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How to track down “hidden” jobs

hiddenIf you focus your job search on advertised vacancies you could be missing out. Research suggests that most job openings are hidden – with only those in the know aware of them.

‘Some estimates suggest up to 60-80% of job opportunities are not in the public domain,’ says Simon North, founder of Position Ignition ( ‘Whether that figure is correct or not, to find what you are looking for requires you to be smart about your job search – and that means doing your homework.’

So how can you find unadvertised roles? Here’s how to track down under-the-radar opportunities.

Use your network

Talk to people about what you are looking for and you will often find that they have some information or insight which can help you, suggests Corinne Mills of careers consultancy Personal Career Management (

‘This applies to conversations in professional settings and more social ones – you never know who knows what or who until you start talking to them.’

Don’t feel that you’re begging for favours. Many companies pay an incentive to members of staff who introduce new employees (which is cheaper than advertising). If you have the right skills and experience for the position, most people will be pleased to pass your details on.

‘Remember to pass on opportunities that aren’t right for you that may help someone else. Help others and they’ll be more likely to repay the favour,’ adds Corinne.

Social networking sites

If you’re not using social media to make professional contacts and find jobs, why not? Half of UK employers (54%) use social media in their recruitment process, according to a survey by CIPD, and many use it to source candidates with the skills and experience they need.

It’s not enough to just ‘Like’ a company page on Facebook or set up a profile on LinkedIn. To find hidden jobs you need to build relationships and increase your visibility – by joining ‘Groups’ and taking part in industry-related discussions, for example.

Make sure you’re visible to recruiters using social media. For example, use plenty of industry-relevant keywords in your LinkedIn profile and make sure your title is relevant: “Jane Smith – experienced graphic designer.”

Twitter can also be a good way to find jobs. ‘Use Twitter to follow organisations or individuals you are interested in working for,’ suggests Corinne. ‘They’ll often post out jobs you might not see elsewhere.’ Try hashtags relevant to your sector, eg #accountancyjobs.

Show your face at networking events

As useful as social networking is, don’t overlook real-life events. Nothing can replace face-to-face contact – especially if you want to get known. Trade fairs, conferences, seminars, and careers events all offer networking opportunities.

Most organisers will announce who’s attending before the event. Warm up by practising on a few lower-priority contacts and then target the companies and individuals you most want to impress. Treat each meeting like a mini interview and remember to take a stack of business cards and CVs with you.

Contact hiring managers directly

Why wait for a job to be posted when you could contact individuals or organisations you are interested in working for? ‘Ring them up or send them an email outlining your relevant skills and experience and why you would like to work for them in particular,’ advises Corinne.

‘They may not have something immediately but when they are recruiting a few months later they may well remember you and invite you in for a meeting.’

Research the best person to contact. The HR manager of a company may be swamped with queries, so you may have better luck contacting the manager of the department you want to work for.

‘Spend time tracking down relevant hiring managers and explain why you want to work with them, and what you can bring to their team. If you’ve seen them speak at a conference, tell them what you found interesting. Tailor your approaches and think quality over quantity. A standard blanket email is unlikely to get a positive response,’ says Corinne.

Identify growth areas

Sometimes it can help to take a step back and take a wider look at your industry. ‘Even simple analyses of the economy can indicate sectors and segments which are diminishing, staying stable or growing,’ says Simon. ‘Focus your attention on areas that are growing. Investigate them and understand what opportunities are being pursued and what value you and your background can bring to organisations in that space.’

On a more micro-scale, research companies and keep up to date with their developments –  by following them on LinkedIn, signing up to their newsletters, or using Google Alerts to get email notifications. For example, placing a simple search – like retail, jobs, Exeter – in Google Alerts can surface news stories of store openings, generating new jobs in your area.

Knowing which companies in your industry are launching new products, merging or making redundancies in a particular department, will give you a clue about future opportunities.

Piece together the jigsaw

Tracking down hidden jobs requires time and effort but is an investment worth making. Advertised jobs can attract hundreds of applicants, but fewer people know about hidden roles to apply for them. Having said that, nobody can tell you exactly where to find them.

‘There will be people who can help you piece together the various bits of the jigsaw, but be wary of any who claims they can give you a definitive answer,’ warns Simon. ‘Networking and using your connections can help build that picture, so that you are clear about where the opportunities lie and can get closer to your target.’
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