The hidden job market

Grow People

Where do you look for jobs?

I'm guessing you’ve signed up to one or more of the job broker websites such as Indeed, CV Library or Monster. These sites always have hundreds of local jobs in different sectors and it's great to base some of your job search here as a quick overview. You might also browse employers’ websites directly to see what vacancies they have advertised.

But the problem with only looking for jobs in this way is that you're only finding and applying for a small fraction of all the jobs available locally to you.

That's because it's thought that 80% of jobs are never advertised. But why?

  • Recruitment costs an employer time and money, and some are keen to avoid the costs of advertising through a job broker like the ones listed above
  • Some employers would rather recruit through recommendations from existing employees, friends, or family
  • Some employers want to avoid making decisions around recruitment public knowledge, for example if a new branch is opening nearby

With so many jobs 'hidden' from job seekers using traditional methods, how can you ensure you find and are successful in gaining a job without looking for advertised jobs?

Word of Mouth

The single best thing you can do when looking for work is to get the word out. Let your friends and family know you are looking for work, post on social media and mention it to everyone you meet. Hearing about vacancies in this way is a win-win as you hear about a job no one else knows about, and employer knows that they have a recommendation from someone they trust.


Keep an eye on social media and newspapers for any events that might be coming up such as careers fairs, industry events or open days and go along to as many of them as you can. Take paper copies of your CV and dress to impress. Meeting employers face to face is a great way to make a good impression, and even if an employer doesn't have a job there and then, they can bear you in mind if a position does come up, especially if you keep in touch by sending up a follow up email. Make sure you take people's contact details, and they know your name.

You may be able to network virtually by attending events advertised by platforms such as Linked In and Eventbrite. Again, prepare as if you are going for interview by wearing smart clothes and ensuring you are somewhere quiet with a good internet connection.

Speculative job searching

Many employers never advertise because they are approached directly by potential employees. Although this method is more labour intensive, it is often more successful than searching for advertised jobs online.

Speculative job searching is where you identify potential employers and approach them directly to ask whether they have any vacancies. This can be done face to face, via email or phone, depending on the employer and sector.

If you are looking for retail or hospitality positions, it's worth identifying areas in the town or city you live in to target on different days. Preparation is key, so look on google street view to identify potential employers or look online. Ensure you have enough paper copies of your CV and you are dressed in smart clothes. Write down and practice a couple of lines that you'll use to introduce yourself and choose a time of day when the employer isn't too busy.

When you walk in, the first thing you need to do is greet a current employee with a smile. Explain you're looking for a job and ask to speak to a supervisor or manager. It's worth making sure you're speaking to someone who can give you a concrete answer straight away, so you don't have to repeat yourself. If they don't have any current positions, ask them to take a copy of your CV and consider you for future positions. If they let you know that you need to apply online, thank them and confirm that this is the only method they use to recruit. Ensure they know your name so if they do come across your application, they'll remember you made the effort to come in.

If you are going to be approaching employers by email, again do your research in advance. Tailor your CV so that it matches with the skills and attributes the company is looking for and find out the relevant person to address your email to. You can make a quick call to find out this information. Make sure the email you write is tailored to the company, which shows you've researched them specifically and you want to work for them.

If you don't receive an answer in a few days, follow it up with a phone call. Again, make a note of what you'll say in advance to help stop any nerves, and make sure you're talking to the right person before launching into what you are looking for.

In some cases, spending some time ringing round places is a great use of time. If you're looking for hospitality jobs, you could find a list of local bars or restaurants on a website such as Trip Advisor or and call, asking whether they have any current vacancies. You can then target these places directly taking your CV in rather than walking into lots of places. This is a good method if you don't want to give your name, and hit a lot of employers quickly. Make sure you keep a record of the employers you've contacted, including whether you need to call back again another time.

What are your next steps?

Although this way of finding jobs takes longer, you are much more likely to be successful than just applying using your CV on a jobs broker like Indeed. Less people will apply for hidden jobs, and therefore it gives you the best chance of getting to interview and ultimately getting a job. Employers are impressed with people taking the initiative and putting themselves out there.

What could you do this week to try and access some jobs that aren't advertised?

Our Grow sections

Grow Invest logo
Grow Business logo
Grow People logo