There is no definitive statistic, but the vast majority (more than 70%!) of available positions in the job market are not advertised. This means that if your heart is set on a particular industry or employer, you’re probably going to have to start searching beyond wanted ads, job boards, and employment search engines like Monster, Indeed, and Job Bank. Fear not—it isn’t as difficult to connect with employers as it seems. To start, you should understand how to access the hidden job market, why employers don’t post their jobs, and what ‘hidden’ jobs really are.
Begin by Finding Relevant Employers Using Canada 411
This site is nothing more than an online telephone book; it’s an employment lead goldmine! You can use it to find businesses in your field to contact about a job. Under the business section on the right of the page, you’ll see two sections to fill out: ‘What?’ and ‘Where?’
What? will require you to choose the industry you’re looking for work in. The key is to be broad. For example, if you want to search for Sushi Chef positions, type “sushi” not “sushi chef” or “sushi restaurants.” This way, you’ll get as many employer results as possible, some of which you may never have considered before (and if you haven’t thought of it already, other job seekers likely haven’t as well). If you’re searching for a more general job such as administrative assistant, you should begin searching for industries in which you already have either a professional or social connection. If you’re an administrative assistant with insurance experience, start with the insurance industry.
Where? will only require you to choose the city you want to work in. Just remember to vary your city names. A business in Toronto may use North York or Etobicoke as its listed address and vice-versa. Also keep in mind that a commute is a part of living in the Greater Toronto Area. If you aren’t willing to travel, you’ll have to accept that you’ve just limited your employment options. Tunnel vision is a detriment to job searching!
Create an Orderly & Categorized List of Each Employer Contact
Using Canada 411 will help you find hundreds, and sometimes thousands of employers, so it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. Start by bookmarking the pages of each employer you want to contact (or at least research) in folders on your computer. Or you can input the links in a spreadsheet. Group them by (a) industry and (b) personal importance. If any of them actually have job openings posted, you can also group or list them based on how much time you have to apply before the deadline. This helps you sort out which businesses you absolutely must apply to and which ones you may be less sure of. Don’t limit yourself, and make sure to spend more time tailoring an application to a business you might consider to be a ‘dream job.’
Canada 411 will give you the contact information (telephone, mailing address, fax, and website) for each business. If they’re hiring but haven’t posted a position on a major job search website, you’ll have an advantage. Go directly to their website—if they’re hiring, apply, and if they’re aren’t, you can still study their business and apply with a tailored application either online, in person, or via cold call! This cuts out the middle-persons and limits the competition. If none of the above works out, you can create a schedule for follow-ups to check if businesses are hiring at a later date.
Informally Network & Learn from the Labour Markets You’re Pursuing
At this point, you’ve created a Personalized Employer Database from which to prospect employment opportunities. If you’re really intent on landing that dream job, keep an eye out for any key terms, professional associations or groups, and overall industry trends in the labour markets you are pursuing. Consider this your sixth sense: your understanding of the key terms used in the industry, and more importantly, the terms that are most relevant to mention in a cover letter, résumé, or interview. Whether you’re a recent grad or a veteran of your field, knowing what employers currently expect is key. Professional associations often hold events where you can network and possibly learn about available, unlisted jobs.
When an employer withholds from posting an available position, it’s likely because they don’t want the burden of being hassled in the extreme. I’ve experienced firsthand what it means to facilitate a hiring event, and it’s not pretty. For weeks before and sometimes even months after an event, employers can continue to receive correspondence, a good portion of which is irrelevant to the position that was advertised.
The old pre-digital system was comforting for employers because it was much more time-consuming to physically type out a cover letter and résumé and mail it than it was to attach a Word document and hit ‘send.’ It acted as a moderate barrier, keeping out those who were not really serious about the position. The ease of emailing a résumé has multiplied the ‘waste’ that businesses receive. As such, employers are more likely to post positions on their websites or job boards specific to their industry networks and target market.
In the end…
This is NOT to say you’re hassling an employer if you prospect them correctly. If you’re scared of annoying an employer, don’t be—you might just be doing them a huge favour. You’ve saved them the time, cost and effort of posting their position. Just be sure to prospect with a simple straight-forward email and/or phone call with a tailored résumé to boot! It’s a numbers game, and if you do it correctly, you’re ultimately the one you’re doing the favour for.
Written by Jason D. Smith, Employment Consultant and Circumlocution Guru
Jason Douglas Smith is an Employment Consultant who works with ODSP recipients in the GTA and a former Employment Specialist with The Career Foundation. When not working to ensure (among many other things) that each one of his clients are in-the-know, this self-professed Futurist can often be found reading, writing, cycling, and cheering on his beloved Hamilton Tiger-Cats in his native Burlington.