Commentary

3 Steps to Cracking the Hidden Job Market

Mar 04, 2017

Jobseekers will often ask me how to get their hat in the ring for certain positions. Maybe you’ve just learned of a role that was filled that you didn’t even know was open. It’s the kind of company you’d love to work for, a position you’re qualified to fill, and you’re confident that had you been given the chance, you would have been a serious contender. It is a frustrating feeling, especially in a job market in which the commonly quoted statistic tells us 70-80% jobs are not even published. So, how do you become a candidate?

Here at Chaloner, we took a look at the last ten candidates we’ve each spoken with. We wanted to study the means by which people come to us so we could give you a more accurate picture of who is getting “in the ring,” so to speak. Throwing your hat in the ring is an old phrase from the early nineteenth century when boxing events were so crowded and loud that the only way to enter the contest became to, quite literally, toss your hat into the ring. The owner of the hat would be invited to challenge the boxer; it was no use to shout or try to push through the crowd, and that doesn’t yield results in this age either. Here are three ways to toss your hat in today’s market.

1. Be proactive

It’s true that many available jobs are not advertised, but some are. Chaloner Vice President, Kassie Wilner, found that three of the last ten people she spoke with had applied for the position themselves. When you do reach out, be relevant and to the point. Don’t commandeer the recruiter’s inbox or voice mail until they invite you for a chat. A cover note should not reiterate your resume but contain a few typo-free sentences that grab our attention. Recruiter Rebecca Porter suggests, “Make sure your resume includes specific details about your areas of focus. For example, if your background is in Tech PR, mention the areas you have had experience in (i.e. enterprise software, security, mobile, etc.) or if your background is in Consumer, mention some of the brands you have worked on, as that will help you stand out in a recruiter’s memory for future searches.”

Kassie remembers a success story from a proactive candidate a few years ago: “We get a variety of applicants from Indeed, but one day the perfect candidate for a very specific search came in. I screened her, submitted her, and she was ultimately hired!” Large job posting sites attract massive quantities of applications, but it is still worth submitting your materials for the right role. It is easy to lose sight of the encouraging truth that recruiters and hiring managers want the next resume they look at to be the perfect one for the position! So, don’t let being one of the masses deter you from putting yourself forward. Just remember that you should be going down other avenues as well.

2. Cultivate a compelling online presence

Half of the most recent people Kassie and I spoke with were individuals who we had reached out to directly, likely because we found them on LinkedIn or elsewhere online where we learned enough to know they have relevant experience. I cannot stress enough the importance of having a clear, robust and professional LinkedIn profile. It is also good to be a part of the conversation and demonstrate a passion for and awareness of your field. Whether it’s a professional blog or simply an active and relevant twitter account, linking to these may pique a recruiter’s interest.

3. Stand out where you are now

Many wonderful clients and candidates have been recommended to us by other candidates. In fact, the most impressive of the last ten candidates I reviewed was a referral from an extremely trusted source. Research shows that 44% of new hires are employee referrals. This should not be a discouraging statistic, but one that causes us to continue to network and work diligently from wherever we are now. With every new person you meet, get to know and impress, you gain another set of eyes looking out for you. You now have access to their own broad, carefully cultivated network and any opportunities therein. If you continue to do whatever work is before you with excellence, express your goals and seek to connect people within your network, you will be the kind of person people love to recommend.

When I think of doing all that that you can from where you are, I’m reminded of Joel Mandina, who we interviewed recently. Joel was left without a job after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans where he worked. He wrote a letter to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and sent it to the Chapter Presidents in all the major cities. “I explained my plight, the circumstances in the city and in the industry and then I simply asked for help. The response was overwhelming … I ended up traveling and giving speeches, getting interviewed, being offered jobs and freelance work, etc. It changed my life, and I wouldn’t be where I am now without the simple and traditional act of writing that letter combined with the kindness of strangers.” This networking brought him to our attention and we referred him to his next role. Joel used traditional PR methods to sort of “crisis communicate” himself, a great example of going above and beyond to get in the game.

It’s true you won’t get into the ring every time. But you’ve got to do more than call out your name to stand a chance. (This doesn’t mean you need to start sending hats to us at Chaloner. But you get the idea!)

Amy Segelin is the President and co-owner of Chaloner, a national executive search firm focused on communications, public relations, and marketing recruitment.

This story originally appeared on Chaloner’s The Interview Room blog.

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