How to Apply for an Unadvertised Job

Posted September 12, 2013 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves
PsstThree words can be both the holy grail of job seekers and at the same time the greatest frustration: “hidden job market.” What is the hidden job market? It’s the notion that there are many jobs that are truly unadvertised, hired only through word of mouth and without a traditional posting on the company’s job board or any external job boards. Some career experts estimate that up to 70-80% of the job market is, in fact, hidden.

Today, we’re not going to talk about how to crack into the hidden job market. Instead, I want to cover what you do when you come across an unadvertised job. Perhaps someone at a cocktail party said, “Hey, my company is hiring. Send me your resume.” Or a friend who works within a company is leaving and you know you’d be interested in her job. The fact of the matter is this: hiring is expensive. And hiring managers want to bypass that process if they can.

Here is your step-by-step guide to applying for a job that’s unadvertised:

  1. Gather as much information as you can. Most of the time, when you hear about a “hidden” job opening, the details aren’t clear. “There’s an opening in marketing” is never going to be as specific as a fully fleshed out job description. But take the time to ask as many questions as you can. Why is the position open? Who is the hiring manager? Are there internal candidates?
  2. Your resume isn’t enough! Take the time to write a cover letter. The biggest mistake people make in navigating the hidden job market is assuming a cover letter isn’t appropriate in the process. Someone says, “Send me your resume.” So you do just that. Wrong! Instead, go above and beyond and write that cover letter. The cover letter will be different than a traditional cover letter in that it likely isn’t job specific. So be sure to share:
    • Your interest in the company vs. traditionally talking about your interest in the position.
    • The skill set you’ve developed in your industry. Because you don’t know the details of the job and the bullet points of a job description, focus on your industry expertise and you’ll be golden
    • Ask for the opportunity to talk more. In a traditional cover letter, you might say “I look forward to speaking with you.” In a cover letter for an unadvertised position, you might say, “If you’re open to external candidates for this position, I’d suggest we find a time in the next week or two to chat about your process and the ways my skill set might help your team.”
    • How will you solve their problem? If you’re being told about an unadvertised job, chances are there’s a scramble of some sort. Someone leaving the company presented a problem, and you could be just the person to solve it. Stay solution based in your language and you might get that shot at an interview.
  3. Follow up. With many job applications, we apply online and wait. When you’ve been directly recommended for a “hidden” job, don’t be afraid to follow up directly with the individual who informed you about the job.
  4. Don’t get too excited. Even though the hidden job market may seem attractive, it can also present problems. Because the job isn’t being hired through a traditional process, it may not be a traditional interview structure either. It could be a long and frustrating process for you. Stick with it! It could have a good outcome.

Have you ever found a job through word-of-mouth only and not through a standard posting? Are you hoping your network will produce your next job instead of the dreaded online application system? Use these tips to get into the right frame of mind when it comes to the unadvertised positions. They’re out there! Go get ’em!

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."