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How Personal Contacts Can Get You into the "Hidden Job Market"

How Personal Contacts Can Get You into the "Hidden Job Market"

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

The majority of job openings (80-85%) 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!

The first strategy for accessing the hidden job market is to identify and utilize your "personal contacts":

Step 1: Identify your initial network of personal contacts. On sheets of paper, list the names of people in several categories whom you could contact in your job search work. (Possible categories include current co-workers, former co-workers, friends, family members, church contacts, networking/job fair contacts, professional contacts, parents of children's friends, current/former classmates, teachers, and social/community organization contacts.)

List as many people as possible.  Do not eliminate anyone because you think he/she wouldn't know anyone who could help you in your job search--you just never know who will know someone who ends up being a key to getting your new job!

Step 2: Analyze your list of personal contacts. Identify how you think each person could be most helpful. Ask yourself, for example, if your contact could help you learn about:  

Qualifications for your target position

Example: Sally wants to transition from an administrative assistant position to being a legal secretary. She wants information on what attorneys look for when hiring a legal secretary. She reviews her list of contacts to see if any are legal secretaries or attorneys, or if any work with or for lawyers in other capacities, or if any might know an attorney or legal secretary.


"Insider" info about a particular company

Example: John wants to work in grounds maintenance at Disneyland. He looks at his contact list to see if anyone works at Disneyland or might know someone who works there. He also notes anyone who is in the landscaping or grounds maintenance field.

Example: Rebecca wants to work as a recruiter for an employment agency. She wants to find out which ones have a good reputation. She reviews her list to identify which people might have had personal experience with an agency, either working for one, or as an employer or job seeker.


Current or future openings for your target position


Example: George wants to work in marketing and/or development for a non-profit foster care or adoption agency. He reads through his list looking for people who work in those fields, who work in those kinds of agencies or who have personal experience with foster children or adoption (to get contacts at the agencies they used). He also looks at his list to note anyone who might know someone in any of those previous categories.

Step 3: Give each of your personal contacts a "rating": "A" for those individuals who might have the most helpful information for you; "B" for those people who might be of some help; and "C" for those who you believe would have the least helpful information.

Step 4: Starting with those on your "A" list, contact each of your personal contacts by phone or by letter with a follow-up phone call.

Step 5: Continue to develop your personal contact network. One way to do this is through the referrals you gain from your initial list of contacts. For example, Sally's friend Mary Smith refers her to John Brannon, an attorney who works with her. Sally places a phone call, "John, my name is Sally Carter. Mary Smith referred me to you...." Sally can now add John Brannon to her list of personal contacts!

Attending professional association meetings for the field of work you are targeting is a great way to develop personal contacts. You can find out about associations that would be appropriate to join by using the Encyclopedia of Associations at any library. (Or you can do an Internet search for an association, searching for job title + professional association.) This directory will give you the names of associations you can contact and learn about local chapter meetings in your area. Chapter meetings are a great place to meet individuals who work in your field and who can potentially give you information about current or prospective job openings. (Professional organizations may also have their own job bank or listings of job openings that are made available at meetings.)

Using the Encyclopedia of Associations, Sally found out about the National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS). She did a web search to find out about local chapters. (You can also call an association's national office to get information about local chapters.) Through the NALS web site, she discovered that there was a local chapter. She called the chapter representative and attended the next meeting. (Usually you can attend at least one meeting without officially joining the chapter.)

© 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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