Waiting in line for a job

How to discover the 'hidden' job market

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The hidden job market refers to jobs that exist right now and will appear as vacancies soon, but are not publicly advertised. They are known only to a small group of stakeholders in the organisation.

In my experience, at least around a third of jobs at mid- to high-income levels are filled without the roles being publicly announced on any job boards. 

This is why it’s essential to find out about these jobs before they go public and get competitive. Get ahead of the line and get engaged in a meaningful discovery conversation early on in the process.


There are two stages involved in the hidden job market process:
  1. Before a formal job vacancy is established

These positions don’t exist yet, but it’s highly probable they will within the next sixty to ninety days. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Under-performance. The incumbent is still in the position, but they are under-performing (and this is not expected to change).

  • Extended leave. The incumbent is currently on medical or maternity leave and there is a reasonable probability that they may not return from leave, so the manager wants to be prepared and may be open to a contractual arrangement.

  • Hiring proactively. The company is in growth mode, well-funded and willing to hire proactively when it has identified the right person.

  • Under-staffed. The team is overworked and under-staffed, so there is a need for the position. Even though it’s not formally approved, the company will expedite approval if it identifies the right person.


  1. After a formal job vacancy is established

These positions are approved and open for hire right now, but they are not advertised on job boards. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Referral preference. The company has a strong preference for internal referrals because they are recommendations versus unknown job advertising applicants.

  • Passive preference. The hiring manager prefers passive candidates who don’t have a strong push factor from their current role versus candidates actively seeking a new job.

  • Lower priority. The HR/talent acquisition team is under resourced and has too many jobs to fill, so a few jobs are either lower priority, lower urgency or the hiring manager has a few people in mind already.

  • External recruitment. The hiring manager is using a head hunter who doesn’t use job ads for the position because the skills required are rare or they have a strong pool of candidates they can contact quickly.

  • Competitive intelligence. The company doesn’t want its competitors to know it is hiring for the position.


The top four benefits of knowing about the hidden job market are:
  1. Fewer candidates. You are engaging in a one- to-one or a one-to-few hiring process because there’s likely to be a small pool of candidates known to the stakeholders, including internal candidates.

  2. More engagement. The fewer the candidates, the more attention, engagement and time you will get from the hiring manager and stakeholders.

  3. Better assessment of fit. The more time you get with the hiring manager and stakeholders, the more likely you are to get additional information about the organisation’s culture, strategy and financial performance as well as the people you would be working with on a daily basis. This helps you make a fully informed decision about the fit and MVP.

  4. Greater chances of reaching agreement. Fewer candidates, more engagement and better assessment of fit enable both parties to value each other. The more value the organisation and hiring manager see in you, and you in them, the better likelihood you have of being able to negotiate the terms of work, such as salary, benefits, flexibility and balance, that are important to you.


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