The insanity behind America’s fabricated “talent shortage” continues to grow as the “jobs crisis” begins to reveal that our employment system is very broken. To understand what’s going on, let’s take a slightly circuitous route to get at the problem: What’s a “hidden job,” and how can you find one?
A vice president of sales explained to me how his small but very successful small computer company recruits and hires people: “We use the company people filter. We hire only people that our employees and friends know.”
I asked if that didn’t circumvent employment law because it was discriminatory. “Of course not,” he said. “We hire all kinds of people.” And, indeed, a visit to the company reveals a diversity of employees. “We never run job ads.” (Did you miss that? There’s our hidden job market!)
“Why solicit unknowns when you can meet people that your own friends and employees can vouch for?” said the executive. (To learn more about why such executives have no talent shortages, and what it takes to hire effectively, see “Invest 30% Of Your Time Recruiting.”)
That’s the best explanation of where hidden jobs are hiding that I’ve ever heard. There is no reason to publicize job openings if you tap your own network of trusted people to fill them.
The Wall Street Journal (“Beware The Phantom Job Listing”) reports that the conventional wisdom is true: Half or more of jobs are “hidden.” That is, you’re not going to find them in job postings or publicly advertised. But it goes beyond that. According to the Journal, the most hidden of jobs don’t even exist. A manager cited in the article learned about a talented design manager and “he created an opening and hired the man right away.”
But nothing seems to irk human resources (HR) departments like managers who find and hire the people they need without following bureaucratic procedures. According to one HR director cited in the article, her responsibility is “to step in and re-educate managers about the reasons for the policies. . .We tell them we have resources to help them, and we can find them a bigger pool to draw from.”
Say what? Without expending a dime, a manager finds top talent, creates a position, and makes a hire—and HR has to step in to “help” him? If the manager has the talent he needs, then why does he need to look at a bigger pool of applicants?
HR experts and the media quickly turn such successful hiring experiences into bad news and warnings for job hunters. To cover up “hiring by referral,” HR managers often run ads for jobs that have already been filled to make it look like they are casting a wide net—even after the job has already been filled. Why bother? The HR director in the Journal story says she “sometimes warned hiring managers that the organization could lose federal grant money if they didn't recruit widely.” The message to job hunters: These “phantom” jobs, already filled, are unfair and lock you out of job opportunities.
But isn’t that illegal? Isn’t everyone supposed to have a fair shot at every job? Not at all.
Says the Journal: “While this ‘hidden’ job market frustrates applicants, companies point out that it is perfectly legal to hire without advertising a job or to advertise one almost certain to be filled by an insider. . .Fair or not, the practice irritates many job seekers, who feel shut out of companies and often don't know they are applying for phantom positions.”
How can you tap into the hidden job market that HR is working so hard to open up to everyone? The vice president of sales who has that “company people filter” has already told us the answer: Become friends with his employees. Become an insider. Get recommended. Get an edge.
The manager in the Journal article went a step further: He created a new job. How’d he find the candidate? “He heard a talented fellow alumnus of his design school was looking for a job.” How’d he hear that? My guess is he stays in close touch with his professional friends. And that talented designer’s name is on their lips.
That’s the hidden job, and that’s how you can find one of your own—or have one created for you. In my PDF book, How Can I Change Careers?, there’s an entire section about this method, subtitled “A Good Network Is A Circle Of Friends.” In a nutshell, you must cultivate and feed that network all the time.
While HR tries to keep the employment system hobbling along at bureaucratic speed, some managers and job hunters use a much more efficient back channel to talk to one another. So your challenge is not to find an open job. It’s to find the hidden jobs by tapping into that channel every day.
But is this really a viable solution for business? Sure it is. It always has been. And proof of that is hidden in that Journal article: “They say internal hires generally perform better than external ones, at least initially, as research has shown.”