By Kara Dennison, SPHR
Looking for a new role isn’t for the faint of heart. While it may feel productive to keep submitting applications, receiving rejection letters and being ghosted by recruiters can quickly undercut any sense of achievement that comes with emailing out your resumé.
For the record, this is true for everybody. I speak with high-achieving professionals and leaders every day who excel in their roles yet have their confidence shaken by the traditional job search process.
In a competitive job market, simply relying on “the job board lottery” may not be enough to land your next role, especially if your competition is active in the hidden job market.
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I recently spoke with a data analyst whose two-month job search resulted in 1,600 applications with only 15 responses and six interviews with actual decision-makers. Despite her effort, her return on investment was less than 1%, leaving her feeling burned out and discouraged.
She’s not alone. After working with thousands of job seekers, I have found that relying solely on job boards as a job-search strategy is not your best option. Not only is it time-consuming, but it also produces the lowest results when it comes to interviews — all while infusing your job-search mindset with fear, uncertainty and desperation.
Additionally, when you only rely on job boards, you’re fishing in a limited pond rather than the whole ocean of opportunity available to you. Many employers bypass job boards altogether to find top talented candidates through what’s known as the hidden job market.
The hidden job market comprises job opportunities that aren’t publicly advertised but are instead filled through personal networks, referrals or direct outreach.
Companies use the hidden job market for a variety of reasons, such as filling confidential or unposted roles or creating a position for a specific candidate identified through networking.
Additional reasons companies use the hidden job market include:
When I was a recruiter, our company had a policy that all employee referrals were guaranteed a phone screen. Many companies have similar policies, which makes referrals a triple win. Your chances of landing an interview improve, your friend or networking contact may secure a bonus for referring you, and the company saves time filtering thousands of applications.
When it comes to securing that referral, it’s important to position yourself as an industry expert or leader and build a robust professional network. Leveraging both will become more valuable than any blind application you submit.
Recruiters and decision-makers spend their time on LinkedIn looking for industry leaders and experts to join their teams. Setting your profile up for success will be critical in helping them find you.
If you haven’t taken a look at your LinkedIn profile in a while, now is a good time to critically audit your profile. Revisit it through the lens of your ideal audience: your future boss. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Networking gets a bad rap these days, but it’s essentially just two people having a conversation and exchanging information. I bet you’re networking every single day! When it comes to your job search, having a conversation with current employees at a dream organization can not only help secure a referral but can also give you a peek inside the company’s culture, challenges and opportunities.
Here are some ways to network strategically for your job search:
Add headhunters and recruiters to your job search, as companies often partner with them for confidential positions.
While headhunters are technically there to advocate for you, they work with many candidates and will typically advocate hardest for the candidate who is most likely to be hired, since that will result in their commission. Partnering with recruiters is an additional strategy, but it should not be your only one.
Be proactive, talk with your existing connections, add new connections to your network and ask for that referral. These strategies will make your job search more productive than relying on the “job board lottery” and will form a pathway to the hidden job market. Most importantly, these steps will help you to land at a company that aligns with your goals.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kara Dennison is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), Executive Career & Leadership Coach and Forbes contributor. She’s the CEO of Optimized Career Solutions and has helped over 2,000 high-achieving professionals and leaders land their dream jobs, helping to negotiate over $12M in salary increases. Her dream job is helping high achievers and leaders live authentic lives, starting with their careers. When she’s not writing for University of Phoenix or coaching high achievers and leaders, you can find her hanging out with her husband and two black cats or swinging in the hammock out back in her small, remote town in Tennessee.
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