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How job seekers can unlock the hidden job market

A woman opens a pair of curtains to look at the view outside.

This week, Catch22 launches a new programme with the City and Guilds Foundation, offering bursaries and employment support to help people with barriers into green jobs. In this blog, Training Manager for Green Spark, Amanda Luxton, explores the huge hidden job market, and how job seekers and careers coaches alike can unlock this untapped source of employment.

“The sculpture is already complete within the marble block before I start my work. It is already there; I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”

Michelangelo’s wise words. It’s a lovely sentiment, a humble way to describe his talent without hubris. It’s also how I would describe the hidden job market but, unlike our artist, I have no beautiful sayings to articulate the wonder of this seemingly undiscoverable place. Taking all the beautiful language away, it’s a simple concept and it is somewhere you can (and will) discover.

Unlocking the hidden job market

Up to 70% of the jobs available in the UK are hidden from the public. How unfair is that? With people needing to find work, you would think employers had a vested interest in being more visible, but the fact is, job ads cost money and many companies hire from within before going outward.

People talk about LinkedIn, networking, head-hunters and other overly complex ways that you can access the hidden job market, but we need to simplify the process rather than get tied up in knots looking in the wrong places. There’s no point looking for a job in the Army on Indeed – while they do occasionally appear, they are too rare to use that platform as a default.


Common conversations I have had, include:

“I am looking for *insert role here* work. I have used Reed and Indeed for months and can’t find what I am looking for.”

“Okay, have you looked at the Police Service?”

“I don’t want to be a copper…”

“Fair enough but they have HR. Or maybe the local council? Or the local Fire Service HQ. Have you checked their website?”

“Didn’t think of that.”

“What about the Civil Service website? You said a while back you’d like to work for a charity. Have you seen the website Third Sector Jobs or been on the *insert charity here* website?”

Chipping away at the marble

The only reason the hidden job exists is because we’ve forgotten how to chip away at the marble covering the sculpture.

Look at it another way – you want to be a delivery driver, so you restrict your searches to DHL, Royal Mail and Amazon. What about Tesco? Asda? Pharmacy prescription services? They all have a delivery service and while you’re in the mindset of delivery driving, have you thought about being a bus driver? Training is provided.

“Got any jobs?”

LinkedIn has its merits for job search and I highly recommend having a profile, especially in the corporate world. But is LinkedIn good for someone looking to work in retail during the summer holidays? For research to sound confident about the company and its values in an interview, LinkedIn is excellent, but don’t forget to look on their own company website. Check out the management team on LinkedIn and get a feel for them, but will the Head of Marketing or Accounts advertise the next in-store role there? Maybe not… so the company website is your best bet. Equally, if you are lucky enough to find a job on Indeed, go directly to the company website and apply there if you can.

Employability specialists always champion the CV and I agree, you can’t apply for anything online without one. But how many of us carry our CV around just in case we see a job advertised in a shop window? How many of us over the age of 40 (sorry folks!) remember walking into a business and uttering the words: “Got any jobs?” and walking out with one? I certainly do and while there isn’t much call for that now, some industries – trades and warehouse – still operate that “Ask and you shall receive” mindset and want to recruit in the old-fashioned non-internet way.

Shopping for a job

If you’re looking for a card for someone’s birthday, you go to Clinton’s (if you have money), Card Factory (if you resent paying for cards), or pick it up in the local supermarket (I was there, it was easy). Now look at job search in the same way. You shop around for value, you shop around for the brand you like, you shop around for the best possible price… so why shouldn’t you shop around for a job? You have the biggest Job Centre (labour exchange for us older folks) at your fingertips!

Tips for job seekers

The Hidden Job Market is hidden because we have forgotten to play the game. In Hide and Seek you didn’t look behind the curtain and leave it there, you looked everywhere. So, if you find yourself in the position of being a job seeker, these are the steps I would recommend:

  1. Go directly to business websites. Who do you want to work for? I have always said if I moved to Birmingham I would send a speculative letter to Cadbury’s.
  2. Join the newsletters/notice emails sent out by the big three (Reed, Indeed and CV-Library) because they can spark an idea. But, if you do see a role for Tesco/Next/Local Council etc., apply on their website directly.
  3. Talk to people you know. Get back to that “Got any jobs?” mindset and look around while you’re out and about. Your local gym may need an admin – and free gym membership could be on the table!
  4. Join LinkedIn if it is the right fit for the role you’re looking for. If it’s not quite your scene joining ‘Facebook for Suits’, utilise it for intelligence gathering. You may not see a job advertised but you may see ‘Jane has started a new role’. Which means her old role could be open!
  5. Think outside your usual job search. Type the role into Google and see what it shows you. People forget how powerful search engines are at hoovering up information. Jobs are not different – give a whirl!

– Amanda Luxton, Training Manager for Green Spark