How To Search The Invisible Job Market

Estimated reading time: 10 mins

The Best jobs aren’t advertised in the newspaper or on the web. Much like real estate, the best of the bunch are snapped up before they ever hit advertisements. If you scour job ad sites or the back pages of a paper, then you’re really looking at the jobs the top people don’t want. You’re not in the domain of mediocrity, are you? No, so here are methods to get to the best jobs first.

According to J.C.Levinson and D.Perry in their book Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters: 400 Unconventional Tips, Tricks, and Tactics for Landing Your Dream Job, 20m-40m Americans change jobs every year and competition for jobs is greater than ever. Standing out and accessing the best jobs first is essential.

It’s all about relationships and presence. To put it bluntly, if you’re not in the face of potential employers, then you’re consigned to being offered the dross. The ‘invisible job market’ is aptly named because the market isn’t publicly available, as it is generally non-existent. What? I hear you cry. Well, I’ll put it like this:

The best jobs are created or shaped to capitalize on talent that has emerged from the ‘labor pool’, i.e. you. These jobs didn’t exist before the potential employer knew you existed.

This is the key message. Jobs are created for unique people. Because of one or more reasons:

  • You offer unique talents/skills/experience that will add additional business value
  • You have a solution to a big business problem – one which couldn’t be solved as quickly/cheaply without you
  • You have a book of clients/contacts that can be leveraged by the organization
  • The potential employer would rather have you in their workforce than in a competitor’s
  • They really like you, and they are sure they will find good use for you
  • You are well connected in the potential employer’s organization
  • Your external profile is significant and your mere name adds to the authority of the potential employer

But what if you’re not unique? Of course you’re unique! Everyone is. Your degree of uniqueness depends on the potential employer’s organization. So the next message is Emphasize Your Uniqueness, but I am going to put this aside for a second.

The art of searching the invisible job market is to have high-impact self marketing, providing proof and authority of your claims, making connections within organizations, work on your relationships, and then tapping these connections to seek job opportunities.

I’m making the point that if a potential employer spots you as a talent – a highly valuable and unique talent – they will most likely employ you. But how do they identify you as such? It’s about high-impact self marketing. To quote J.C.Levinson and D.Perry again from Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters: 400 Unconventional Tips, Tricks, and Tactics for Landing Your Dream Job,

The people who market their talent the best will win!

This is the challenge. So let’s start here. There are a couple of ways of achieving this (although I advocate doing both):

  1. Market Yourself by building an authoritative and credible external profile
  2. Build relationships and a profile inside the potential employer’s organization

Building an external profile takes time and effort. Traditionally, it would be done by word of mouth and using a personal network. This is limited to the number of people you can meet and the number of people they meet, in turn. However, it’s easier nowadays than ever before. The advent of Web2.0 technologies has created amazing network opportunities and the unprecedented opportunity to create your social profile. In recent posts I wrote about how Peter Birley developed a successful external profile which opened new doors for him. Tools such as Facebook, my favorite LinkedIn and others give us the platform to host our profile that is accessible by friends and potential employers. The great thing about LinkedIn is that your connections are visible to employers, and the more relevant, credible connections you have, the greater your authority and potential value to an employer. These platforms, and LinkedIn particularly, create opportunities for you to stand out by becoming an expert in particular subjects (e.g. LinkedIn Answers). Other tools like Twitterare growing as business communication tools due to their simplicity and their enabling of building presence through followership.

Your social profile should emphasize your uniqueness and make you stand out from the crowd. So it really needs to contain your career and personal achievementsand endorsements/recommendations from people. If you use LinkedIn and haven’t asked your contacts for recommendations, then do it today.

Do you want to assess your external profile? Then take this simple test.

Next is high-impact marketing inside your potential employers. To do this, you need to know who your potential employers are, so make a list. Write down the organizations who you admire and aspire to work for. To start with, keep it down to less than 10, but you may add more later in your search.

The trick here is to not directly market yourself to people (yet) but to deepen your high-impact marketing so that it penetrates your target market – the organizations you listed. Once again, the Web2.0 tools can be used to achieve this.

Many organizations now build groups in tools like Facebook or LinkedIn that are associated with their organization. Search your favorite tools now for groups of your target organizations. Are they there? If so, then try to join these groups. Sometimes they are exclusive to employees only, but many are not. My recommendation is to join the group and see what is going on, and introduce yourself as someone interested in the organization – it’s brand, it’s values and it’s culture. Enter discussions with other members of the group and ask what it is like to work there. The more presence you build, the higher the impact of your marketing. One word of caution – make the discussion relevant, and be professional. One indiscretion here and you can call the whole thing off, and I mean for all your target organizations, not just this one. I think the best tool is still LinkedIn. The structure of the groups is better, but they are more exclusive. Facebook is a good second base for me, but I am sure there are other tools around (do you know of any? Let me know by leaving a comment)

Your powerful social profile will act as a validation for potential employers once they spot you. And believe me, they will use this. More and more employers scan social profiles to screen potential candidates, and they’ll use it on you when your high-impact self marketing tactics take effect.

Now comes the point where you begin to make connections inside your target organizations. The goal is to make connections with people who can sponsor you further, provide introductions, or be in recruiting positions. First, you have to identify these people. Here’s how:

  • By phone – this traditional method involves calling into the organization’s switchboard and asking for the name of the person responsible for your subject area. Get the name and write it down. You can ask to be connected with the person, but I’ll come to that.
  • By web– I think the best method, and again I will use LinkedIn as the premier platform to do so. What you can do here is to use your existing connections that have connections to people within your target organizations to introduce you. The LinkedIn functionality offers this as standard. Just ask your contact to introduce you to a representative of the potential employer they are connected to. Another way, and I think a far more effective way, is to answer a question placed by a target contact, and to offer to connect yourself. I use this a lot to great effect: Look for a target contact that has asked a question, provide a relevant and useful answer, and then ask to connect. The final way is to ask a Question yourself that is worded to tempt someone from your target organization to answer, which may ask about one of their products or services.

So hopefully you have made one or more connections with people in your target organizations. What then?

Before you go for the jugular and ask outright questions on job opportunities, I think it’s wise to work on the relationshipby adding some value to your connections, such as answering questions in LinkedIn, or forwarding web articles that you think they will find of interest. In many cases, just conversing about relevant subjects help. Whatever is said, say it with passion. Demonstrate your commitment to your shared area of interest and use positive language. Never, ever criticize or complain about something. Negativity = anonymity. Build your relationship!

Next, you will tap these connections to seek job opportunities. This is where you begin to engage with the contacts you’ve made to specifically mention you are interested in working in their organization, and/or ask what opportunities might be available that they know about. This is where you need to turn on the charm, and be high-impact. Charisma is the key, but if you’re not a natural at this, don’t worry. If you’re not using the phone, then you can tap your contacts using (you guessed it) LinkedIn. With LinkedIn, you can ask Questions or Inmail directly (and only to) specific contacts. You can specifically mention that you’re available and that you’re keen. Moreover, it’s strongly recommended that you describe what kind of role you’re looking for, or instead describe what kind of job interests you have, i.e. what kind of projects or teams you’d like to be involved with. Don’t be pushy, but be direct.

I think it’s also productive to write direct and individual letters or emails to your contacts describing your desire to join them. Include any papers or articles you might have written, or mention any recent achievements. Keep it personal though, and use the relationship you’ve built up. If it becomes formal then your contact may defer you to a formal recruitment process and you’re potentially back to square one.

Notice I haven’t specifically mentioned a resume or CV yet? I think this is somewhat outdated, but perhaps still necessary. Your CV is a self marketing document, but I think it comes towards the end of the job search process as formal engagement and negotiation begins. If you’re sending letters or emails then suggest that you could send your resume if they would like to see it.

It’s important to follow up with your contacts. People are busy, and quite frankly you won’t necessarily be at the top of their list of things to do. It’s fine to get in touch with the contact if they haven’t responded within a week. I’d suggest following up one more time after another week, and then if you have no luck then, move on and come back to this contact at a later date.

The key to this whole method is to be persisent, but not pushy. This isn’t an overnight process, so you will need to keep working at it, but believe me this will pay off!

I’d also like to recommend the book I have quoted a couple of times: J.C.Levinson and D.Perry’s Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters: 400 Unconventional Tips, Tricks, and Tactics for Landing Your Dream Job. This book goes far deeper into job hunting inside the invisible job market than I have here. It talks about different approaches to job hunting, emotional intelligence, body language, web tools such as blogs, etc – all very relevant in the search for finding that perfect job!

There are a couple of others book which I haven’t read, but they’re appropriate to this subject. If you have read them then let us know by writing a mini-review:

The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search: The Proven Program Used by the Worlds Leading Career Services Company

The Job Search Solution: The Ultimate System for Finding a Great Job Now! (Job Search Solution)

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3 thoughts on “How To Search The Invisible Job Market”

  1. @Simon – great article! I think persistence and politeness are very important with LinkedIn as this is not a place to hassle or spam anyone. (Even the LIONs who amass gazillions of contacts run into trouble with people not liking their approach.)

    I’ve dipped my toe into the Q&A section of LinkedIn but I can see I’ve a ways to go – some commenters must’ve outsourced the work judging by the volume they get through lol!!

    Working at Q&A for niche markets (or even companies) sounds a very interesting approach. With some luck and over time one of these folks might be your conduit to a specific person within a target organization.

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