To make the daunting task of job searching more successful, it’s helpful for job seekers to understand how employers seek out prospective employees in the first place.

Employers typically prefer to hire from within and next look at outside candidates recommended by a trusted source. Some call this the “hidden” job market, which can be hard to penetrate as an outsider. Nona Haller, senior career counselor in Capella University’s Career Center, provides advice on cracking the hidden job market and tips for landing an interview.


Q. Why do companies prefer to hire “known quantities”?

A.  “Known quantities” are internal candidates or individuals recommended by trusted peers. They comprise the likeliest pool of qualified candidates who fit with the corporate culture and might be destined to stay with the company. Relying on a stack of anonymous “wild card” resumes may sometimes yield a star performer, but recruiters would prefer to save time and effort by looking at known applicants first.


Q. Knowing that employers typically prefer to hire from within and then look to outside candidate recommendations from trusted sources, what are the best job search strategies that individuals should use?

A. Network, network, network! Network in order to find the most effective way to show up where employers are looking. How? Join a professional association in your desired field, be prepared with a brief self-introduction, look the part, and reach out for informational interviews.

Introverts can network, too! Start small by laying groundwork through emails. Connect with professional associations or become a part of a LinkedIn industry-related discussion group. If you can get acquainted first, then it becomes easier and more comfortable to meet people by phone or in person.


Connecting with others can transform your job search. Watch the Career Center’s videos for tips on networking, informational interviewing, and online social networking.


Q. What role does networking play in the hidden job market?

A. The job market is filled with opportunities that are not formally advertised anywhere (or that have not yet been made available to the public and may end up posted if companies don’t find anyone internally or from their sources).

A myth seems to persist that one can find jobs by putting resumes on job boards and sitting back and waiting for the offers to come flooding in. In reality, in order to find jobs you must be networking! Creating a network is like having your own team of personal marketers who are willing to promote you.


Q. What habits and skills should individuals practice in order to become better networkers?

A. Begin by preparing a 30-60 second self-description, including your skills, experience, and what you bring to the table with natural-born abilities. Also be prepared to go into detail with a 5-10 minute introduction. Learn to hold a conversation. Conversations are a two-way street—you must be able to introduce yourself and talk about what you do, but you must also show interest by listening, asking questions, and building a relationship.

Remember, networking goes two-ways—your connections are willing to provide you with information and advocate for you, but you should also return the favor.


Q. Besides networking, what are some ways that individuals can break into the hidden job market?

A. Social media has become a huge venue for recruiting, with more than 90% of recruiters turning to social media for candidates. LinkedIn specifically is one of the most popular social media channels for recruitment. It’s beneficial to maintain active, updated, and clean profiles on these channels.

Join professional associations within your industry—don’t just belong to one, but be active, serve in the community, or serve on the staff or committees. Teach community education classes, present at conferences, write articles, whitepapers or books—anything that will add to your professional credentials on your resume and develop your brand.


Q. What are the best resources for finding advertised positions?

A. When pursuing advertised positions check the company or professional association job boards, inquire with your professional colleagues, and let your network know you are looking, because they may be able to uncover new resources.

A simple tip is to make a list of the organizations you may be interested in working for and then regularly check their career page. Do not just send in your application and hope for the best. Connect with your network to see if they know of anyone within the organization and are willing to advocate for you.


Q. How and when should individuals follow up about a position during the job search?

A. First of all, always be cordial when following up during any stage of the job search. Do not take silence from the company’s end personally, as you do not know what may be happening on their side.

If you have submitted an application or resume via email, following up may be tricky as you are often submitting to an automated system. This is where networking comes in handy—find a side door by reaching out to a connection within the organization or looking up the hiring manager on the company website. Send a follow-up email to one of these individuals after you have submitted an application to see if they have received your resume.

Follow up again after a phone screen or interview with a thank you note—these are still so powerful. If you have interviewed and been given a date that you will hear a final answer, but it has come and gone with no word, it is okay to follow up and respectfully inquire about how the process is going.


Q. If you had one piece of advice for job seekers to take to heart, what would it be?

A. Own the fact that searching for a job is a big task. Do everything you can to set yourself up for success and keep yourself moving forward. And if I haven’t already mentioned it: Network, network, network!



The Capella University Career Center’s mission is to empower students and alumni to proactively manage their careers and make meaningful and effective career decisions.