The Hidden Job Market


Coventry University students are a spoiled bunch.


Picking your way through an onslaught of careers fairs, job portals, newsletters, vacancy emails, leaflets and industrial presentations you’ll probably be aware of a range of current graduate opportunities that could potentially be your dream job. Being able to access a careers service with excellent links to major graduate employers and an exciting range of careers-related services (yes, our modesty is matched only by our brilliance) means that most students do not need to look very far to find a programme of activities to assist their job search. Similarly, graduate web pages such as TARGETjobs, Milkround and Gradcracker offer hundreds of prospects that would take up the time of even the most dedicated job seeker.

There is an issue with this, however. As you may by now by acutely aware there is not just one student studying at Coventry University…there are over 30,000. And great as we are we didn’t say that the careers service was monogamous; we love you all equally, meaning we assist everyone who needs our help. This means that for every suitable opportunity that you find there’ll be another forty of your fellow students that it is suitable for too, and thus they become your competition. If we consider the fact that most of these positions will be full time, formal schemes with recognisable companies starting around autumn each year we begin to wonder if there must be some other opportunities out there that do not fit these familiar patterns.

In truth there are a large number of vacancies that are never advertised; the statistic typically quoted is that it is around 80% of all job openings at any one time. Even if the reality was only half of this it would mean that there are a substantial number of ‘hidden’ opportunities that largely go unnoticed by the job seeking masses.


Why are there hidden jobs?

Firstly there is the obvious point that it is both time consuming and expensive to advertise a job vacancy, an activity that some employers are either unable or unwilling to undertake. In this case it can quite often be small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that fall into this category.   A large graduate recruiter may have a budget that runs in to millions of pounds to advertise and recruit graduates internationally each year. A small business of ten staff may have a budget of zero.

Next there is also the point that some organisations simply do not need to advertise their jobs. Very popular businesses are so swamped by expressions of interest from potential employees that there is no need for them to actively promote their organisation.

Finally it is worth noting that some opportunities are not really opportunities at all until somebody enquires about them. To clarify; an employer wouldn’t consider offering a two day a week work experience placement to a student unless asked if it is something they would be willing to do. In essence, asking the question creates the answer.


How do I find hidden jobs?

  1. Do your research

Your main priority should be to research employers in your field of interest. There are a variety of ways of doing this but you will also need to make sure to understand the differences between them and other similar businesses before you make contact. Once you’ve found a suitable business browse their website, news articles and social media so you know all about the type of work they do. For listings of companies that may be relevant to you the following resources can be useful:


  1. Networking

Networking is essentially speaking to employers, fellow students, careers professionals, tutors, friends and family and letting them know that you are seeking employment. By expanding the number of people you meet the more your chances of finding out about suitable positions will grow.

This brings us nicely on to the benefits of using LinkedIn, a peerless online tool for improving your professional network. Notable functions include the ability to search the employees working for a target organisation, giving you information on potential hiring managers, typical job roles within the company and the chance to observe the career trajectories of current staff. Another function is the ability to search for alumni of the University, giving you a clear idea of what others in your position have gone on to achieve.

However you decide to do it, be aware that the opportunity to meet people and make contacts can present itself at any time. Also be aware that successful networking is a two way street; always be prepared to help others in their goals first before trying to get them to help you with yours.


  1. Apply

Once you have found your target organisations there are three main ways that can approach and apply to them; either face-to-face, by telephone or in writing. If you will be talking directly to a representative from an organisation make sure you have rehearsed what you are going to say. A good way to do this is to practice an ‘elevator pitch’, or a 30-second summary of the reason you have made contact; who you are, what you’re looking for and why.

If it isn’t possible to speak directly to the organisation it may be that you have to approach a company by post or email. When approaching a company speculatively sending your CV with a well-written cover letter is the most effective way to attract a response. Make sure that you are targeting your CV to the organisation and your covering letter shows your skills, knowledge and enthusiasm.

Whichever way you use make sure to follow up with them after a few days. This should give them time to consider your request and make suggestions of the next steps if they’re interested in talking in further detail. Finally, be prepared that you may be called in to see the company for an interview at short notice – this method of job searching can generate quick results.


Final Thoughts

For some overall tips on searching for hidden jobs it’s worth remembering the following:

  • Be persistent. As with any job searching method you will have some rejections…after all, some companies are not advertising vacancies because they actually don’t have any. Saying that, when you do find those two or three companies that have vacancies it’ll make it all worth it.
  • Remember the benefits. Large graduate recruiters will have application numbers that run into the tens of thousands. That gives you a lot of competition. A company you approach speculatively may have had no applications. That means you have no competition.
  • Practice. Approaching a company in this manner can be daunting and requires some confidence. This may be off-putting, but remember that the more you do it the easier it will become.




Posted on April 17, 2014, in Graduates, Job hunting, Social Media, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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