You might have heard of the term “hidden job market” before and wondered what it actually meant.

It’s not about shady, black market jobs. Nor does it refer to jobs that are deliberately kept secret.

The hidden job market simply covers all job vacancies that aren’t formally advertised.

Instead, these jobs are swooped up through word-of-mouth by existing employees of a company or the friends and family they refer. Cold calling businesses to ask about vacancies also comes under this category.


How big is the hidden job market?

While there aren’t any official figures, some estimate as many as 75 per cent of positions are filled through the hidden job market.

LinkedIn’s 2020 Global Talent Trends Report found that internal recruiting is having a rebirth, increasing by 10 per cent since 2015.

Companies also highly value employee referrals. In another LinkedIn survey of nearly 4,000 recruiters, referrals were the top source of quality hires.

The hidden job market is attractive to employers because it saves them time and money. Some statistics even suggest existing employees and referrals are faster to hire, perform better, and stay longer in the company.

But there are some significant pitfalls to the hidden job market.


The downside of the hidden job market

This market relies heavily on an individual’s professional network. While networks are an important asset for any job seeker, not all networks are made equal.

This is particularly true for some of the candidates we work with at SheWorks, Fitted for Work’s recruitment solution.

Our candidate pool includes a diverse range of women and non-binary folks aged 16-65, from varying backgrounds, work experience and qualifications.

Some are fresh out of their education and trying to get that crucial foot in the door, without many professional connections at all.

Others might have had a period off work to raise children and their network is perhaps not as strong as it once was.

There are also women in isolated regional towns or who are totally new to Australia and have to rebuild their networks from scratch.

In many cases, these candidates are qualified for the role, and having come through Fitted for Work’s services to get them work-ready, are an asset to any team.

But there is no way for employers to find them without reaching out.

In addition to disadvantaging those who might already be marginalised, figures show the hidden job market is bad for workplace inclusion and diversity. And inclusion and diversity equals better business.

Employees rely on casual networks for referrals and internal recruiting, which can just reinforce existing groups and biases.

The data also shows women are 26 per cent less likely than men to ask for a referral for a job they’re interested in, even when they have a connection at the company.

Where time and money are saved using word-of-mouth hiring practices, the quality of the new employee could be sacrificed when the candidate pool is narrowed.


How can we fix this?

It’s much better to hire using a healthy mix of referrals, outside applicants and sourced candidates.

That’s why SheWorks exists! We provide a recruitment solution to proactively diversify workplaces and get more women working – especially those experiencing disadvantage.

Working within your existing recruitment and reporting framework, our bespoke service strategically markets your roles and provides screening and short-listing of potential candidates.

Ongoing support through the Fitted for Work Mentoring Program also ensures candidate placements are sustainable and reduces turnover.

The next time your business is hiring, contact our SheWorks manager Liz Trewhella on 03 8842 2954 or email [email protected]. We’ll help you access the full potential of the candidate pool.


Written by Sophie Berrill.

Photo by Chase Clark.