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The hidden job market – what do candidates need to know?

Kate Allen, Managing Director, Allen Associates

It’s thought that the hidden job market could account for up to 80 per cent of available roles. If you’re currently searching for your next step on the career ladder, it’s worth bearing in mind that many positions are filled without being advertised.

Imagine that you’ve found a house you’d like to buy, but when you put an offer down you find out that you’ve been pipped to the post. By befriending the local estate agent, you can receive immediate news of properties new to the market, allowing you to beat the rush and secure your dream home.

In some ways, the hidden job market is very similar. There are a number of reasons a position may not be advertised. There could be confidential circumstances surrounding the recruitment search, or a new role may be filled by a candidate who contacts the company directly.  In this type of environment, your contacts will be key.

Finding a job before it’s advertised requires a different approach. In a normal scenario, candidates would search the job boards and apply via the application form. If you can bypass this, perhaps through a recommendation for the role, it’s possible you will have a greater chance of capturing a hiring manager’s attention.

My best advice in this situation would be to find out who’s hiring. If there’s a company you’ve always wanted to work for, get to know the recruitment agency or manager responsible for this. At Allen Associates, we always vet candidates extremely thoroughly before making recommendations for interview. However, we’re always keen to hear from people if they have an interest in a particular business.

Achieving an endorsement for a position from a recruitment agency or an employee within the company you’re applying for will go a long way towards helping you to secure that all-important interview. Contacts like this can be a valuable resource, so don’t be shy about asking questions so that you have all the information you need.

Networking will, of course, be key to your success. Start by building a list of people, from university alumni to former colleagues and family members who have connections which may be useful to you. Often, networking happens in unlikely places – at a friend’s birthday party or a fundraising event – so try to stay professional at all times.

Above all, you’ll need to be smart about how you network. When you’re speaking to someone in-person at a business breakfast or online via social media, try to build a relationship with them. Find out about their passions and interests before asking for a favour. If your contact isn’t directly involved in hiring decisions, ask for an introduction to someone who is.

When approaching companies speculatively, pay attention to the news. Look for businesses who are announcing new deals, which could result in the need to expand their team. Ideally, you’ll have a contact who you can mention as a way of introducing yourself. If not, think about your skillset and how this could be relevant to the company’s needs at this particular point in time.

While speculative e-mails demonstrate initiative, to be successful you should be targeted in your approach. Choosing companies which are similar to the one you’re currently working in, or even those who have recruited former colleagues could be more effective. In this scenario, the tone of voice you use within your message will count for a lot. Hiring managers are often incredibly busy, so don’t be presumptuous. Outline your reasons for contacting their business above all others and ask for their advice.

Finally, remember this: Many employers and recruitment agencies are engaged in active searches to find the best candidates on the market. While they may not be advertising, this doesn’t mean that they’re not interested. If you’re the right person for a growing company, it’s possible that they’ll consider creating a position for you.

As a result, you should do everything you can to build your personal brand. Invest the time needed to boost your profile by attending events and creating an attractive website to show off examples of your work. Employers will always be impressed by candidates who have gone the extra mile to demonstrate a passion for their expertise or specialism.

Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent Recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 we opened our first London office, to service Clients and Candidates in the capital.

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