Posted in Graduates, Job hunting

Getting Ready to Graduate: Tapping into the Hidden Job Market

So you’ve tired out Target Jobs, persevered with Prospects, and spent long hours on LinkedIn, and you’re still not having any luck. Well, what if I told you that there are other ways to find that graduate job you’ve been dreaming of than just the online job boards?

Did you know that around 70% of vacancies are never advertised? Many SMEs either don’t have the resources to advertise or don’t need to as they are approached by candidates directly. This is called the speculative approach and requires lots of time and research, and a well-tailored CV. However, if you’re willing to be productive then the results are likely to follow.

Businessman Passing Envelope Under Office Door

Shortlist your employers

One of the benefits of the speculative approach is that you can choose the companies that you contact. Your job hunt is completely in your hands and you’re not limited to who you can apply to. Also, if you’ve researched the company well then the chances are you’re likely to be a good match for them!

  • What job? – Choose the specific industry or profession that you want to work in. The more specific you can be here the easier it will be to search for companies.
  • What company? – Research employer directories such as You can also use the FAME database on the University library where you can search for companies through location, industry, and a whole range of other factors.
  • Do your research – Once you have gathered a list of potential organisations to apply to you should begin your research. Seek to discover exactly what they do, their aims and objectives, and who their competitors are. What interests you the most about the company? You could also search for their employees on LinkedIn and see what types of experience they have had in the past which has led them to that company.

Contacting the employer

“I am writing to express an interest in joining your company given that my interests and skills closely parallel your needs. For example, I am very keen to establish a career in market research and possess the strong interpersonal and analytical skills that I understand are vital to succeed in the role. As a result, I would be useful to [company name] from the outset.”

  • Tailor your CV – Ensure that your CV is tailored specifically to the company that you are applying for by including all the relevant skills needed for the job. See Prospects for a list of the skills needed for particular job roles.
  • Find a contact – Why not give the company a call to find out a name of who you can address your letter to? If you send your letter to the right person from the outset then you reduce the risk of it getting deleted or lost in someone’s inbox whilst being passed around. This also shows that you are keen to join the company and can use your initiative!
  • Create a cover letter – to send to the employer with information about your relevant skills and qualities, how you can add value to the company, your suitability to the position/company, your knowledge of their business, and the reasons they should consider you. For help see the Careers Portal
  • Track your application – Why not follow up your email with a phone call to check that the employer has received it? Try and schedule a meeting or request an informal interview. Perhaps wait a week or so for a response first though, you don’t want to look like a stalker.
  • Don’t – just apply to lots of random companies without researching whether you actually want to work there. Can you see yourself working there and do their values align well with your own? Be honest with yourself about what you’re looking for and focus on how your skills could bridge a gap in their company.

Does it work?

The story: In 2010 my brother graduated from Leeds University with a first class degree in Linguistics and Phonetics, and barely any work experience. After around a month of job hunting he decided to approach SMEs speculatively. He found company directories on Google and searched for Market Research organisations in his desired location (mainly London). For each company he spent longer researching their website and adapting his cover letter to suit the role than he would when applying to an advertised vacancy. Whilst the downfall of this is that he spent this time applying to potentially non-existent jobs, on the other hand, if he impressed the employer then a vacancy could arise, in which he is the only candidate for the job!

The result: One company in particular invited him for an interview, as they had previously recruited graduates but stopped the scheme a couple of years beforehand. His application was timed perfectly as they were just considering advertising for a graduate again. As he was an ideal candidate they didn’t need to advertise and offered him a job as a Trainee Market Research Executive! 3 years on and 2 promotions later he is now a Senior Market Research Executive and is on his way to being promoted into a management position in the next few months.

An inspirational ending…

The harder you work at getting a job the luckier you get!

People are fairly quick to call others ‘lucky’ when they get to where they’ve been aiming to be. Maybe these people aren’t lucky. Maybe they’re just working hard, looking for new ways of doing things and uncovering new opportunities in the meantime. Put the effort into researching the role that you want, discovering the SMEs within your sector and targeting your speculative application to suit that company and you could be onto a winner!

For more information on how to apply speculatively or for some advice on your applications then please contact the Careers and Add+vantage service on 02477652011.

Michelle 🙂


2 thoughts on “Getting Ready to Graduate: Tapping into the Hidden Job Market

  1. This was a really great article. The information was organized, insightful, and really simply put. The anecdotal element to the post was a unique addition followed up with an inspirational ending. Thanks! Deciding on the companies you’re interested in and then researching those companies is of huge importance when you’re looking to make a connection with a future employer. Utilizing company directories is a huge help in this process. My university offered me the chance to use the Corporate Affiliations company profile database which was where all of my company research came from. You can use the information you’ll learn about the company you’re interested in to see how you would fit in, what skills you would need, and make sure you would be a good fit for that company. Having researched firsthand you are preparing yourself for creating a well-tailored CV, and you’ll be ready to go confidently into interviews knowing you have the appropriate contact. The company will recognize all the effort you’ve put into this job search and that will make you stand out from competition for the position. I’ve been through this process before and a lot of what you’ve advised here was implemented into my strategic job hunt.

    I’ll definitely check back on this blog and share it with friends.

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