Debra Feldman

Don't Apply for a Job, Get Recommended

Here’s how

November 17, 2011
by Debra Feldman

Today’s job market is very different from just a few years ago. The recessionary economy, technology and social networking have had a dramatic effect resulting in changes for both employers and candidates. While applying with a résumé in response to an opening once produced avid employer interest and started the recruiting process, which led to a job offer, nowadays, internal sourcing and word-of-mouth referrals dominate how jobs are filled (PDF). This means that job seekers cannot rely only on their résumé submissions to find a new job, but have to pursue personal contacts actively for potential job leads, introductions and recommendations. Those candidates who come recommended improve their chances of being the lucky new employee. A large proportion of recruiting and hiring is going on without a position being officially advertised — this constitutes the hidden or unadvertised job market.

More people find jobs through connections than by applying to open job postings online or using all other methods. The unadvertised or hidden job market accounts for the majority of outside (vs. internal movement) new hires. How then is it possible to find out about these “secret” positions?

What Can You Do?

Especially in today’s extremely competitive job market where employers are looking to reduce recruiting budgets and reduce risk, experts agree that job seekers should focus on networking, not applications, as the best job search method. Tips passed along by word of mouth generate more new leads and contacts with every conversation having the potential to produce several more referrals.

Having the right contacts, i.e., being known to hiring authorities increases your ability to express your interest and demonstrate your qualifications for a job without having to first go through a gatekeeper’s approval or pass an automated screening system. A personal referral is advantageous because we humans tend distrust strangers and gravitate toward people we know or who know people we know. Connections are valuable because they increase your chances. The stronger the connection/relationship between recommender and decision-maker and/or decision-maker and you, the greater edge you have over your competition. Landing a job depends on your ability to impress the hiring manager, which requires a face-to-face meeting.

Most people begin their job search by revising their résumé and telling their network to keep them in mind if there is a suitable opening. Many job seekers reply with their résumés to advertised job postings and send or upload résumés to recruiters and search firms. Then, the wait begins to be invited for an interview. It’s not unusual for this to go on for months assuming that the résumé eventually matches an employer’s job description and results in a job offer. Candidates feel helpless, if not outright victims, because there is little feedback from companies and progress is achingly slow.

By networking with a purpose, you can both increase the quantity and quality of your connections and narrow the list down to those people who are most likely to share desirable job leads with you and/or make introductions to hiring decision-makers. For example, if you are interested in working at a certain employer, employees of that company may know about situations that produce new positions, (such as restructurings, new business requirements, expansions, retirements, promotions, etc.) and they can be informed before such triggers are made public. They may share this inside information with you, invite you to meet with their colleagues who are hiring or have challenges to solve or suggest your name on a confidential basis. Therefore, being known to and keeping up to date with your network built purposefully is the best way to tap the hidden job market and gain a competitive advantage over other candidates. These contacts can also provide their private, insider insights to help you make a positive first impression. This can give you the same competitive intelligence that internal candidates have.


It is far easier and quicker to find a new job when you have inside contacts at a potential employer. Your connections can tell you about an opportunity and help you pursue it. Through your discussions and visits with inside contacts, you can propose a project creating a job for yourself or suggest how you can contribute to the team with specific success stories to show your capabilities.

Once you have a relationship with the hiring authority, as a prospective candidate, you are pre-qualified as trustworthy, made your potential value contribution known and are on the inside track. What’s a better benefit of having the right inside contacts and maintaining them? Your reputation will precede you and you may be recruited even when you are not actively looking for a new job.

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Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz(TM), 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 Networking Purposefully(TM) and expediting stalled job searches connects candidates directly to decision makers, not HR. Learn more about her groundbreaking techniques that compress job searches from months into weeks leveraging online visibility and maximizing traditional techniques.

(C) Copyright, 2011, Debra Feldman. All rights reserved. Used with permission.