Last updated: March 25

How to leverage the mysteries of the hidden job market 

job search networkingGain confidence and eliminate guesswork with scripts you can use today.

The magic of the hidden job market is where 95% of good opportunities that are just waiting to be discovered. These include positions that (1) don’t exist yet (2) are known only to decision-makers or (3) those not yet advertised.

The hidden job market is deceptively simple and most executives (believe it or not!) are reluctant to use it.

What I hear from clients: “Maureen, I don’t want to burden my networks and I don’t want to ask for a job.”

You don’t need to.

Avatars and Decision-Makers

There are two categories of individuals to meet: (1) avatars and (2) decision-makers. Avatars are influencers in your targeted industry or organization. Decision-makers make business decisions: hiring decisions, purchasing decisions, management decisions, etc. Although your ultimate goal is to meet with a decision-maker, many times you will need to consult with avatars in order to reach the decision-maker.

Engaging the avatars and decision-makers in your target market can feel challenging. Henry, a successful business person and recent client, got me onto the idea of directly asking individuals who we may feel are beyond our grasp. “Mr. Ferrari, I would be honored if you would spend 20 minutes of your time to tell me more about your industry. I promise to keep it brief and all I am asking for is information.”

Open your wallet

Invite your avatar for dinner. Always offer to pay. Take a digital recorder to interview the conversation and ask if you can use it. It will come in handy later.

Begin with the people with whom you have a common history or a common interest. You don’t want to show up in desperation mode. Perhaps you’ve let your centers of influence lag. Long days at the office brokering “mega deals” have left you with little time to be proactive. You need to start somewhere.

Critical career conversations don’t begin with “the ask”, but with an invitation to have a conversation that will provide you with the most powerful tool of all—information. Your goal in a job networking conversation is to uncover insider information that is not available on the company’s website or in the newspaper.

Ultimately you want to know what is most important to the decision-makers in your targeted organization.

Make this process easy by identifying a location and a choice of dates and times and make it easy for him to find you. As communications expert, Mary Jane Copps explains, decision fatigue can wear us down, so make these simple decisions for them in advance so all they need to do is to show up:

The power of reciprocation will remove the burden of asking for help.

Reciprocation is a powerful gesture and showing up for the meeting with goodwill in your heart will go a long way. Your avatar does not need your money personally; however, their charity does. Your willingness and interest in their philanthropy will generate goodwill and builds trust.

Offer to help your avatar with a cause close to his heart. Accept the advice of iconic experts:

“There is no cause half so sacred as the cause of the people. There is no idea so uplifting as the idea of the service of humanity.” Woodrow Wilson.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Theodore Roosevelt

Simple gestures of kindness will build trust and show you care.

Disarm any concern that you plan to ask them for a job.

Your avatar’s number one concern may be that you will ask them for something they are unable to provide. When you assure them in advance the only item on your shopping list is information, you will remove any suspicion. Leave critical “job conversations” for a later time.

“Mr. Ferrari, I am considering a career change. Would you be open for a brief meeting? I am looking for information and would really like to garner your insight into the luxury automobile industry.”

Conducting basic research before your meeting is good due diligence. Do not attend a meeting with your cherished network without preparation. Preparation demonstrates respect for the individual, business savvy, and also builds a connection.

Typical introduction: “Maserati, what’s new in your industry?” This is boring and demonstrates little insight into your knowledge base of the luxury auto industry.

Try this: “Mr. Maserati, I hear that your company launched its IPO last quarter. Tell me about your first reporting period. Did it go as smoothly as expected? What surprised you?”

The “ask” for a referral:

Your primary goal during the meeting is to ask for a referral.

“Mr. Maserati do you know someone (not anyone) in your network who uses finite element analysis in their work who I could speak with? I am looking for information only—I will ask him the same things I’ve asked you.”

This will prompt Mr. Maserati to think specifically about such a person rather than randomly searching his memory for anyone who might be able to help you. The difference is subtle but important.

After the meeting

Thank your avatar with an old-fashioned thank-you card. Keep in touch with him and let him know what is going on with your job search, especially once you have landed your dream job. Do not leave him wondering if anything happened to you because you did not follow up especially if he has graciously provided a cherished member of his network for you to speak with.

Targeting, asking, reciprocating and following up with avatars and decision-makers will open doors to opportunities never before imagined.

Good luck!

Bonus tip:

Turbo charge your search for corporate decision-makers with a data mining package that can shave months off your search so that you can identify and target specific individuals in your targeted industry. Contact me today to learn more.

Photo © londondeposit / depositphotos

We look forward to welcoming you into the Westgate Family of success stories.

About executive resume writing author 

Westgate - Maureen Farmer, helping C-level executives step up or step out.

Maureen Farmer is the Founder & CEO of Westgate Executive Branding & Career Consulting Inc., an international personal branding and career consulting firm delivering premier executive branding and career consulting services for high-profile leaders. Author of The CEO Script Vault: Job Search Scripts for Busy Executives, Maureen believes that when we’re doing work aligned with our values, everyone wins. Using the law of attraction to identify quality employers utilizing the hidden job market is a cornerstone of her career management strategy.

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