Career Tips

Tackling the unadvertised job market

The current economic climate means that many companies have reduced their advertising spend, and their use of agencies and head-hunters.…

Article by:Corinne Mills


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The current economic climate means that many companies have reduced their advertising spend, and their use of agencies and head-hunters. They have found that it is easier and cheaper to recruit from other means, especially as there is currently such a good pool of available talent to choose from.

Yet, even in relatively prosperous times, advertised jobs only constitute a small proportion of the total number of job vacancies. In fact, if you ask most people how they initially heard about their last job, it is likely that very few would say they answered an advert. Most would say they heard about the job from someone they knew.

This is borne out by research in this area and means that if you are looking for your next role, then tackling the unadvertised job market is likely to be a productive use of your time.

So what do we mean when we talk about the unadvertised job market. In essence this refers to job-seekers finding roles as a result of:

  • Personal networking through business and social contacts
  • Online networking through professional sites like LinkedIn
  • Directly approaching companies to offer your skills
  • Identifying and creating opportunities in-house or externally
  • Being approached directly as a result of your reputation in your field or through recommendation from others

The appealing thing about many of the above is that they are much more within your control. Responding to job adverts is essentially passive, with little that you can do except wait for a suitable advert to come along. However, with the unadvertised market, the more proactive you are, the greater your likelihood of success.

Managing Director, Corinne Mills, looks at each of the above approaches and suggests some practical strategies for tackling the unadvertised job market:


Personal Networking

Ask your connections if they know of any companies who are likely to be hiring individuals with your skills. It is often surprising what good quality information you hear on this grapevine. Even if it is someone who knows you well, be very clear about what it is that you have to offer and the type of role you are looking for, as they will need to repeat this to others if they are networking for you. If appropriate, ask if you can use their name as an introduction as this can definitely help to warm up a cold contact.

Your networking connections could include:

  • Current and ex-colleagues, managers, suppliers, customers etc.
  • Contacts through professional associations, like your professional institute, or business groups, like the IOD, Business Link
  • Friends, family and neighbours
  • Community groups in which you are involved e.g. church, school
  • Educational contacts through university alumni, tutors, training courses
  • Anyone you happen to meet e.g. fellow dog-walkers, the newsagent, other party guests


Online Networking

There has been a huge growth in online communities with the express aim of enabling people to connect up with each other for both social and business purposes.

Advertising yourself online via sites such as LinkedIn is essential for any business professional who wants to network and be visible to others in their business community. The site has many interest groups that are occupational or sector based. These not only act as a useful information resource, but are also frequented by head-hunters who use these sites to source candidates.

It’s also worth checking out your professional institute, associations and educational establishments which often have their own online networking forums e.g. the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, MBA courses etc.


Direct Approaches to Companies

Sometimes called the “speculative approach”, this involves proactively contacting organisations to offer your services. The success of this approach depends on the following factors:

  • Targeting companies that are likely to require someone with your specific skills and expertise
  • Writing a persuasive letter and CV that matches a particular need they have at that time
  • Understanding the employer’s needs and being flexible enough to think on the spot about how you can help meet those challenges
  • Ideally having a contact whose name you can use to help introduce yourself to the company in the first instance

More information on the direct approach


Creating opportunities internally or externally

Individuals often overlook the possibility of career opportunities within their own organisation, taking the view that it may be better to present their employer with a resignation letter rather than face what they feel could be an awkward conversation about their career prospects.

However, your organisation could offer opportunities that are useful stepping stones to your next role. Secondments, work shadowing, project work, committee representation, etc. could increase your marketability to external employers and be achieved in a fairly low-risk way. There is also the possibility that once you gain experience in a different area that further opportunities may open up to you internally. However, unless you feel able to talk with your manager regarding these development opportunities, they are unlikely to happen.

Cultivating longer-term business relationships external to the organisation is likely to surface opportunities, as you learn about problems or challenges that you could help solve. A good relationship already in place is the perfect springboard to start talking about possibilities for working together.



  • Network internally and externally
  • Approach companies directly
  • Use online networking to raise your profile
  • Try to create career development opportunities internally


You may also find the following articles useful:

Tackling the advertised job market

How to manage recruitment agencies

Be aware of your online presence


Corinne Mills is Managing Director of the UK’s leading career management company Personal Career Management and author of the UK’s number 1 bestselling CV book “You’re Hired – How to write a brilliant CV“.

Personal Career Management offer a free introductory meeting to find out how career coaching can help you with your particular career issue.


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Article by:

Corinne Mills

Article by:

Corinne Mills

Corinne Mills is the Joint Managing Director of Personal Career Management, she is a career coach with 15 years career management experience.

View Articles by Corinne Mills

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