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Finding the hidden job market

Advice, Job hunting September 16, 2007

Finding the hidden job market

SuperSleuth: Finding the hidden job market

If up to 80 per cent of jobs in the market are unadvertised, how are you going to find out about them? Shishali Mehta has the answers.

Scanning the job sites and failing to find anything that really inspires you? That’s probably because you’re seeing just a fraction of the job market. Many employers fill their job vacancies by methods other than national advertisements. Using referrals or word of mouth and hiring speculative applicants or former interns are common practice. According to Warwick University careers service, this can mean that up to 80 per cent of the job market might go unadvertised. To find those jobs you are going to have to be proactive…

1. Targeted applications
There is no point in sending hundreds of speculative applications out. You need to do your homework first and then carefully target your letter of application in order to convince the employer that they might want to give you a job. Call up first to make sure that you’ve identified who to send the letter to.

Asking for a job outright isn’t always the best approach either. An excellent way of using speculative applications to your advantage is by asking for an "informational interview". This is a short interview with someone in the company either face to face or over the phone about the sector.

You’re asking employers for a few minutes of their time so they can talk about their jobs, their industry and opportunities. It sounds intimidating, but in most cases if you get into a conversation with the mentality of, "Hey, I want to know all about you" – people are flattered. These interviews should be prepared for with the same care and research as you would for a conventional interview.

Ask what it’s like to work in their industry; ask how you break into the field; do they know anyone else you can talk to; or even ask for a bit of job shadowing or work experience. The approach is that even if this person doesn’t have exactly what you need (ie a job), they will give you essential background information.

2. Do your research
This is critical. The Graduate Recruitment Bureau advises that "an excellent source of information and expert knowledge" is your careers centre. The internet is also a primary port of call for employer information. Use online directories like, which is the Yellow Pages online to search for companies in your area.

Trade directories and professional magazines are also valuable sources containing "market intelligence" that are often overlooked by graduates and students. Most are online now. Richard Budd, careers consultant at Cardiff University, says too many students approach information gathering in the wrong way. "What people usually do is either think in a very focused way and ignore lateral thinking [which involves looking at the issue from range of angles] or do everything in a very lateral way and don’t ever end up doing anything." He believes the trick is to combine the two.

3. Make more of personal contacts
Whether it’s a multi-national organisation or small start-up, recruiters are increasingly relying on word of mouth and speculative CVs to sign up new recruits. In fact, many very competitive industries don’t need to advertise as they are able generate enough interest through their referrals scheme.

One way is to network among friends and family. Panna, a business management graduate from Brunel, knew that competition is fierce. To increase her chances of success she put her networking skills to good use when she realised that her older sister and friends were an ideal pool of contacts. "I started to talk to them and collect business cards and send them my CV." She also remembered the importance of asking the right questions "I asked for a relevant contact name and what jobs their companies are advertising for… this worked pretty well."

Careers services will often have lists of working alumni that can talk to you about their jobs and how you can break into the sector they work in.

4. Put yourself out there
You need to show that you are ready to go out on a limb. Dominic, who graduated from UCL with a degree in -geography, found his perseverance paid off when he bagged some great work experience while on a gap year in Japan. Looking to gain some experience in the world of banking he posted a message on a web forum for the foreigners’ community asking for help. Someone replied to his message and Dominic ended up working for Toyo FX, a subsidiary of a Singaporean bank. "It was really rewarding; I wasn’t paid for it but I learned so much about the financial market".

5. Work from the inside
According to the National Council for Work Experience, 62 per cent of employers use work experience to find permanent staff. This is particularly true of smaller employers in highly competitive industries such as advertising, music management or media. These often offer work experience in order to trial potential recruits. Or, like final-year information management and computing student Hinesh from Loughborough University, you can get a job from your uni placement. He was project manager and support co-ordinator for Lloyds Bank. He threw himself into it and at the end of the placement he was offered a job.


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