Working the Hidden Job Market

Eight key steps for maximizing your success.

August 21, 2008
by Debra Feldman

Financial executives re-enter the job market for many different reasons, but only one job search technique has been proven universally effective for candidates who don't fit into standard job descriptions. You have to network with a clearly designed purpose.

Networking purposefully means intentionally connecting with hiring decision-makers. In today's competitive environment, skills, talent and knowledge are not sufficient to attract employers and command their attention. With the hiring process being increasingly complex, you must follow up to promote yourself periodically so that when an employer has a need for someone with your skills, s/he thinks about you first and gets in touch. Timing is critical; being recommended for a position can transform a content employee into a prospective new hire when they are not actively job hunting, sparing them from a formal job search to find their next challenge.

Overcoming Automated Candidate Screening

Automated candidate screening and tracking processes that don't accommodate — and aren't designed to appreciate exceptions — are increasingly used by companies to manage the massive volume of resumes generated by Web-based postings. Most re-entry candidates will rarely be included among a short list of candidates matching an employer's ideal requirements. The challenge for those who can't fit precisely into a round or square hole is to attract hiring decision-makers. The solution is to connect through a mutual contact.

Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler of CareerXroads, a New Jersey-based executive recruiting firm, have documented that employee referrals continue to be a main source of new hires. A recommendation is sometimes the only way you will ever be considered. Networking contacts can usually facilitate a telephone or in-person meeting to start the process, allowing you to meet with the top decision-maker.

To establish good rapport and demonstrate their credibility, serious candidates develop models, white papers or presentations that show in quantifiable terms how they will decrease expenses, increase profits and add to the bottom line. While the ideal candidate and the ideal employee may be different, only the hiring decision-maker can bend the requirements, reorganize resources and do what it takes to make an offer.

Beyond an immediate job offer, a positive impression can set up more networking leads, which in turn brings in job leads. With patience and persistence, developing and nurturing networking relationships with appropriate contacts is the surest way to find a job. For candidates with a break on their resumes, personalized introductions explain unusual circumstances and pave the way for meaningful dialogues with prospective employers.

Networking has multiple benefits for prospective candidates: developing influential relationships, acquiring insights from the employer's perspective and gaining knowledge to focus on target employers most likely to be interested in them. Smart executives make a lifetime habit of managing their careers to obtain exposure to possible new opportunities in advance of official announcements. Network connections are usually an advantage over similarly qualified competitors and others who more closely match the selection criteria.

In short, networking is career insurance.

Tips for Navigating the Hidden Job Market

Here are nine tips to re-enter the job market with a running jumpstart to accelerate job search progress.

  1. Define your skills, expertise, and knowledge. Identify a potential employer market likely to value such talents and capabilities. Then find key decision-makers/hiring managers and establish contact, preferably an introduction by a mutual contact.
  2. Create a plan that includes a strong value proposition to unmistakably benefit prospective employers based on quantifiable contributions, specifying target companies/hiring decision-makers likely to appreciate this message.
  3. Focus and choose a niche of expertise that is remarkable, distinctive and memorable. Go to resources/experts, command more attention.
  4. Communicate interest clearly and persuasively in a flawless written format and compelling elevator speech presentation.
  5. Access the unadvertised or hidden job market through personal connections, not official job postings. It's all about who knows you.
  6. Emphasize networking purposefully, connecting with decision-makers or individuals especially those affiliated with a target employer who are not only well-positioned, but also make introductions and expand connections to other hiring decision managers.
  7. Champion positive campaign results by using the right strategies regularly. Job search is a marathon not a sprint. Invest the time and effort to develop strong trusting long-term relationships.
  8. Remember to show appreciation and to give back willingly to help others. What goes around comes around. Good networking is reciprocal and not restricted to job hunting-related activities.
  9. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up! Be persistent but not pesky. Courteously persevere and keep the ball in play. Don't be deterred by effective gatekeepers; it's their responsibility to filter contacts — make sure they understand that there is more at risk excluding you than setting up a meeting or phone appointment.

Start the ball rolling and find out how easy it is to get that new job with a purposeful and strategic approach to networking.

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© Debra Feldman, 2008

Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz™, a nationally-recognized expert who designs and personally implements swift, strategic, and customized senior level executive job search campaigns, banishing barriers that prevent immediate success. Her gift for cold calling, executed with high energy and savvy panache, connects candidates directly to decision makers, not HR. Network Purposefully™ with the JobWhiz, and compress your job search into mere weeks, using groundbreaking techniques soon to be profiled in Forbes magazine and featured in an upcoming syndicated television series. In addition to writing columns and conducting workshops for several revered professional associations, Debra provides career guidance to alumni of top-tier business schools. Contact Debra at www.JobWhiz.com to expedite your executive ascent.