What is the hidden job market?


Ever wondered how some people land the best jobs, while you spend hours searching for roles and applying? 

The secret to landing your dream role isn’t submitting hundreds of applications on job boards. In fact, most of the dream jobs aren’t posted online at all. 

You may not know this, but experts believe up to 4 in 5 jobs — or 80% of all roles — are filled without being publicly posted. That’s right: they never even see a job board. It’s called the hidden job market, where roles are filled through personal networks and referrals. 

In a world where traditional job-hunting methods often lead to frustration and disappointment, the concept of the hidden job market can offer jobseekers a ray of hope. Unlike advertised positions, which attract a massive influx of applications, hidden jobs aren’t publicly announced or promoted.

Here’s how to tap into the hidden job market — without spend hours building your professional networks.

What is the hidden job market?

The ‘hidden job market’ consists of vacancies that aren’t publicly posted or advertised, but are filled through internal candidates, referrals and word of mouth. The hidden job market is a treasure trove of unadvertised opportunities waiting to be discovered. 

The hidden job market refers to job vacancies that aren’t publicly posted or advertised on job boards but instead are filled through internal candidates, referrals, friends and family networks and word of mouth. These roles are filled by candidate who have a direct connection to the company. 

The biggest takeaway? Applying on job boards will only get you so far. On job boards there’s far more competition and far less choice to go around. The best jobs are found on the hidden job market — but how do you access them?

The hidden job market gives you access to your dream gigs

How do I access the hidden job market?

Previously, you’d need to do a lot of networking to access the hidden job market. Because hidden job market opportunities are circulated through word of mouth and internal referrals, you’d need to have a direct connection to the hiring company. That means reaching out to people on LinkedIn, rubbing shoulders at industry events, and hustling friends and family members for their connections. Some people volunteer, pay for mentoring or do unpaid internships. 

But that takes time, connections and money that many jobseekers don’t have.    

Thankfully, tech tools now exist to connect you to the hidden job market and facilitate that personal introduction. Think of it like joining a ‘friends and family’ network: once a role becomes available, AI technology can match you to a role before it’s posted publicly. 

Swag Tip: Swag SmartMatch is your ‘in’ to access the hidden 4 in 5 roles that will never get publicly posted. You get connected directly with decision-makers in the companies you want to work for. 

  • Get your resume seen by employers — not just chucked on the pile
  • Bypass the ATS and talk directly to hiring managers 
  • Proactively put yourself forward for roles 

Learn more

What are the advantages of the hidden job market?

When you access the hidden jobs market, you can:

  • Learn about jobs before they go online. 
  • Have a personal introduction or connection to the employer, which means there’s less competition for the role. 
  • Get your resume to the top of the pile. 

That’s great news if you’re a jobseeker, because job hunting in 2023 is hard. You can spend days trawling through job boards for relevant jobs only to find that 200 people have already applied for the position.  

 If you really want the role you’ll spend hours applying, writing personalised cover letters, and tweaking your resume… and then, radio silence. Ghosted. It’s exhausting and de-motivating. 

The hidden job market takes this broken process and turns it on its head. It reverses the traditional job search, presenting you to employers, rather than you having to search for relevant roles. Rather than competing against hundreds of applicants for a handful of great roles, you get insider, first-pick access to roles before they hit the market. 

The best bit? 

Because the hidden job market is a personal network, you can connect with hiring managers and employers directly.  

How big is the hidden job market?

Expert estimates say that up to 50 – 80% of all available positions are filled through the hidden job market. These opportunities that are not publicly advertised through traditional channels such as job boards or advertisements. 

This sector of the job market is substantial, and includes positions that are filled through referrals, networking, direct outreach, and internal promotions within companies. This highlights the importance of building a strong professional network and actively engaging in networking activities to tap into the hidden job market. By not tapping into that network, you’re leaving job opportunities behind. 

Swag Tip: Want to land a job without applying online? With Swag SmartMatch, you create an AI-powered profile and sit back as our predictive algorithm matches you with off-market opportunities. SmartMatch puts your profile forward to be considered for future hiring and referrals — so you can spend less time job hunting and more time interviewing. 

Why do employers choose not to advertise jobs?

So why is there so much secrecy around the hidden job market? 

Employers often don’t openly advertise jobs because it takes time and money to post on opening to a jobs board. Why waste that effort when you can use word of mouth, family and friends to fill a role? It’s free, fast and effective.

Many employers prioritise referrals from within their existing workforce when looking to fill a role. If you’ve got a great employee who recommends someone, they’ll usually be a pretty good bet (and it saves hours of sorting through unsuitable applications). 

Swag Tip: You’ll often hear friends saying they got their new job via a personal referral.  Employers will often choose candidates that have an ‘in’ with the company, because it means they don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars and hours of time posting the vacancy to a job board. 

How can you find these job opportunities?

Want to make sure you’re considered for hidden jobs? Here’s a few tried and tested approaches to tap into the hidden job market and build your professional network. 

5 strategies to tap into the hidden job market

1. Build your professional network

Networking is one of the best ways to access the hidden job market. Building a professional network of contacts in your industry will improve your chances of being considered when a role becomes available. 

Swag Tip: Networking is the key to unlocking the hidden job market. Attending industry events, seminars, and conferences can connect you with professionals who might be aware of unadvertised job openings.

Employee referrals are one of the top ways employers fill roles — 67% of businesses rely on employee referrals for recruitment. Building your professional network means you have more insiders who can introduce you to their company. A referral will get you in the door and may even land you the gig. 

2. Reach out to employers proactively 

The hidden job market exists because companies prioritise internal referrals, recommendations from trusted employees, and networking connections when seeking new talent. 

Rather than sifting through a flood of job board applications, employers often prefer to save time and resources by considering candidates who proactively reach out and express their interest directly.

Try to connect with hiring managers on LinkedIn, express interest in a company via an Expression of Interest (EOI) form, or send an employer your CV to consider for future hiring. 

Not sure what to say? Here’s a LinkedIn message template to get you started:

Hi [Hiring Manager’s Name], 

I hope you’re having a great week. 

I’m [Your Name], and I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm when I discovered [Company Name]. Your team’s incredible work in [mention a specific aspect of their mission or a recent achievement] really resonates with me, and I’d love to be able to contribute. 

As a [your field of expertise] professional, I believe my skills would contribute to the team at [Company Name]. Your focus on [mention a key aspect of their mission] aligns perfectly with my own passions and aspirations. 

While I understand there might not be any immediate openings, I’d love to keep in touch and be considered for future roles that fit my background. I’ve attached my resume for your reference and would be thrilled to chat with you briefly about potential opportunities. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my message. I look forward to staying connected and the possibility of becoming a part of the fantastic team at [Company Name]. 

Have a wonderful day! 

Best regards, [Your Name]

3. Put the ‘social’ back in social media

Social media isn’t just for posting holiday snaps – when used strategically, it’s a powerful tool for job seekers. Follow industry influencers, join relevant groups, and engage in meaningful conversations to expand your network. 

Don’t be afraid to cold-message some hiring managers in companies you want to work for. The above template can work for other social media platforms, too. Be polite, and clearly state your skills, interests, the type of opportunities you’re open to, and why you want to work for their company. 

4. Attend industry events

Industry events are a great place to meet employers in your industry and build your professional network. Attending industry events lets you connect with key players in your field, who can introduce you to unadvertised job openings through insider referrals.

When deciding which events to attend, do your research: see who’s going and identify individuals or organisations that align with your career goals.

Before you go, determine what you want to achieve from the event. You could even use S.M.A.R.T goals to prepare yourself. Whether it’s making a certain number of connections or engaging in discussions, setting clear outcomes improves your chances of success. Don’t forget to craft a compelling elevator pitch that succinctly communicates your skills, experience, and aspirations. Now you’re ready to make a memorable introduction.

Once you’re there, make sure you actively participate in discussions, workshops, and networking sessions. Contribute insightful perspectives and showcase your genuine enthusiasm. 

Now, it’s time to nurture the connections you’ve made. After the event, send personalised follow-up messages expressing gratitude and interest in continuing the professional relationship. 

Yet all of the above tips face a glaring problem: networking can be expensive, and often exclusive. Many job seekers, even the more experienced ones, have limited networks and don’t have access to higher ups or contacts in another company. Networking also takes a lot of time and resources — and not everyone can afford to pay for conference tickets or professional association fees. 

Thankfully, technology exists that levels the playing field. 

5. Use technology to tap into the hidden job market  

If you don’t have the time and resources to build a huge professional network, technology is your golden ticket to accessing the hidden job market. 

Tools like Swag SmartMatch help you stay two steps ahead of the competition by connecting you to the hidden job market for free. You get to join an exclusive network of employers and job seekers —without the exclusive membership fees or networking effort. 

It works by using AI algorithms to predict an organisation’s future hiring needs, then matches your candidate profile to these off-market opportunities based on your skills, interests and aspirations. No more cold-introductions or forced networking needed. 

Swag Tip: With SmartMatch, you get to see two steps ahead of the rest. You get personalised recommendations about off-market roles: that’s the 4 in 5 jobs that never get posted on a jobs board. And you join an exclusive network of job seekers and business owners. It’s your private intro to Australia’s biggest hidden job market.

Make jobseeking suck less with the hidden job market

Unlock the hidden job market with Swag

If searching for a job is starting to feel like hard work, it’s time you used Swag SmartMatch to tap into the hidden job market. 

To get started, just create a candidate profile — it takes a few minutes, and AI handles the hard bits (like writing your ‘about me’ section and cover letters). Head to Swag Jobs and start accessing the hidden job market today. 



The information in this article is current as at August 2023, and has been prepared by Employment Hero Pty Ltd (ABN 11 160 047 709) and its related bodies corporate (Employment Hero) for its Swag brand. The views expressed in this article are general information provided in good faith to assist job seekers in the current market, and should not be relied on as professional advice. Some Information is based on data supplied by third parties and whilst such data is believed to be accurate, it has not been independently verified and no warranties are given that it is complete, accurate, up to date or fit for the purpose for which it is required. Employment Hero does not accept responsibility for any inaccuracy in such data and is not liable for any loss or damages arising directly or indirectly as a result of reliance on, use of or inability to use any information provided in this article. You should undertake your own research and seek professional advice before making any important career decisions or solely relying on the information in this article.

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