Monday, September 24, 2007

Why There is More Opportunity in the Hidden Job Market

Once the two hours of online search is accounted for, the job seeker still has several hours per week to dedicate to the rest of their search. Most people (over 80%) find their jobs through the hidden job market…the jobs that are not posted and that are communicated word of mouth. Open positions might not be listed on job boards for several reasons. Perhaps the company once had the position on a board and was unsuccessful in finding a candidate, so they are now searching offline. Maybe the company doesn’t have the money to post online. Many companies consider their employee referral programs a better source of hires and promote the program extensively throughout the firm. Or a situation exists in the office where someone is on performance counseling and will probably be managed out of the organization in the coming months. Still other companies have policies regarding internal posting practices and make opportunities available to their current employees before looking outside for potential candidates. In some instances a company plans to expand in a particular area but doesn’t want to post online for fear of tipping off the competition regarding their future expansion plans. These are all reasons why a viable position might not be posted online.

Finding Job Leads Through Cold Call Techniques

There are two main ways to access jobs in the hidden job market. The first is to cold call into an organization and try to find a connection to the person who is capable of making a hiring decision. Approximately 10-20% of people in search find their jobs by cold calling into companies. The cold call is made regardless of whether there is an open position or not. The goal is to identify industries and companies that provide a good fit for the job seeker based on their competencies, achievements, and geography and try to gain an introduction to someone in the company to convince them that you are a person worth knowing. By proactively establishing the relationship before the hiring authority has an actual need, you increase your chances of being the “go to guy” once a viable position surfaces. Prospecting for a new job is very similar to sales prospecting. The difference is that in the first scenario you are marketing yourself. There are numerous ways to find leads into companies. The public library houses an abundance of company-relevant reference guides that you can use to cull valuable information about an industry, company, or decision maker. Some of the many valuable resources available include Hoovers, The Corporate Directory of U.S. Public Companies, Consulting and Consulting Organization Directory, Gold Book of Venture Capital Firms, Thomas Register of Manufacturing Firms, and the Corporate Finance Sourcebook. In addition, there are professional research firms such as FTT Research that specialize in finding decision makers within companies.

Networking Your Way to Your Next Job

The second and most successful method of sourcing jobs through the hidden job market is networking. Over 70% of people in search find their jobs through networking. Networking at its most fundamental level is information sharing and relationship building. When you network effectively, you seek out opportunities to meet new people, share information about yourself, learn about other people, and offer assistance to others whenever possible. Good networkers agree to meet with people to try to help them even if on the surface there is nothing in it for them. They open up their minds and their rolodex, share contacts and try to make recommendations in an effort to help people get closer to their personal and professional goals. Networking is not about asking for favors or asking for jobs. As a matter of fact, when you network you should never ask for a job. Doing so might make the other person uncomfortable, because they may not know of a job opening or the appropriate decision maker. Good networkers ask for information about an industry, company, or person to get one step closer to the decision maker. The problem that most people face when they network is that their circle of contacts has stagnated over the years because they have become far too comfortable within their inner circles. But it’s never too late to jump start your network and start planning for your future.

Job seekers can start to accelerate their networking efforts by first identifying people in their immediate world. This may include friends, family, members of local community or religious organizations, doctors, dentist, accountants, etc. Everyone you know knows approximately 200 other people and one goal of networking is to try to tap into the people that your acquaintances know to extend your visibility and reach and try to pinpoint others who can help you in your search. Next try to identify companies you are interested in and people who work for those companies. They don’t have to be people who do what you do; they act as a bridge between you and the people you need to meet at a company. They can offer you invaluable information about the company’s culture, how open jobs are handled, where employees “hang out” after hours, etc. They can introduce you to others in that company who may be one step closer to your ultimate decision maker. Excellent resources for finding members of companies you are interested in include professional associations, virtual social/business networking sites such as LinkedIn, Ryze, and Ecademy, corporate alumni sites such as and, and school alumni sites including those listed on your undergraduate/graduate school home page and

Whether you are currently in job search or are planning for a new position or career in the future, it is imperative that you begin to tap into the hidden job market now to build relationships with people and companies that can help you secure a place for yourself in another organization in the future. Make networking an integral part of your career strategy today so you can reap the rewards of the process for years to come.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Truth Behind the Open Job Market

Most job seekers rely on the open job market which includes job posting boards and help wanted advertisements in local newspapers to source job leads. While it appears on the surface that these search vehicles have an abundant number of job leads, the reality is that very few people secure their positions through these methods of search. Only about 5-10% of people in search find their jobs using these two methods combined.

One of the main reasons it is so difficult to land a job through a job board is that the job seeker is faced with insurmountable competition and limited means to differentiate their candidacy. It’s not unusual for a hiring manager to receive over 500 resumes for one open position. With no personal relationship with the hiring authority, the job seeker is forced to rely on technology and hope that the resume they submitted for an online opportunity contains enough keywords and consistency with the job spec to garner an acknowledgement from the hiring manager.

The sad truth is that the number of companies that even acknowledge receipt of the resume is under 25% and the percentage of companies that offer candidates any additional information regarding their candidacy is in the single digits.

So what’s a job seeker to do? Send their resume out into cyberspace, cross their fingers, and hope for the best? Absolutely not. Far too many people waste valuable hours of search time sending their resumes into a virtual black hole. If an unemployed job seeker considers their full-time job to be finding a job and an employed job seeker considers their search to be a part-time job, no more than two hours of each week should be dedicated to posting for jobs online.

Candidates should be frugal with the amount of time they spend online and take advantage of time saving online search methods such as using aggregate boards such as SimplyHired, Indeed, and Jobster which cull information from numerous online boards or setting up job email alerts on several large or niche board sites.

What has your experience been with online job boards? Check back tomorrow to learn more about how to leverage your network to create a more successful job search campaign.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ten Tips for Better Cover Letters

Are you struggling to create a powerful cover letter to capture the attention of a hiring authority or recruiter? Here are ten tips for writing better cover letters.

  1. Begin your cover letter with a compelling statement. Rather than starting your cover letter with a reference to the position you are applying for, write a statement that aligns you with the organization, industry, or job function you are targeting.
  2. Minimize the use of the word “I”. Vary your sentences to keep the reader engaged.
  3. Ask for the interview. Create a strong call to action in your letter by expressing your interest in the company and requesting an in-person interview.
  4. Match your qualifications to the requirements of the job. Create a cover letter that addresses each job requirement point by point. The stronger the match you can make between the two, the greater the likelihood of securing an interview.
  5. Build rapport with your audience. Discuss relevant business issues and ask thought provoking questions to show your reader that you recognize their needs.
  6. Include a famous quote to make your point. Incorporating quotes that are relevant to the topics your letter is discussing is a great way to create a memorable and impactful letter.
  7. Keep the letter to one page. Keep your cover letters short and use short paragraphs and bulleted lists to keep the reader’s attention and make it easy for them to determine the match between your qualifications and their open job.
  8. Address the hiring authority by name. The likelihood of building rapport with the reader and validating your interest in the job is increased when the inside cover address refers to the specific person rather than Dear Sir. Whenever possible, sleuth around for additional information on the hiring manager so you can personalize your letter.
  9. Reference the position you are applying for. Be sure to mention the job title and job number in the body of your letter as well as in your email subject line. Many hiring authorities request this information and your inability to follow their instructions could jeopardize your candidacy.
  10. Don't forget to sign your name. If you are sending a letter regular mail, include your signature. If your correspondence is via email, create an electronic signature.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Explaining Why You Are in a Job Search-Five Tips for the Downsized Professional

The key to successful interviewing is being prepared. Certain questions are considered “standard”, yet few people think about their responses ahead of time. When candidates are unprepared, their answers may showcase emotions that are valid, but could be damaging to reveal during an interview. One of the most common interview questions is “Why are you currently in a job search?” When you have been downsized and you need to communicate your situation to a hiring manager, your response should combine a positive reflection regarding your previous employer with a brief discussion of the business reasons why you are no longer employed by them. Below are five strategies for crafting an effective statement.

Examine your emotions

Was your position offshored to a country where labor costs are one-third of what they are at home? Did management reduce their front line staff while increasing executive bonuses? Did your position become redundant after a company merger? When jobs are lost because of these types of situations, people can become angry and feel betrayed by their former employer. If this anger comes across in the interview, you will not be seen as the top candidate, even if you are the most qualified. Nobody wants to hire someone who’s carrying around excess baggage or has a chip on their shoulder.

Prior to your interview, you need to separate your emotions from the business reasons for a job loss. Acknowledge your emotions to yourself and those close to you, but prepare a statement that conveys the business reasons for why you are currently in a job search.

Say something positive

Before you discuss the situation that led to your job loss, say something positive about your experience with that employer.


  • I was fortunate enough to work with company X for seven years. I had the opportunity to work with some exceptional programmers and hone my technical skills.
  • I was proud to provide quality customer service to clients at XYZ company. They stood by their products and rewarded employees that made a favorable impression on their customers.

Discuss the business reason for the job loss

Discuss your job loss in the general context of the company. Rather than personalizing the situation by saying things like “I was let go”, “My job was eliminated” or “My position was outsourced”, discuss how a department, business group or particular type of professional responsibility was eliminated. This shows the hiring manager that others lost their jobs as well and that the loss was not due to your individual performance.


  • Unfortunately my entire department of 20 was eliminated.
  • As a result of a global company restructuring, the company had to reduce their NY workforce by 25%.
  • The accounting function was outsourced and all ten accounting professionals were let go.

Prepare multiple level responses

If you were let go, but your co-worker who performs the same job function was not, it is wise to create two responses. Part one is a general response and part two is used if the interviewer probes further about your situation.

Level One

A business decision was made to reduce the help desk staff by 50%.

Level Two

For some interviewers the previous answer satisfies their curiosity. Others may probe and ask:

  • How many were in your department and how many were let go?
  • Why were you let go rather than your co-worker?

Assure the interviewer that the job loss was not performance based. Don’t discuss any speculations you may have about the company or your manager’s motives.


  • The company suffered low 4th quarter earnings which translated into a 50% reduction of staff in four departments. In my group the 50% reduction represented the elimination of one position. The specific reasons for the decision were not communicated to me; however I can assure you that the decision was not performance related. My manager was extremely satisfied with my performance and has offered to serve as a reference on my behalf.

Keep in mind that if your company’s workforce reduction was significant, the situation may have received widespread media attention. If this is the case, the interviewer may comment on what they’ve read in the papers or say something like “I recently read that company X laid off 3,000 employees in the 4th quarter…that must have been an extremely difficult time.” Stick to your original story, be sure to say something positive about the company, and don’t turn it into an emotional exchange.


Write out what you plan to say and make revisions. Practice your response with someone close to your situation such as a family member, friend or colleague. Record your response on your telephone answering machine, play it back and critique it. Have you personalized your situation or discussed it in a business context? Do your words flow and do you sound sincere?

Preparing an effective statement to explain the reason you are in a job search is critical to the overall success of your search campaign. Reflect on the positive aspects of your work experience and take the time to create a statement that explains your reasons for being in a job search. You will enhance your confidence during the interview and improve your credibility with the hiring manager.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Negotiating Compensation Options Other Than Base Salary

According to a recent survey of 1,000 organizations (conducted by Mercer HR Consulting), the average merit increase for 2008 will only be about 3.8%. As a result, companies are constantly looking for creative ways to attract talent and engage employees without making large adjustments to the employee's base salary and compromising the integrity of the company's merit increase program. This can be achieved by offering short-term incentives and special recognitions that are not tied to the company's base pay. Job seekers can more effectively negotiate their total compensation package by knowing what special incentives the employer offers. Two incentives that are becoming more common are sign on bonuses and project milestone awards.

Sign on bonuses
Employers are trending towards offering more sign on bonuses to candidates in lieu of a higher base salary. Sign on bonuses represent a one-time payment to the new employee and the money is not folded into the base salary, so the sign on bonus doesn't impact the new employee's positioning in the salary range. It is reasonable to request a sign on bonus that is approximately 10% of the starting salary.

Project Milestone Awards
More employers are offering incentives to employees for successfully completing projects within a designated time frame and budget. By negotiating project milestone awards before you accept a position, you can improve your overall compensation package while leaving the harder to negotiate base salary intact.

If you can't negotiate the base salary due to the company's strict guidelines for salary ranges and merit increases, consider negotiating one of these incentives to improve your employment package.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Facebook: I See Old People!

Crain's New York (subscription version only) recently ran an article about a 30-something job seeker who landed a position as a senior editor with Fast Company Magazine after reconnecting with a former colleague on Facebook. As Facebook matures, so too has its audience. While it's still primarily geared towards millenials, (people in their 20s and younger), as the job seeker profiled in the article states, "There are all sorts of old people on Facebook now." While Facebook does not tout itself as a job seeking tool, it can help you build connections for business opportunities.

In order to have an effective career management strategy, you need to think outside the box and diversify your network whenever possible. What does that mean? Don't just stay with your own kind. Network with people who are in a different age group, outside your profession, from another city, or of a different gender or ethnic group. Doing so makes you more memorable. For example, if you are a technology professional who specializes in applications for the financial services industry, show up at an event for financial services professionals. You will probably be the only technology professional there and by being different you will be remembered.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Ten Ways to Boost Your Network When You’ve Put Your Work Life on Hold (Part Two)

As promised, here are five more tips for keeping your network alive when you put your work life on hold.

Alumni Organizations is a free service that builds, manages and hosts online business alumni communities where former business colleagues can renew relationships and network. This is an easy way to stay connected to your previous employer and make inroads with ex-employees that now work somewhere else. is a free service that manages online school alumni programs where members can reconnect with old friends, receive reunion updates and post messages.

College/University Alumni Associations are a feature on most school websites. If a chapter for your school does not exist in your area, consider starting one.

Professional Organizations

Keep up your memberships with professional organizations or join a new one while you are not working. This allows you to stay current on issues that affect your industry. In addition to offering valuable information via the organization’s website, newsletter, or trade publication, most host free or low-cost seminars. Make it a point to stay connected with some fellow members and meet some new ones. Consider taking on a leadership role within your professional community. Chair a committee or submit articles for the association newsletter. Much of the work can be done from home and offers a fair amount of flexibility. Chose the activity that meshes with your childcare schedule and follow through on all assignments. These positions increase your credibility and visibility within your professional community.

Share your expertise

Teach a class at your local school, library or community center. If you are a nurse, teach infant CPR. If you are an accountant, share some tips for tax time. Contribute an article to a local newspaper or website or publication within your industry. These activities keep your skills sharp and current and help you build your credibility as an expert within your community.

Connect Others

Introduce contacts that you think could benefit from each others’ experiences. Both will remember the introduction and be more likely to share contacts with you when asked.

Create a resume

Keep track of all your accomplishments during the years you are taking care of your children and quantify your results whenever possible. Don’t assume that your work will not be valued by the business community because it was done on a volunteer basis. Hiring managers look for candidates that can solve their problems and make or save money for their company. For example, if you organized the school’s annual fair, write out a statement explaining your role and quantify what you did, such as, “Generated $25,000 in school funds by organizing a community building event for 800 families.” Or if you chaired a committee for a professional organization say “Increased committee visibility by 40% by actively recruiting and marketing special committee presentations and events” Use your volunteer activities as a way to showcase your ability to lead, persuade and organize. Combine these traits with your professional identity and expertise.

As mothers, we spend a great deal of time nurturing our children’s passions and developing their unique skills and attributes. We become so immersed in the amazing process of watching our children grow, that we often forget that we still need to plant professional seeds now so that our careers can blossom in the future. Build your network now and you’ll enjoy the benefits when you are ready to renew your job search.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ten Ways to Boost Your Network When You’ve Put Your Work Life on Hold (Part One)

After a child is born, many women make the decision to stop working to become full-time mothers. Playdates take the place of meetings and anxiety about an upcoming presentation is replaced with concern over a stuffy nose. While many moms know they will return to work at some point, few create and organize a plan for re-entry. When they decide to return, many women experience difficulty negotiating a salary consistent with their level of expertise or accounting for their achievements during their career hiatus.

With a little bit of planning, research, and creativity along with a systematic approach to networking, you can continue to maintain your professional persona while being a full-time mom. Your transition back to the world of work will become a more rewarding and less stressful experience.

Networking is the cornerstone of a successful job search campaign. It is an on-going process of building and maintaining relationships with people who have expertise you want and need and reciprocating their help with information that is useful to them. As a mom, you are always networking. Mothers swap advice with other moms about schools, babysitters, pediatricians, baby products, etc. We want to buy our products and services from establishments that are recommended by people we trust.

Job seekers share information in a similar way. They approach their contacts for information about a particular industry or company, discuss their skills and business accomplishments and prove how they can add value to an organization. Relationships are built on reciprocity and trust. By solidifying these ties, job seekers gain the opportunity to request introductions into their contacts’ inner circles. Each new contact can lead them closer to a new business opportunity. But, it is crucial they never ask a contact to get them a job. This would create stress in the relationship, by implying an unrealistic expectation. However, asking for information is reasonable, even flattering.

Below are some tips for expanding your network and staying connected to your business community during your child care years. Start networking for business opportunities now so you’ll have more viable options when you are ready to return to work.

The Playground

It’s often said that more deals are concluded on golf courses than at the office. A close second to the golf course may very well be the playground. The same principles of networking and camaraderie work with a small child in tow. It’s easy to strike up a conversation at the swings or the sandbox. Bring some toys that work best in groups like jump ropes, balls and bubble fluid and you’re bound to have a captive audience of kids and adults in no time. If many of the children in your neighborhood are with caregivers during the week, it still makes sense to build these relationships. Chances are that the nanny’s current employer or their friend’s employers are people that are connected to others that you might like to know.

Group Classes/Sports Teams

By the time your children are three years old, many classes are “drop off” and parents are asked to wait outside the class area. Use that hour to network with the parents in the class. Try to schedule at least one class on the weekend to maximize the opportunity to communicate with a parent directly. As your kids get older, consider becoming the team parent for your child’s sports teams. This enables you to have ongoing contact with the parents of the team members and positions you as an effective organizer or leader.


Build a core group of moms (and dads) and establish a weekly playdate. You will make special, long lasting bonds with the parents and establish a support system for a future job search.


When you volunteer for a position in your child’s school or your local community you are broadening your range of contacts since members of these groups represent multiple professional backgrounds. You are afforded the chance to network with people that you might not meet at work or through a professional organization. Volunteering in your school/community allows you to:

  • Position yourself as an insider or expert in a particular area
  • Gain access to other members of the community that may be useful professional contacts in the future
  • Develop new marketable skills that you can apply to your future job search

When you volunteer, chose a leadership role, such as chair person for an event or member of the school’s executive board. These types of opportunities provide you with much greater visibility and decision-making power than you would receive if you just offer to bake cupcakes for the school picnic.


Consider setting up an e-group with the people you worked with and wish to maintain a future relationship. This will enable you to keep up with the corporate culture and gossip and will position you well should you decide to return to a previous employer in the future.

Tune in tomorrow for 5 more ways to grow your network.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

I'm on LinkedIn, Now What???

I'm on LinkedIn, Now What???, a recently released book about LinkedIn, answers so many of the questions that have been posed to me by my clients about this powerful business networking tool. Many people approach social networking technology with trepidation and Jason Alba has created a “how to” guide that reminds new users that there are “no stupid questions” when it comes to learning a new technology and guides seasoned users through the more specialized uses of the application. I’m on LinkedIn, Now What??? is a must read for anyone interested in creating an on-line presence, building a professional community, sourcing prospects, or reaching out to decision makers and hiring authorities.The book is a quick, easy read that will teach you how to build more strategic and effective relationships on LinkedIn in a relatively short period of time.

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