In a recent webinar, we discussed job search strategies with ACCES Employment and Seneca College to explore the approaches job seekers should use to successfully connect with prospective employers. We addressed such issues as penetrating the hidden job market, and establishing relationships with employers by using effective communication strategies.
On average, up to 80 percent of jobs are not advertised—these jobs make up the hidden job market. Employers find candidates through referrals from current employees, colleagues, friends, and family—in other words, through their networks. They do not limit themselves to job ads.
How can you get into the hidden job market if the positions are not advertised? Consider using the strategies outlined below.
Networking is an interpersonal process that leads to the mutual exchange of information, contacts, or leads—and it is no secret that it is critical to job hunting. Networking is one of the most effective ways to learn about employment opportunities that are not advertised. Asking those in your network for advice or information on how to get into a specific industry can boost your chances of getting the help you need to take the next steps in your career.
People typically develop their networks through “warm contacts”—those whom they already know—or through cold contacts—those they do not. You can extend your network through warm contacts such as former professional colleagues and supervisors, but do not overlook your relatives, friends, and other people who are part of your daily life. Networking with cold contacts, however, requires more effort.
Immigrant professionals who are new to the country may find it difficult to extend or even establish a network, since many if not most of their contacts will be “cold.” There are programs and supports that can help. For example, ACCES Employment offers many services, including speed mentoring events, that help internationally educated professionals succeed in their job search. Seneca College Bridging Programs also provide sector-specific networking opportunities.
You may want to engage in other networking efforts as well:
- Attend job fairs to directly connect with employers.
- Join a professional association to establish connections in your field.
- Attend industry conferences.
- Volunteer or participate in community events.
When you engage in these network activities, make sure you have a clear objective and plan, and understand whom you want to connect with and why. Initiate a natural conversation, and maintain a two-way dialogue—do not monopolize the conversation. Finally, ask questions that can help you with your employment goal.
Make a list of companies you are interested in and begin researching them. Find out what they do, if their values align with yours, if they have employment opportunities, and who is responsible for hiring. Begin your research with a general internet search; then connect with an employer through a professional networking site like LinkedIn.
When establishing cold contacts, start with a personal introduction. Follow this up with the reason you are connecting and, if possible, ask for an informational interview. Here are some important tips for succeeding when cold contacting:
- Have an idea of what you want to say, but listen more than you talk.
- Get to know people for who they are—not just their professions.
- Follow up on the leads you generate.
An informational interview is a brief meeting that allows you to gather information about employment opportunities, a particular industry, or a particular employer. It is initiated by the job seeker and can provide job leads as well as new networking contacts.
Be specific about your goals when asking for an informational interview. For example, you can ask about the steps the person you are meeting with took to get into their current role. If the informational interview is with a hiring manager, you can ask what qualifications, skills, and experiences the company seeks in prospective hires. Be mindful of the person’s time, and be sure to send a thank-you email afterward. Follow up with any action items discussed during the meeting.
Communication Strategies When Connecting With Employers
Beyond understanding how to connect with employers, it is important to focus on communication skills. Communication is more than just the verbal exchange of information. It can also occur non-verbally, through wordless cues, gestures, or body language.
Non-Verbal Communication Strategies
When connecting with employers, your appearance matters. Make sure you make a good first impression by being neat, appropriately dressed, well groomed, and polished.
In North American culture, eye contact is important. It conveys confidence and openness. Look directly into the eyes of the person you are conversing with, without staring. Maintain a pleasant facial expression—which can include a smile to show that you are friendly and approachable.
Pay attention to how close you stand next to the persons you talk to—take note of the distance between individuals as you see it at conferences and in other professional settings. Your body language, gestures, and posture should also reflect your professional appearance. Remaining upright with your shoulders relaxed can also indicate confidence and professionalism.
Verbal Communication Strategies
Verbal communication refers to both speaking and writing. When speaking with employers, be sure to have a clear idea of what you want to say, even if that means committing part of it to memory. Listen attentively, and paraphrase your speaker’s words as appropriate.
When communicating in writing, make every effort to be clear. Review your message before sending it to make sure there are no grammatical or spelling errors. It is also a good idea to have a friend review it. If you are wondering what to say to a cold contact, you can introduce yourself and mention a mutual interest or connection. Also, be sure to have a specific request in mind, and be ready to offer something in return.
Mastering networking and communication strategies will help you connect with employers and increase your chances of tapping into the hidden job market and succeeding in your job search.
For more tips, view the on-demand webinar.