is there really a hidden job market?

You may have heard that the best way to get a job is through the “hidden” job market? What is it and how can you get access?

The “hidden job market” refers to job openings that are not publicly advertised. This includes jobs in the private sector, as well as the federal one.

Why would organizations not publicly post job openings?

• The cost of advertising an open private sector position can be substantial.
• Organizations don’t want to be overwhelmed with applications. With the ability to apply online, some organizations get hundreds, if not thousands, of applications. I read recently that the Census Bureau receives 25,000 applications each DAY!
• A new role is being created and they are unsure of the qualifications of the ideal employee.
• They are replacing an existing employee (who doesn’t know they are being replaced).
• Posting may take too long.

Most of “hidden” job opportunities are accessed through referrals from current employees of the organization. It’s estimated that 60-80% of jobs in the private sector are found through networking. While not all of the jobs found through networking are accessing the hidden job market (after all, your friends/family/acquaintance network can help you access interviews for advertised opportunities too), almost all candidates who get interviews for unadvertised jobs do so through networking. In the federal sector, networking is also important and many jobs can be filled through what is called “direct hire” and need not be posted on USAJOBS.

Accessing the hidden job market works best when you have a clear target in mind — either a specific job title or, even better, a specific list of companies you’d like to work for.

There are basically 3 ways to access the hidden job market in the private sector:

• Connect with someone at the organization through your network (either an employee who can refer you or a hiring manager or a recruiter who works for the organization).
• Contact the organization directly about exploring unadvertised opportunities.
• Be visible enough in your industry or field to be contacted by a prospective employer.

Finding “hidden” opportunities in the federal sector is similar but with a twist. In addition to the above, you need to understand direct hire eligibilities and whether you qualify. There are lots of different direct hire authorities the government can use to hire people.

As an applicant, you need know what direct hiring authorities might apply to you, and share that information with the hiring manager and/or your network so that they, in turn, can share that information with Human Resources (HR), and pave the way!

Here are just some of the direct hire authorities available in the government:

• Military Spouse, 30% service connected, and VRA
• STEM positions
• Schedule A
• Former Peace Corps/AmeriCorps volunteers
• Cybersecurity professionals
• Contracting Specialists
• CORE positions for FEMA

The above hiring authorities are not exhaustive and all specific qualifications. For more information, you can read more about how these and other direct hiring authorities work on

Remember, exploring the hidden job market is just one possible way to connect with your dream job. It’s a strategy that can pay off, but will often take longer than simply identifying advertised openings and applying. However, you will likely find there is less competition for the job opportunity, and if you are using an “inside source” — either a current employee or an internal recruiter — or you are eligible for a direct hire position or authority, your likelihood of landing an interview can be higher than seeking out a traditionally advertised opening.

See also, Direct Hire Authority in the Federal Government

The Complete Guide to Writing a Federal Resume, New Edition

Nancy Segal is a federal human resources training and job search expert. Following her own 30-year federal HR career (much of it at the senior level), she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC in 2003 to provide an HR management perspective to both federal managers and astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy has unmatched federal career management insight, high standards, and respect for people’s time, and her clients use this to their advantage.