How to Become Referred for a Great Job – Part 2

The combination of effective networking, the hidden job market, and employee referral programs produce the most powerful way to land your dream job.

In Part 1 of How to Become Referred for a Great Job we explored employee referral programs and how they are the most effective method a job seeker can use to land his or her ideal job. In this second installment we’ll learn about the hidden job market and why it might dwarf the advertised job market.

The Hidden Job Market

The hidden job market is defined as the job openings that exist which are not advertised, and thus are hidden from public view. If given a choice, most hiring managers would prefer to use the following internal search methods to fill openings before advertising the job to the public:

1. The hiring manager has someone in mind, either someone already on the team who will move up, or someone on the outside they want to move in. BMG research indicates that about 12% of job openings are filled with internal candidates. Being filled by an internal candidate opens up the position from which the he or she was taken.

2. If the hiring manager cannot identify someone, the next option is to request a referral from someone inside the company whom the hiring manager trusts. If the employer has an employee referral program, all the more incentive for employees to refer qualified candidates.

3. If there are no internal referrals, hiring managers often reach outside the organization to get referrals from people they trust. For both the previous method and this one, résumés of qualified candidates may be forwarded to HR to put into the company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

4. The hiring manager may then request HR conduct a stealth search for passive candidates. Job boards (such as and Career Builder), social media platforms (such as LinkedIn), and even an employer’s own ATS database permit a search of résumés and social media profiles by keyword to see if there is a near-perfect fit.

Should these methods fail to produce qualified candidates, the position may then be posted, becoming visible to job seekers. It is difficult to estimate the actual size of the hidden job market. Quintessential Careers investigated the size of the hidden job market after hearing estimates of 70-85% of all openings and came away recognizing it is sizeable, but not likely as high as 70-85%. Barry O’Brien of CareerLink says the majority of jobs are hidden. Even Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal say it is significant. WSJ believes the best number is about half of the job openings.

Whatever the exact number, it is sizeable. And it is relatively competition-free. BMG research indicates that the average advertised job opening attracts in excess of 130 applicants. That means 130 relatively unknown people – not all of whom are qualified – are competing for a single opening.

The nature of a hidden job is that very likely fewer than 10 candidates will compete during the hidden search phase.

So, as a candidate, how would you rather compete – as one of 130-plus unknown applicants who apply from the outside, or as one of fewer than 10 known candidates?

Next time, in Part 3 of How to Become Referred for a Great Job we’ll explore the how to network your way to becoming a referral candidate. Until then, successful searching!

This article is excerpted from the author’s 7th edition of How to Get a Better Job Faster, which explains more than 2900 career and job search best practices. New editions for college students/recent grads and experienced professionals/skilled workers.

Boyer Management Group works with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. Our extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. Our coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. We also help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. Our acclaimed career development tools, the Job Search Readiness Assessment for experienced professionals/skilled workers and Graduate Employment Preparedness Assessment for students/recent grads both assess and explain over 2,500 career and job search best practices. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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