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Hidden Job Market in 2021: Does It Exist and How Do You Get In?

hidden job market

Perhaps, you’ve come upon this stat: approximately 80% of all job openings are part of the hidden job market. And that left you wondering: is the hidden job market really ‘a thing’ in 2021? And if so — is it as big as they say? 

Let’s get you data-backed answers to these questions. 

The Hidden Job Market Definition

“Hidden job market” is a cumulative term for all jobs that for some reason are not immediately listed publicly on a job board or elsewhere. Such vacancies are not directly advertised but can be unlocked via networking, word of mouth, or direct contact with recruiters. 

Okay, but why would an employer “hide” a job? There are a couple of reasons for that:

  • Lack of formal hiring process: Smaller, family-run companies might not want to go through the hassle of advertising the job publicly and sorting through hundreds of resumes. They’d rather use their professional network to find the right candidate. 
  • Part-time or contract need: Despite the tremendous growth of online marketplaces, the freelance economy still operates on referrals. Solopreneurs and small consultancies with a turnover of $100,000+ annually get 84% of their business through word of mouth. 
  • Hiring for senior executive roles. C-suite roles are rarely advertised publicly as recruiter Amy Miller notes in her video. Why? Because such roles are often granted internally, poached for by competition, or strategically negotiated with a small pull of pre-vetted candidates. 

Alright, but the doesn’t sound like 80% of all jobs, or am I missing something?

Nope, you are right. A bigger fraction of the job market remains public. But there’s a certain twist to it too.

Does the Hidden Job Market Really Exist? 

If you feel that you are not seeing the many great jobs online, you might be right too. While recruiters still rely on public channels such as job boards and on-site posts, they are also exploring alternative hiring strategies.

According to the latest Jobvite survey, recruiters plan to increase investment in the following recruiting channels in 2021:

  • 46% —  social media 
  • 40% — LinkedIn 
  • 36% — employee referrals 
  • 34% — job boards
  • 29% — recruiter’s professional network 

As the data indicates, the above channels are not strictly public since there are different dynamics at play. Rather than waiting for the right hire to apply, recruiters are getting more proactive and go searching for suitable candidates online.

senior recruiter searching candidates online

In that sense, having a well-optimized LinkedIn profile, personal website or online portfolio, and social media accounts can help you get on the employer’s radar and get the coveted ‘hidden’ job offer.

A report by LinkedIn also named “internal recruiting” as a major trend for the upcoming decade. Already, 73% of HRs recognize this strategy as important for their company. Internal recruiting stands for filling new roles with current employees from another team, department, or function.  It’s another “hidden in plain sight” job opportunity that few people take advantage of. 

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Hired in 2021

If you want to get an amazing new job this year, make the move first. Don’t wait till the vacancy becomes public. Instead, work your way to getting on the recruiters’ radar. Here’s how to do it. 

1. Start with an HR Conversation 

Given the current fierce competition for talent and the overall time and costs associated with recruiting, more and more employers are focusing on retraining and upskilling their current staff. So when was the last time you spoke with HR or your manager about new career opportunities?

having a talk with the manager

If that was a while ago, book a quick meeting to discuss your shifted career objectives and new aspirations. Showing interest and enthusiasm is a “shortcut” for getting on the internal recruiting list.

2. Start Networking 

Networking may sound like a fancy term for a simple recommendation. But in essence, it is the same thing. Your friend knows someone who has the skills to do the job you have and tells you about them. 

One of the most important parts of networking is simply letting people know what you do and what type of career path you aspire to have. 

That way, when the situation arises, they can think of you and make that recommendation.  Say you are a graphic designer and your cousin works for a company that wants to hire someone to redesign their website and create some advertising materials.  Because your cousin knows what you do and that you are looking for work, he can recommend you to his boss – but if he didn’t know what your abilities were, he couldn’t make that recommendation.

How do you network without sounding too sleazy or sale-sy? Know the right time and place:

  • Attend webinars and (virtual) industry meetups 
  • Become active in niche LinkedIn groups or other communities
  • Promote some of your work on Twitter/Instagram or set up a portfolio website 
  • Send a quick letter of introduction to every new LinkedIn connection you are making 
  • Reach out to people in more senior roles and ask if they are open to mentoring 
  • Be the first one to recommend someone else wait till the “favor” gets back to you 

In general, when the conversation drifts towards work, don’t be afraid to talk a little about what you do. 

3. Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

The best place for a “passive” job search is LinkedIn. A well-optimized LinkedIn profile is itself a great source of possible referrals and direct interview invites from recruiters. 

As we wrote before, to land a job via LinkedIn focus on these steps:

  • Create a compelling LinkedIn headline
  • Add a professional photo
  • Write an attention-grabbing profile summary
  • Ask for recommendations 
  • Organize your Skills section 
  • Adjust your profile settings to show that you are open to offers

4. Always Ask “How Can I Help?”

Shep Gordon, a celebrity manager and insider in Holywood has this one really simple tip for becoming great at networking: take a service-driven approach to people.

What does that mean? Gordon suggests that whenever you put on your “networking” hat, the first thing you need to think about is “How can I make this person’s day better?”. 

By entering every conversation from this perspective, you can build long-lasting and memorable relationships with others. Received a new LinkedIn connection request from an HR? Add a quick introductory note, briefly stating what you do and asking if there’s any way you could help them. 

Heard about a friend, struggling to find a new designer? Send a good referral their way or promise to take a look at their issue yourself.

By paying forward you cultivate a better reputation for yourself, leading to reciprocity and a whole lot of hidden opportunities. 

To Conclude: What is the Difference Between the Published Job Market and the Hidden Job Market?

The public job market is in plain sight. Such opportunities attract a lot of talent and competing for them may be challenging at times. The so-called “hidden job market” means taking a more strategic approach to your job search. Rather than going after public jobs only, you should also invest in building an online presence for yourself, so that you could attract recruiters and recommendations on auto-pilot!


  • Elena Prokopets

    Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more

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