Tips for Cracking the ‘Hidden’ Job Market Resources

Searching for work is always tough, but it’s easier if you know the right places to look. Online job boards are a great source, but as Nerdwallet writer Brianna McGurran says in “Break Into the ‘Hidden’ Job Market’ in 5 Steps” — a handy how-to recently posted on USA Today’s College website — they’re not the only took that could land you meaningful employment.

McGurran’s tips center on networking, and while they’re intended for recent grads, they apply to just about everyone. According to a 2015 study, recruiters find three-quarters of their best candidates from personal referrals, and that means it’s vital to meet people the right people and stay in touch.

On that note, McGurran’s first tip is to “make a list of current and potential professional connections.” These are people who (a) know you, (b) might vouch for you, and (c) have large networks of their own. Get in touch with these individuals (friends, friends of friends, family members, former teachers, ex-coworkers, etc.) and see if you can meet up or chat on the phone to get some professional advice. This could ultimately lead you to opportunities not yet posted on job boards.

Next up, McGurran suggests utilizing those connections to “schedule informational interviews.” The companies you target might not have openings now, but things are always changing, so if you’re able to visit the office and put in some face time, you might be considered the next time there’s a vacancy.

Third, McGurran is a fan of “cold-calling hiring managers,” though here, “call” doesn’t necessarily mean picking up the phone. Find contacts at places you’d like to work and email bulleted lists highlighting the skills and talents you can offer. If you use an eye-catching subject line, the person will be that much more likely to read your message. Ultimately, you want to land an informational interview, where you can further discuss what you’d bring to the company.

After you reach out to those hiring managers and people in your network, you want to “follow up” and “keep in touch.” If you don’t get a response for three days after your “cold call” email, try reaching that hiring boss with an actual phone call. If you don’t get through, it’s OK to leave a voicemail, but McGurran says you should stop at one. It’s a fine line between looking driven and overly eager. With respect to your network, relationships often peter out if you don’t make the effort to stay on people’s radars. Send periodic check-in emails to share industry tidbits and see what everyone’s up to.

Lastly, you want to “show appreciation” for every meeting, informational interview, phone conversation, and email response. Send thank-you notes to let people know you’re grateful for their time, and they’ll remember you as someone who’s conscientious and thoughtful — attributes that, along with your talents, could make all the difference.

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