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Contacting Employers Directly to Get into the "Hidden" Job Market

Contacting Employers Directly to Get into the "Hidden" Job Market

by Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck
National Certified Career Counselors & Life Calling CoachesSM

The majority (80-85%) of job openings exist within the "hidden" job market. You will not find them advertised on the Internet or other media. Often, some of the best jobs are in the hidden job market. Employers do not advertise them because they want to avoid spending countless hours reviewing hundreds of resumes and interviewing people who may be unqualified for the position. Instead, they seek to fill positions through word-of-mouth, with people referred to them, and with resourceful people who find out about the openings and prove that they are the best candidate for the position.

Finding jobs within the hidden job market takes more initiative, "know-how," and resourcefulness, so the majority of job hunters remain unaware of these positions. You could find yourself being the only candidate for a terrific job! A key strategy for accessing the hidden job market is to identify and contact employers directly even if they do not have advertised job openings. Here are suggestions on how to contact prospective employers:

Step 1: Identify the geographic area in which you would like to work. Get a map and draw a circle around the area to which you are willing to commute. Make a list of the cities or key areas included within your circle.

Step 2Determine the category of employers for which you would like to work. Examples of types of companies include hospitals; churches; home improvement stores; import/export companies; bookstores; engineering firms; home decorating stores; motorcycle repair shops; city government agencies; adoption agencies; etc.

Step 3: Find specific companies within your chosen category (or categories). You can use the Yellow Pages (printed or online) for the cities within your preferred geographic area or other specialized resources for the area (such as The Los Angeles Job Bank which categorizes employers and gives contact information for that area). Conduct an Internet search for type of employer + city. Researching employers can also stimulate your thinking about the types of employers for whom you would really like to work.

Step 4: Find out the name and title of the person who would have hiring authority for the position you are targeting. For example, if you wanted to work in shipping/receiving for a bookstore, you would need the name and job title of the person who managed that department. There are a number of ways you can get this information:

(1) Your personal contacts might be helpful: Your friend, George, works for Borders. You ask him, "George, who manages the shipping and receiving department? What is her title?" 

(2) You can call the company directly"Hello. Could you please tell me the name of the person who manages the shipping and receiving department?"

(3) You can research to see if the person's name is published in company literature, in reference books, in directories of professional associations or on the company's web site. (Call to verify that the information is still correct.)

(4) You can visit the company and ask the receptionist for the information.

Step 5Record your contact information on your computer (in a contact database, for example) or on 3x5 cards. Being organized is one of the keys to conducting an effective job search!

Step 6Send a cover letter and your resume to that person.

Step 7Follow-up with a phone call to the employer (see sample scripts below).

Follow-Up Phone Calls for Direct Employer Contacts

1. Introduce yourself.  Explain briefly why you are contacting him/her and what you can do:  "I appreciate your taking my call.  My name is Jane Morgan, and I sent you a letter with my resume last week.  Is this a convenient time to ask you a couple of quick questions?"  (Wait for an answer.)

"I am looking for a position as a graphic artist in which I can use my desktop publishing skills. I've had two years' experience designing and producing brochures, newsletters and training materials. This past year I saved my employer $6000 by doing the work he'd previously hired out to a graphic artist."

2. Inquire about openings (and referrals, if appropriate): "I am calling to inquire as to whether you currently have an opening for a (job title)."

If the response is "YES,you can say"I'd very much like to find out more about the position.  Could we set up a 10-15 minute appointment for me to come in to talk with you?" (Be "gently persistent" about getting this opportunity to meet face-to-face with the employer. Any time you get face-to-face with the person who has the power to hire, you greatly increase your chances of being hired.)

If the response is "NO,you can say:  "Do you anticipate any openings in the future?"

If you hear "YESto this question, you can say: "I'd like to find out more about your company and the future opening. Could we set up a 10-15 minute appointment for me to come in to talk to you?"  (Again, be "gently persistent.")

If you hear "NO,you can respond: "Thank you very much for your time. I just have one more question. Could you recommend two or three companies or individuals who might be interested in someone with my skills? (Get the information. Verify spelling of people's names.) May I tell them you referred me? Thank you very much for your help!"

3. Send a brief thank-you note that evening or the next day.


Using this method, it is possible to set up one interview for each hour of work that you put in contacting employers directly by phone. It is usually best to make your contacts in the morning and then do follow up job search work in the afternoon (sending out resumes, going to interviews, filling out applications, personal contact work, etc.). If you are intentional about making these contacts you will find job openings. Give it a try! 

© Article copyright by Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck, All rights reserved. The above information is intended for personal use only. No commercial use of this information is authorized without written permission.

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