Blog Post July 16, 2017

Unlock the hidden job market

Unlock the hidden job market

What did you do to find your current position?

If you are like most people, you probably searched online job boards and applied for a number of advertised positions, and maybe emailed your CV or resume to some potential employers.

If these are the strategies you have been using in your job search, you are probably missing out on great opportunities, as up to 80% of available jobs are never advertised online. Some of these positions do not even exist until an employer comes face to face with the right person. These opportunities make up the “hidden job market.”

How do you get access to these hidden jobs?

Referrals! Hiring managers will often reach out to individuals they know or have worked with previously whom they think could meet their current needs or will seek referrals for candidates from people they know and trust. Around 60% of all hired candidates are referrals, from either internal (someone in the organization vouching for you) or external (a collaborator, partner, or other contact) sources. 

Why is a referral so important to an employer?

It is an additional assurance from a trusted source that you are a quality hire who will be an asset to their group or organization. Hiring a new employee is an expensive venture, and an employer wants to make sure they choose someone who will be successful. Having a referral makes you a safer bet than a candidate whom they know only from an application or limited interview interactions.

So how can you go about getting a referral for these hidden jobs?

It all starts by getting known by the right people and helping them to get to know you and what you bring to the table. To do this effectively, you need to know who the right people are for your chosen career, which all starts with self-reflection and planning. 

Know what you want

Before you can get to know the people who can help you find your next job, you first need to figure out what you want that next job to be!  A good place to start is taking some self-assessments to determine your career interests. These are often offered by university career centers, however you can also find these online or in career guidance books (such as Melanie Sinche’s Next Gen PhD: A Guide to Career Paths in Science).

Develop your plan

Once you figure out what you want, make a plan on how to get it. Create a list of your target positions, the organizations that employ people in these roles, and the professional societies and discussion forums relevant for this field. Keep a log for all of your research, making note of key individuals or organizations with whom you would like to connect and strategies for reaching out either in person or online. 

Update your online presence

More than 90% of recruiters use social media to identify candidates, particularly LinkedIn. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, create one now! Having an updated, active, and well-tailored profile on LinkedIn and other social media platforms can help to get you noticed and can lead to people reaching out to you about openings and job opportunities. Keeping your profile current and up to date will also help you with making and maintaining connections.   

Make meaningful connections

Networking is the key to getting referrals and thus access to the hidden job market, however networking is only effective if you do it with a purpose! Use your strategies to connect yourself with the key individuals and organizations you identified from your research. Your goal is to build a strong network that can help you develop career prospects, both now and in the future. This means not only establishing connections, but maintaining and developing them over the course of your career. 


With over 11 years of experience in recruitment and advising, Heather Dillon has helped undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students pursue their career goals.  In her previous roles and in her current position as University Relations Specialist with The Jackson Laboratory, Heather has evaluated thousands of CVs, resumes and cover letters and has assisted hundreds of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with their job searches and application materials.