Many job seekers are frustrated by the inability to find a job despite sending out dozens, hundreds or even thousands of resumes. To many, it seems like their applications are being sucked into a black hole.
That perception may be truer than they know, because of something called the hidden job market -- positions that are filled either through unanticipated hiring or with previously identified candidates, regardless of whether the post was advertised or not.
The practice of advertising a position even though an applicant has already been selected is one that "just makes job seekers scream," says Duncan Mathison, co-author of Unlock the Hidden Job Market: 6 Steps to a Successful Job Search When Times Are Tough.
By his estimate, about 50 percent of current hiring among employers is done through back-door methods, which can be difficult to measure because there's no standard way to count the number of jobs that are filled without the use of formal recruiting efforts by corporate human-resource departments.
Mathison's method for calculating the size of the hidden job market involves data from the Labor Department. He compares the jobs that employers said they hoped to fill in a given month and the number of employees they actually hired. When an employer adds more jobs than it estimated in a previous month, he assumes that they filled unadvertised positions. To that percentage, he adds another 30 to 35 percent to account for the number of all jobs filled with inside candidates.
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He cautions that his method for measuring the hidden job market isn't scientific, "but it's the closest thing that I've ever found."
This much is known, however: When the economy is thriving and employers are hiring like gangbusters, the hidden job market shrinks. Conversely, when times are bad and jobs are harder to come by -- such as during the the recent recession -- it expands, with as much as 70 percent of jobs being filled using back-channel methods.
Though today's job market remains weak by several measures, Mathison says that it has improved sufficiently to shrink the hidden job market to about 50 to 55 percent of all jobs filled.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, companies aren't doing anything illegal in either hiring for jobs that haven't been advertised or soliciting applications for positions already filled, though many HR departments require hiring managers to post all openings. Employers defend the practice, saying research has shown that internal hires generally perform better than external ones, at least initially.
Still, it pays for job seekers to keep plugging away, searching for opportunities at companies where they'd like to work. Strategies, such as reaching out to hiring managers directly or contacting employees of a company to learn whether there are any jobs open or becoming available, can help applicants uncover some jobs in the hidden job market.
As Mathison says, companies always keep an eye out for top talent -- even when hiring is frozen. That way, when hiring resumes, they have a ready pool of applicants from which to choose.
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