LinkedIn’s Talent Connect is a recruiting festival of lights, sounds, new tools and new ideas. After years of cynicism I left last month’s October 2016 conference convinced that the recruiting industry has finally turned a corner. High touch recruiting is back after an absence of 25 years. The merging of high tech and high touch promises a brighter future for those companies willing to invest their resources in hiring stronger people and for job seekers who want to find better jobs.
The Sad Cost of High Tech
From my perspective the cost of high tech recruiting, i.e., job boards, pre-qualification assessments, AI, applicant tracking systems, and the like, far outweighed the advantages. In its wake it caused excessive turnover, disappointment, dissatisfaction, and underperformance. It also created the hidden and public job markets. The public job market is the one you’re all familiar with. It’s the 5+ million jobs found collectively on all of the job boards. This market is impersonal, vague, where people are filtered by arbitrary criteria that neither predicts performance nor ensures job satisfaction, and at best the jobs that are offered represent ill-defined lateral transfers.
The hidden job market is entirely different. It represents all of the jobs that are filled before they’re ever posted. These are the ones filled via internal promotion or referrals from trusted sources. Even better, these jobs are typically customized to better fit the career needs of those hired. The pre-public and hidden market is where careers are created. The public market is where the leftover jobs are filled.
Use High Touch Job Seeking Techniques to Get a Job in the Hidden Market
The best jobs are in the hidden job market. Here’s how to get one:
Understand how you’re being evaluated. Watch the Lynda.com video above (the trial is free). It explains how recruiters and hiring managers should interview candidates. More important, by reverse engineering the process savvy job seekers can be sure they’re being interviewed properly.
Implement a 50-50 high touch networking effort. Recognize that networking is not meeting as many people as you can in the hope that someone knows about an open job. Instead, it’s meeting a few well-connected people who can vouch for your performance and introduce you to a few other well-connected people. By expanding your network this way, you’ll soon learn about an open opportunity in the hidden job market.
Use the job post as a lead to the backdoor. Forget about applying to a job unless you’re a perfect fit based on the criteria listed. However, if you believe you could handle the job you need to find someone who can get you an interview with the hiring manager or department head. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for this purpose. For example, one candidate for a senior engineering position in the construction industry told me the other day he got an interview with a VP by using a professional society connection.
Prove you’re worthy by being different. The backdoor is a great way to find who you should contact but unless you’re able to get a referral from a trusted source you’ll need to prove you’re worthy to get an interview. One way: Do some type of mini-analysis and offer to discuss your findings.
Control the interview. While getting an interview is a big deal it’s not enough. You need to ensure you’re being interviewed properly. Unfortunately too many interviewers overvalue first impressions, technical skills and generic competencies. So rather than leave the process to chance ask the interviewer to describe real job needs in terms of challenges and objectives. Then give examples of work you’ve done that best meets their needs. (This video for job seekers shows how to use this type of "forced choice" questioning process.)
Push the process along using advanced selling techniques. Getting a job in the hidden job market is similar to consultative selling. One way to check if the first interview is going well is to ask the hiring manager about next steps. If vague you need to ask something like, “Based on your job needs do you believe my background meets your requirements? If not, what do you think is lacking compared to others you’re meeting?” This question requires the hiring manager to rank you against other candidates by highlighting any deficiencies.
The best jobs are in the hidden job market, before they’re publicized to the world. Even better, since nothing has been finalized, it’s easier to modify the job and compensation package to best meet the candidate’s strengths and career needs. Getting this type of position requires a high touch process involving networking, strong selling techniques and a track record of comparable – not identical – past performance. It’s a highly personalized approach but far more rewarding than applying to dozens of jobs and then waiting and hoping. More important, the end result of this high touch process is a career opportunity, not a lateral transfer.