Saturday, 26 October 2013

Essential Jobseeker Skills: Accessing the Hidden Job Market

Jobseeker Skills: Accessing the Hidden Job Market

In a slightly related to yesterday's post about delusional management, one of the key problems for me is that I understand the necessity to access the hidden job market - but can't because I am office  bound, which is making it hard for me to find an alternative position. By the time I am not in business hours, the businesses for which I would want to approach are all closed too, and I'm not allowed to make personal calls during business hours either.

As much as I hate my current employer, I still very much love what I do for work though - helping unemployed clients develop skills and confidence to gain work.

On Monday, I will be teaching my clients about the hidden job market, in the hopes that more of them will start seeing the benefits that gaining referrals, networking and undertaking cold calling will improve their chances of gaining work more quickly than their current vacancy hunting job search methodology.

For those of you who don't understand the hidden job market, here are a few basics:

The Open job market is where employers job vacancies are advertised to the public - in newspapers, in online job boards such as Seek, Career One, My Career etc. Employers go where the job seekers will go, to ensure their vacancy is found to give them the best chance of filling it.  The more common the role, the higher the number of applicants the business will receive, so more likely the right candidate will be found (eventually).

The Hidden job market is where employers job vacancies are not advertised to the public. There are many reasons why the business doesn't advertise including: job seekers are always dropping their resumes in to the business so they already have plenty of candidates to choose from; the business is undergoing growth and needs new staff but no duties or position has actually been created yet; an employee is retiring later in the year and the employer is considering finding a replacement before they actually go; some small businesses owners are actually intimidated by the recruiting process so put it off; to name a few reasons. According to many large career coaching organisations and government departments in Australia (and America), the hidden job market is sizably larger than the open job market, with most suggesting that at any one time the hidden job market lies between 60 and 80% of the total available job market. That's huge!

Don't believe it? Have you ever gained a job without applying for the role? (I know I have, at least twice that I can think of.) If you have, then you have experienced accessing the hidden job market already! It is surprising, when I ask clients if they have ever gained a job that wasn't advertised nearly everyone in the group has two or three examples within their history too.  And how they gained access to the hidden job market (even though they didn't recognise that this is what they had done) generally falls into one of three ways:  networking, gaining referrals, or cold calling.

The best way for me to tell you about networking, gaining referrals and cold calling is to provide you with an example of how I gained a temporary part time job in the printing industry even though I had no experience or interest in doing that type of work...

Back when my children were young, and I was still married to my ex-husband, money became a little tight and we needed me to earn some part time cash without me having to put our three children in expensive childcare (which defeated the purpose of why I would be working) so we could cover the car rego when it came due in three months.

I tried to find part time positions during the day, but didn't find much suitable, and when the work was suitable I was unsuccessful in getting the role.

I told (complained to) a friend about my need to find some part time work (networking) and mentioned that I needed to find an after hours job like she had recently found, and she immediately got excited and told me her boss needed someone extra for about two hours per night, two or three nights per week and had not been able to find anyone willing to work  7 pm to 9 pm as needed for months. My friend told me she would get off the phone and talk to her boss to let him know I was looking for those hours, and see if he would like to meet me (referral).  He did. She rang back twenty minutes later and asked me to come at 7pm that night to meet him. The next night I started six months of part time employment working in the printing factory manually collating 30 piles of printed pages into booklets, while my friend did her printing and binding work. It was just us working together, and we were allowed to turn music on and chat while we worked, as long as we worked, which we did.

This wonderful little role got my husband and I through our tough period and then got us ahead a bit too, so when the role came to an end after six months, it was nothing to worry about. I no longer needed to work, and we had enough savings to see us through any unexpected bills.

Now, I'd like to point out that when I gained that job, I did not have any printing industry experience.  The employer only needed someone to manually collate printed materials to become bound booklets. It was not hard work; it did not require any skill; five minutes of training, and anyone could do the work.  I got the job because I wanted those horrible hours that nobody else wanted. And that is the benefit of being referred to a vacancy - the employer needed someone who would reliably show up at 7 pm and collate the piles manually. I only wanted to work a couple of hours per week in the evenings and didn't care what type of work I performed (so long as it was legal and ethical), so my husband was home to mind our children. I didn't need to have experience in that type of work because I was referred (and accepted) for when the work would be done - that was the basis of my being hired, not my capabilities.

So, as you can see, referrals are when someone refers another person to the vacancy - a warm lead, and networking is when you build and maintain relationships for mutual benefit. In my example above, I made contact with a person in my 'circle' (my friend) who connected with a person that was in her circle but not mine (her employer), which brought the employer and my own self into each others circle. The employer benefited: he gained an employee who reliably turned up for the two to three shifts each week. I benefited: I gained enough part time hours that suited my availability and was paid enough to meet my bills and then save.  My friend benefited: she gained the much needed help she needed at work, and we maintained our ongoing friendship.

Now, for readers of my blog, I've already shared how a fellow classmate approached me to work in his business in a previous post - so that post and situation is an example of networking in action.  I wasn't looking for a job when he approached me with a job offer. The employer benefited: he gained an employee who could do the work.  I benefited: I didn't need to work, so was able to work hours and days that best suited me.

In my experience as an Employment Consultant, too many job seekers spend their job searching time
applying for advertised jobs, and too little spend time undertaking job seeking tasks that they feel uncomfortable in doing: cold calling and talking to people.

But if networking and referrals don't help you gain a job (- too many people don't utilise networking and referrals to help them gain work though) then the last way to access the hidden job market is to cold call employers - that is by attending as a walk in (face to face contact) or by phoning potential employers.

Cold Calling is when you contact someone who doesn't know who you are, who you've never spoken to before, and who is not expecting your call (or your visit).

Now, I can hear your protests already - I hate cold callers!  Yes, we all do when telemarketers phone you at home right when you are sitting down to dinner after a long day at work and they just want to sell you something you don't want or need. We hate pushy people and the hard sell.

But cold calling does not have to involve being pushy or putting on the hard sell. Actually, the best results come when you phone a potential employer to ask for their assistance rather than ask them outright for a job.  Take the following three real phone calls I assessed my job seekers make this week.

Call 1

Hello, my name is Susie.  I am an experienced Childcare Cook, and looking for part time work.  Do you have any positions going at the moment?

Sorry, no.

Okay, thank you.

No result here.  In her effort to not be pushy, Susie was hoping to hear 'no vacancy' so she could not 'trouble' the employer any further. Poor Susie will become highly demotivated in her jobsearch if she continues to make calls that get her the 'sorry, no' result each time she makes a cold call. I advised her she needs to make some changes to how she makes her calls. Also, Susie hasn't done her research, because most of the Childcare Cook positions that I cold-called to hired full time staff not part time or casual.

Call 2
Hello, my name is Peter.  I have ten years experience as a Forklift Driver, and am fully proficient in using high reach and low reach machines and moving pallets, and meeting the demands of the job. Would you like to meet me?

Why are you calling?

Oh, I'm looking for a job? I have experience, would you like to meet me?

Sorry, we're not hiring.

Oh, okay.  Thanks anyway. 

Too pushy, and he didn't state the purpose of his phone call. Peter was nervous about making the call, and didn't have a script prepared, so he sort of just blurted things he needed to say out. I worked with Peter to develop a script, so he could become more comfortable in making calls.

Call 3

Hello, my name is Wendy.  I was wondering if you could help me.  I am an experienced Waitress, looking for part time work. Are you able to advise me if your company is in need of additional staff at the moment?

I’m not sure. The best person for you to speak to, Wendy, would be Patrick.  He’s our hiring manager.

Great, thank you!  Sorry, what was your name?


Thank you, Helen. Do you know if Patrick would be available for me to speak to him now, or if not, what would be the best time for me to contact him?

Patrick only comes in, in the afternoons.

So, would it be best for me to try calling him at around two o’clock, or do you think four o’clock would be better?

No, don’t call him at two, that’s still our peak lunch hour period.  Around four o’clock should be fine though.

Thank you for all your help, Helen.

Wendy didn't call back at four p.m. because she had done her job search for the day. Another client also cold-called to this same business and gained an interview, so Wendy has probably just missed out on getting a job, because she lacks the ability to keep her promises and or undertake follow up. But Wendy had the best script of the three job seekers, and got the best result.

So let's be clear. To access the hidden job market, you should follow each of the five steps listed below:

1. Identify businesses that interest you.
2. Make a short list of businesses that you will contact.
3. Approach your target businesses - in person or by phone.
4. Take any immediate actions required - such as emailing your resume
5. Follow up on all leads, don't let opportunities go - if you need to call back later, and it is not your jobsearch time, call back later anyway.

Some final tips for making cold calls:
* be prepared and have a script handy for you to refer to if you are nervous, struggle or lose focus
* keep pen and paper close by to take notes
* know why you are calling
* know who you want to talk to (the person or the position)
* sound confident
* enjoy making the call - your smile will be picked up on by the listener
* briefly explain the purpose of your call
* be polite throughout the entire call, and thank the person for helping you

* call if you are going to be distracted or interrupted
* 'um' and 'er'
* lie about who you are or why you are calling

Hopefully you now have the skills and knowledge to start accessing the hidden job market and increase your cold calling success.  Happy, motivated job searching!

Char Mesan