The secret to landing your dream role isn't submitting hundreds of applications on companies' websites — in fact, many great jobs aren't posted online at all.
More and more people are finding and landing new opportunities through the "hidden job market": vacancies that aren't publicly listed or advertised with recruiters but instead are filled through "internal candidates or referrals," Stacey Perkins, a career and leadership coach at recruiting firm Korn Ferry, tells CNBC Make It.
"There's a lot of great positions — at least 60%, I'd say — that never make it to the public job boards, which really surprises a lot of people," Perkins adds.
Here's how you can tap into the hidden job market and leverage it to find your next opportunity:
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Start with a target list of companies and people
When it comes to the hidden job market, less is more.
Make a short list of companies you want to work for — no more than 10 — and let that list guide your search, career coach Emily Liou recommends.
Then, figure out who the decision-makers at those companies are: the people working on the teams you're interested in, who your potential boss would be, recruiters and human resource managers. LinkedIn and past job descriptions on the companies' websites are solid places to start.
Having a focused search can help you build deeper, more personal connections, she adds, and those connections should alert you to job opportunities before they're posted online.
That's because companies want to hire people who have a strong, veritable interest in their business, Liou explains — and as a jobseeker, it is much easier to build relationships with these decision-makers if you are thoughtful and intentional in your search instead of copying and pasting the same outreach message to 50 people.
"Even if they don't have an immediate opening, it's not to say that in a few weeks or months someone will get promoted or quit and suddenly there's an open role," Liou says. "If you're on their radar, you'll be at the top of their hiring list."
Take a personal approach to networking
Networking can be intimidating, but building relationships and connecting with new people is the only way to break into the hidden job market, Perkins explains.
For example: One of Perkins' clients recently told his neighbor he was looking for a new job, and that neighbor said he worked for a company in his field and would recommend him for an opening. Now, he's interviewing for a position there.
"We tend to discount our personal connections, but alerting family members, friends, classmates and neighbors that we're looking for new opportunities can open the door to a great position," she says.
Most of your networking, however, should stem from names on your target list of companies you want to work for: the recruiters, hiring managers, potential co-workers and higher-ups you'd work with.
Even if there's no current openings that fit your experience and interests or you don't have anything in common with this person right off the bat, "it's important to share why you're reaching out … what, specifically, is compelling about their career or their company to you?" Perkins says.
In your initial outreach, whether it's over email, LinkedIn or in-person, you also want to explain "what solutions you can bring to the table and how you could solve problems for them or strengthen existing processes," Liou says.
Choose three specific skills, milestones or experiences to highlight in your elevator pitch that would really add value to the organization, Liou advises, then end with the following script:
"While I don't see an opening for [insert dream job here] right now, I just wanted to introduce myself and what my specialization is, in case future opportunities arise. I'm always looking to connect with like-minded professionals in [insert field here]. In case you're interested in connecting, here's how you can reach me!"
"Putting in the time and effort to form deep connections, and approaching networking from the perspective of how you can contribute to the organization and make it stronger, will help you stand out in the search compared to all of the other applicants who are really just focused on their wants," she says. "And when a position becomes available in the future, you'll be one of the first to know."
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