Where are all the jobs? The hidden jobs market revealed

Lately we’ve heard that 39,000 jobs are set to go from the car industry. Then there’s Alcoa. SPC Ardmona. Another 5,000 at Qantas. With each big name that gets added to the list our national blood pressure average creeps proportionally higher. Ok, that’s not an actual statistic, but I’m sure it’s not out of the question.

It is true that almost a quarter of a million workers have become unemployed since the global financial crisis in 2008 and our rather bleak unemployment rate of 5.8 per cent doesn’t seem to have been answered with a solid plan for job creation.

But what if we were to suddenly find there were 50 – or even 80 – per cent more jobs out there? The Australian Bureau of Statistics doesn’t measure our unadvertised jobs market, but US hidden jobs market expert Mary Elizabeth Bradford quotes Bureau of Labor Statistics figures which suggest that an average of 300,000 six-figure jobs are filled each month, with 80 per cent of these filled before they are even advertised.

Time to take matters into our own hands?

It’s something I learned the hard way when a mid-sized company I worked for closed after I’d been there for just five months. I swallowed hard, put the word out to my contacts and was surprised by how many went to work on my behalf. Once I got over the embarrassment of making contact, I found the hidden jobs market was actually a pretty welcoming place. I was offered more jobs than I could take and I haven’t looked at a job website since.

I wasn’t some kind of super-employable candidate, either. In fact, I’d been working in an outdated industry and needed to reskill, but my success came from laying the groundwork carefully so that my name was already at the top of the list when opportunities arose.

Could it have been a fluke?

It might have worked for me so far, but I sometimes wonder if all those social media requests and informal coffee interviews could have gone horribly wrong if my contacts had seen me as desperate rather than proactive. To find out if my experience was out of the ordinary, I spoke with Justin Babet, Founder and CEO at the employer discovery and comparison site JobAdvisor. Babet was previously Managing Director of technology, media and communications recruitment firm, Xpand Group and has over a decade of experience working the hidden jobs market on behalf of candidates and top employers.

The hypothesis: If you’ve been settling for the jobs you find listed on websites then chances are you’re missing out – big time.

Justin Babet
Justin Babet, Founder and CEO, JobAdvisor.com.au

How big is the hidden jobs market in Australia?

The hidden jobs market, i.e. jobs available that aren't advertised, is estimated to be from 50 per cent to 80 per cent of the entire jobs market. In other words, it's huge. SEEK has around 150,000 live job ads in Australia at any one time, so I guess you could say that's at least the size of the hidden jobs market.

So it’s bigger than most of us imagine. But is it typically diverse, or just for executives?

It's extremely diverse and certainly not just for executives. Having said that, the more experience you have the more people you'll have worked with and the more likely you'll be to hire or be hired by someone you know or have been referred to.

So it’s about making and keeping connections over time. Is it just a case of good networking, or is there more to it?

The word ‘networking’ might imply simply meeting as many people as possible but that's not what you need to do here. A machine gun approach is unlikely to get you very far so you need to be very focused. To be focused the first thing you need to do is to define what you're trying to find. For example, what are you looking for in your ideal employer? What does your ideal job look like and what are the paths to get there?

Once you can answer these questions it becomes a lot easier for you to focus your search by using sites like JobAdvisor to help you identify which employers fit the brief. Once you know who you want to work for, then you should be proactively targeting those companies.

Our site is integrated with LinkedIn, which can help you to find out who you're already connected to within your target companies. Then you can leverage them to refer you into the right person in that organisation.

Or, if you're not connected to anyone you know well, use LinkedIn to find out who is responsible for filling the kind of job you want and approach them directly. Remember that this is a sales process, which means you'll have to be persistent and deal with a lot of rejection if you want to be successful.

Getting focused also makes it a lot easier for people to help you. Imagine trying to help someone who says, ‘I'm willing to do anything’ versus someone who says, ‘I want to work in marketing for an online business like Yahoo!7, Facebook or Google.’

The evidence: The hidden jobs market is not only real, but booming. You just need to do your research and think long and hard about who you know and how they might be able to help you out.

Have you had any particular successes with clients who have found great jobs via the hidden jobs market?

Every job I've ever had has been via the hidden jobs market so I guess you could say I've had some good personal experience with it! I was also chatting to my wife about this yesterday and every job she's ever had was through direct relationships, too. She was a journalist and, instead of applying for jobs, when she first arrived in Sydney from Brisbane she literally went door to door around all the publishers in Sydney – she had a job in a day.

I’m wondering if it’s easier for some professions to find something on the hidden jobs market than others, say a journalist or senior manager compared to a chef or an accountant. Would you recommend that some people focus on the hidden jobs market over the advertised jobs market or vice versa?

I think you should be doing both, but if you're serious about finding your dream job then you have to get out there and make it happen because it's unlikely it'll just fall on your lap.

The advantage of going after the hidden job market is there is usually a lot less competition when you do get some interest from an employer. Also, as an employer myself I can tell you I'm much more likely to hire someone who has approached me because they want to work for my company and can articulate why, rather than someone who has just applied for a job. I've even created jobs for people like this before.

What's your advice to anyone who might want to start to focus on non-advertised positions?

Start by defining exactly where you want to go longer term. The more specific you are, the easier it will be.

Also, put dollars at the bottom of your priority list, particularly when you're starting out. Turning down your dream job with a great career path over $5,000 might end up costing you many tens of thousands more down the track.

To really get traction with this approach your priorities should be finding a company and job that gives you a path you want to take. It might not be the ideal job to start with, but if it will help you to get to where you want to go then that's the most important thing.

And if you're dealing with a recruiter, be clear about who you're approaching yourself. It looks bad for both of you if your CV shows up twice at the same company from different sources.

There's also a fine line between being persistent and being annoying, so always be very conscious and respectful of people's time. And if you say you want to work for an organisation, have a clear set of reasons why – saying, ‘because you look like a cool company’ isn't a very strong reason, instead think about their values as a business, the market they play in, their reputation, how they fit in with your own vision.

With platforms such as LinkedIn, there is now a need for us to always be professionally on show, with the idea that proactive companies will be on the lookout for good candidates who are the right cultural fit. Similarly, employees can do the same as they judge employers through their public profiles. Do you think such direct access is reducing the need for middlemen such as recruiters? Could we even see job advertising become invitation-only?

I think LinkedIn has definitely had an impact on recruiters, that's undeniable, but I do think recruiters still have a place if they're focused on a particular niche and have good relationships. LinkedIn gives you access to more data than ever before but it still takes time and effort to build relationships and you can't be everywhere. It's those relationships that employers and job seekers are leveraging when they use a recruiter.

It's the same with JobAdvisor. Even though we give job seekers direct access to employers, that doesn't necessarily reduce the need for a recruiter's network, if anything it gives recruiters another information source to help them advise their candidates.

If job advertising becomes invitation only it will probably only happen for roles where you normally get a lot of applications. Having said that, the hidden jobs market is in some ways effectively already an invitation only approach.

Justin's pros and cons



You have less competition from other candidates Sometimes it's handy to have a recruiter to coach you through the process and be able to help negotiate on your behalf
You can save time because you know which company you're applying to before you make contact, which means you can figure out if they're right for you before spending time interviewing It takes time. If you need a job immediately you might need to just apply for ads as they come through, even if you're much less likely to get the best result
You're up to three times more likely to get hired if you've been referred Making the wrong kind of approach can leave a lasting impression
You're more likely to find a great fit Your efforts might not be rewarded if there are actually no positions


Tapping the hidden jobs market is like pre-ordering a cut of meat from your local farmers’ market – lay the groundwork with the supplier and you are more likely to get first pick of what you want. It might not mean you stop going to the supermarket, but at least you’re aware that the best cuts are probably plucked from the shelves before you get there.

Looking to make some industry connections? Enrolling in an online course will get you into a virtual classroom with like-minded professionals and prepare you to make contact with your dream employer.

Not sure how to find an ‘in’? Look at the qualifications current employees have listed on their LinkedIn profiles and browse our 700 courses to find your fit.

Do you have a hidden jobs success story? Share your perspective in the comments below.

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