Are the majority of jobs still “hidden”?

NO, the majority of jobs are not hidden – or at least, that is the weight of evidence from where I sit.

While it’s frequently touted that a significant proportion of positions are filled via the “hidden job market” – meaning the absence of an “old school” formal job advertisement – there have been major shifts in the dynamics of what makes advertising worthwhile, so it’s a very good bet that the majority of jobs are not concealed, secret, invisible, out of sight, undisclosed, not readily apparent or any other term that’s synonymous with hidden.

In fact, just how much the hidden factor is might be one of the great urban myths about how employers fill vacancies.  Of course, not all are advertised, but then again, not all really need to be – there are various legitimate reasons why not, including well-earned promotions for people the employer already has on their books.  So what’s the origin of the myth?

Find out for yourself – a Google search for the term “hidden job market” generates numerous results, but Google also infers that this is a common question by noting people also ask: “What is the percentage of jobs in the hidden job market?”  The answer (aka the first result generated by Google search algorithm) is embedded in a 2013 Forbes article which notes “… the hidden job market — those millions of openings that never get formally posted. It now accounts for up to 80% of hires, according to some estimates.” The reference and source to support this claim – well there isn’t one (my internal alarm bells ring and yours should too).

Reports of that kind have been repeated so much and so often that they are treated as an unassailable fact, crowding out data that shows contemporary practice that is strongly inclined to communicate about vacancies on a very wide front.

Technological innovations have disrupted recruitment practices and changed the ways that organisations find talent. The overall result is that many more jobs are now promoted online, but its useful to keep in mind that this came in a couple of waves.

A “firstgen” shift in what makes advertising worthwhile for an employer was towards online advertising; a “secondgen” now uses more than just job sites and, very importantly, goes on to integrate social media channels as part of the strategy for making the vacancy known.  This is just a whole lot more bang for the buck for an employer – much greater reach into the ranks of candidates, at a significantly reduced cost to advertise (when compared to the early online days when print channels were trying to own that space too).   Together these facts reduce that inclination to just fill the vacancy from within the organisation or by tapping someone already known to the employer.

These changes are even more important in the employer middle market and SMEs, which simply don’t have the resources of larger corporates.  The routine of advertising has embedded itself in these parts of the market as the “bang for the buck” factor steadily improved.

Across the market, disintermediation – getting rid of the “intermediary” – has has its own impact.  The reach that formerly came only with the help of a third party/agency is now often achievable without one.  For example, job opportunities posted via the organisation’s official page, are – crucially – given vastly extended reach through technology platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  Rather than being an intermediary, they simply allow organisations to share information about job opportunities in timely and quite inexpensive ways, and candidates are able to apply directly, rather than having their experiences mediated by a third party.

There are serious benefits from this approach for organisations of any size. They are able to promote job opportunities with as much or as little description as fits the case, and, possibly more importantly, can control the length of time the opportunity is advertised. As a second round of benefits, existing employees can choose to promote the job via their own personal social media accounts. This further networks the reach of the opportunity and significantly widens the potential talent pool.

Beyond that, my “matchmaking” analogy of recruitment shows how the use of less formal avenues may permit more strategic recruitment decisions.

Maybe it’s time to pivot how we talk about the hidden job market. Perhaps it’s no longer a situation where jobs are hidden (if they ever were), but rather more about where we “look”, “find” and “see” employment opportunities.

2 thoughts on “Are the majority of jobs still “hidden”?

  1. Interesting article definitely reflecting what I am seeing as well – I’ve noticed some employers are better than others at ‘going it alone’ promoting their positions on social media without the intermediaries. Perhaps provides a different focus for the intermediaries…
    Really like your new blog site Sharna. I look forward to following…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good read Sharna – thanks. I couldn’t help think of everyone saying that some 40% of jobs we occupy today will disappear in the next 10 years. They will inevitably be replaced by others. Will this significant market disruption strengthen or continue to erode the impact on intermediaries?


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