation.  I hear about it from JibberJobber users.

This job they are talking about is part of the HIDDEN job market because it isn’t yet listed on Monster, or Indeed, or the corporate job board, or whatever job board the company uses.

As far as job boards, the internet and technology go, it is hidden from the world – job seekers and recruiters alike.

Who knows about the job opportunity?

The boss, the boss’s boss, and you.

the hidden job market controversy - the boss knows

The job opportunity is hiding from the rest of the world.

As you talk to a few of the right people, or other people in your company learn about the opening, names of potential candidates get thrown into the running… but until it is posted online, it is still in the “HIDDEN job market.”

Now, here is the really important part: There isn’t a place for you to look for these hidden (aka, unposted) jobs. You are really just hoping that the person that hears about a job, and they hear about it because of their position or role in the company, knows you, or knows about you.

Have you been networking?  Do people know who you are and what you have to offer?

Do you have the right personal brand?  What do people know about you?  Do they know you as the guy who is at every networking event with a donut or drink in your hand, fun to talk with?  Or do they know that you are one of the top project managers in the state?

Spend a lot more time on networking and your personal brand than debating about this hidden job market controversy.

The donut guy is not the guy that is recommended for this unposted, hidden job.  The project manager guy is the one who gets brought up.

The bottom line:

  1. The hidden job market exists, even if this so called job expert says it does (and corporate recruiters disagree).
  2. People need to know who you are and what you do/offer.  If they don’t know you and your strengths, they don’t think about you when they hear about opportunities.

Understanding that the hidden job market controversy doesn’t merit my time, and that the hidden job market exists, changed the way I networked. It should change the way you network, too.

8 thoughts on “The Hidden Job Market Controversy: The Hidden Job Market EXISTS (2 Conclusions)”

  1. I think my definition or example of the hidden job market in this post has happened forever… it just continues to be around, even though technology (job boards) has come into play.

    My reason for posting this is that an argument saying the hidden job market is BS is, I think, either really weak, or they are defining the hidden job market as something else.

  2. Jason, you’re right, word of mouth marketing to personal networks has always been around.

    What was different about what David said on your webinar was that companies are turning to this in a massive way in order to avoid dealing with burdensome government regulations.

    @ChrisRussell has an app to find hidden jobs here — so he obviously believes in it.

    Gee, it’s starting to sound like we’re talking about UFOs

  3. LOL… that is funny :p

    Yeah, it’s there, it is real. This blog post was more about the comments on the forum and in Will’s post, and not with what Dave was talking about. I’m not really qualified to know enough about the history and current use of job boards… what do YOU think? Are less companies relying on job boards?

    What I’ve been “taught” is that many postings are bogus:

    1. they are filled internally before they are posted, but have to be posted for legal reasons.

    2. they are fishing expeditions so a company or recruiter can beef up a database with good candidates, even though a real job doesn’t exist,

    3. I can’t remember other bogus reasons, but there is a list out there somewhere, I think.

  4. Thanks for bringing this up, Jason. I’ve seen many DOL sources saying that most jobs aren’t advertised. (Just do a search on “Department of Labor hidden job market”.) However:

    Katharine Hansen of Quintessential Careers (a site I respect although I don’t always agree with their advice) examined the question pretty thoroughly, and she quotes a study showing that the actual percentage may be more like 38% (see and search the page for “38 percent”). That means about 62% were advertised, but it does *not* mean that the jobs were filled by people who replied to, or even saw, the ad.

    Most jobs are advertised, but are filled by a candidate who is in some way known to the employer, not a stranger sending in a resume. I don’t see anybody disputing this. DOL supports this conclusion, and studies by outplacement firms like Lee Hecht Harrison support it, teaching their consultants and clients that only 20% of jobs are obtained by strangers applying to advertised openings.

    So whatever the statistics add up to, it’s obvious that a job search without networking is far less effective.

    Thea Kelley, CPRW, GCDF, OPNS
    Personalized, one-on-one career services. Get a great job, sooner!

  5. Clarification: I don’t see anyone disputing this part of it: that most jobs don’t go to totally unknown candidates with no networking or referral involved.

    Obviously, there is quite a lot of dispute about what % of jobs are advertised.

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