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20/20/60 Search Strategy. The Frank Gump Agency suggests that job seekers should employ a 20/20/60 strategy. In this case 20% of the time responding to job postings by going through the back door rather than applying through the front, another 20% ensuring your resume and LinkedIn profile are easy to find and worth reading, and the remaining 60% networking and finding creative ways to get in front of decision makers directly to find jobs in the hidden market. In another post I described in detail what job-seekers need to do to improve their networking skills. Rather than repeat the techniques, I’ll just repeat the theme: being referred to a hiring manager by a trusted person is 50-100X more likely to result in being interviewed and hired compared to submitting a resume to a posted job.

Jobs in the hidden market are much better than the jobs listed in the public market!

Consider that jobs in the public market represent lateral transfers for the fully-qualified people described. Jobs in the hidden market represent promotions, stretch jobs and career opportunities. Just look at the job descriptions posted in the public market as proof. They’re no more than long-winded help wanted ads offering equivalent jobs to fully qualified people who are somehow willing to endure the demeaning obstacle course. This is not to say that some of these jobs aren’t actually great jobs, but they’re written to weed out the weak, not attract the best.

While the job market is not as robust as it could be, it’s not as bad as reported. That’s why it’s important for job-seekers to play more of the hiring game in the hidden market. As a starter, the jobs are better and you have a stronger chance of being hired, since you’ll be judged on your past performance and future potential, not by some artificial matching algorithm. More important, these jobs are frequently modified to take better advantage of a person’s strengths, rather than force-fitting the person to a pre-defined role.

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Crack the Hidden Job Market

The employer mindset often operates at two levels, the public and the private. The public level says, "Let’s be open and look at who we can get," while the private level speaks with a more authentic voice: "Who can we get, quickly, with minimum risk." Risk avoidance means that employers naturally gravitate towards people they know, or at least know something about.

Playing the public game is partly about conformity, and largely about passive behavior. Pursuing advertised positions looks like activity, but it’s relatively passive — you’re thinking about stepping onto a bus that happens to be passing your front door rather than planning a journey using your own resources. Responsive strategies requiring desk-based activities such as applying to ads and using job boards also have another appeal — they feel like work to the job-seeker.

The reality, I suspect, is that you’re more likely to have a job search breakthrough by chatting with the person next to you at the supermarket checkout than by spending all day registering on job boards. Use the standard electronic tools; use them thoughtfully, and frequently enough to maintain your visibility. But remember that job connections start by being human connections.

As a career strategist, I find it’s often easier to work with people who have no preconceptions about how to look for a job. They tend to make a much more direct buyer/ seller connection and look for opportunities to connect to decision makers. They instinctively know that you reach out to as many people as possible, wherever possible, because it increases your chances of a hit.

Breaking into the hidden market isn’t about old school networks or special favors, nor is it only open those who are great at self-promotion. If success was about the people you already know, there would be little point to networking. It’s about expanding your horizons, meeting new people, and about discovery. Networking can feel wrong — demeaning, or exploitative, and it’s easy to fear rejection. All these fears indicate that you’re probably going about it the wrong way. The classic model of "working the room" doesn’t work, because it’s all about you. The most important and effective aspects of networking are about finding things out, filling gaps, making connections.

I have a personal benchmark for success in the hidden job market. You know your strategy is working when your name comes up for the right reasons when you are not in the room. And when your name comes up, so does a short data burst containing just two or three brief, positive and focused messages about what you’re good at and what you’re looking for.

So is the hidden job market unfair? Yes, of course, like any form of competition. However, believing that the hiring process will work fairly and objectively in your favor is a great way of extending your job search time, and a watertight strategy for avoiding some of the most interesting opportunities. They won’t be in the Help Wanted section, because right now they’re brewing away in the brain of someone you might just meet, pretty soon, if you simply start asking the best career-expanding question ever: Who else should I be talking to?

The Method on Getting You the Job You Really Want

You send in your resume. You include a hopefully eye-catching cover letter. You ask someone to put in a good word for you. Then you wait. And wait. And don't get the job. Why? You didn't put in the work.

There are many things you can't control about the job seeking process. Cumbersome application systems, automated filters that identify keywords instead of talent, lazy hiring managers content to simply find round pegs for round holes. But there is one thing you can control: the amount of work you put in.

If you're struggling to land the job you want, don't complain. Don't blame others. Sure, the system often sucks -- so accept it sucks and then figure out how to beat it. Commit to doing more. Commit to doing what other candidates aren't willing to do. That's how you stand out. That's how you get the job you really want.

1. Determine the company you want to work for.

Obvious, right? Not really. Many job seekers play the numbers game and respond to as many job postings as possible.Shotgun resume submissions results in hiring managers sifting through dozens of potential candidates to find the right person. (Good luck emerging from that particular pile.) To show the hiring manager you are the right candidate, you have to do the work. Instead of shotgunning your resume, put in the time to determine a company you definitely want to work for, and then...

2. Know the company.

Pretend I'm the hiring manager. "I would love to work for you," you say to me. What I actually hear is, "I would love for you to pay me."You can't possibly know if you want to work for my company unless you know about my company; that's the difference between just wanting a job and wanting an actual role in a business. Talk to friends, relatives, vendors, customers... anyone you can find. Check management and employees out on social media. When you know the people, you know the company. Learn as much as you can.

3. Figure out how you will hit the ground running.

Many companies see training as a necessary evil. Training takes time, money, effort... all of which are in short supply. An ideal new hire can be productive immediately, at least in part. While you don't need to be able to do everything required in the job, it helps if the company can see an immediate return on their hiring investment. (Remember, hiring you is an investment that needs to generate a return.) Identify one or two important things you can contribute from day one. Then...

4. Don't just tell. Show.

Put what you can offer on display. If you want a sales executive position, create a plan for how you'll target a new market or customer base or describe how you will implement marketing strategies the business is currently not using. A show and tell is your chance to prove you know the company and what you can offer. Your initiative will be impressive and you'll go a long way towards overcoming concerns that you're all talk and no action.

Is it fair you're doing a little work on spec? Should you have to create a mockup or plan in order to get the job? Not really and probably not... but doing so will definitely set you apart. Never let "fair" -- when the only person "disadvantaged" is you -- get in the way of achieving your goals.

5. Use a direct contact method.

Business is all about relationships. Any method to get your resume in front of hiring decision makers is golden. You may have to dig deep into your network or even forge new connections, but the effort will be worth it. Knowing that someone we trust is willing to vouch for you is a data point that often tips the decision scale towards giving you an interview... and even giving you the job.

6. Be the one who knocks.

You don't have to wait to be called for an interview. You don't have to wait for an opening to be posted; after all, you've identified ways you can immediately help the company you want to work for. Wrangle an introduction, meet with someone who can actually influence the hiring decision, and pitch away.

Think it won't work? It will -- as long as you show the person you contact how they will also benefit. Say, "I really want to work for your company. I know you're in charge of social media marketing and I've developed a data-driven way to analyze activities, ROI, brand awareness... I'd love to take you to lunch and show you. If you hate my ideas, at least you got a free lunch. If you love them, you learned something. What do you have to lose?"

A friend of mine who runs a tech company has hired four people in the last six months who approached him in a similar fashion. He's a go-getter; he loves hiring go-getters. And he loves when they find him. Just make sure you go straight to describing how the company will benefit from hiring you. Approach them right and people will pay attention -- especially entrepreneurs and small businesses. I don't know any smart people who won't drop everything to learn how to improve their business.

7. Assert yourself.

Many people are poor interviewers. That's especially true for small business owners; many are terrible interviewers. (As a friend of mine says, "I don't work in HR. I run a business.") So be direct and to the point. Explain what you can do. Describe your background. Don't talk about what the job will mean to you; talk about how the company will benefit from hiring you. Show you know working for their company is different (every company thinks they're different) and how you're excited by the challenge. Sell yourself: use what you know about the company and how you will make an impact to back up your pitch.

8. Ask for the job.

Most people don't mind being closed. Plus a decision put off until tomorrow is a decision added to the to-do list; no one wants more on their plates. If you truly know you want the job -- and you should by this point -- ask for it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Who knows: if you've worked hard to truly set yourself apart, you might get hired on the spot.

I know what you're thinking: That's too much work to put in, especially if there's no guarantee your extra effort will result in a job. Doing what everyone else does is very unlikely to result in a job. Decide you will be different -- and then work hard to actually be different. Then you will stand out. Then you'll have a much better chance of landing the job you really want.

The Frank Gump Agency. Representing Americas Top Corporate Talent, call us at (855) 901-2395.