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The Hidden Job Market

Canadians are most likely to tap the advertised job market, but the hidden job market has also been important to a majority, particularly visible minority Canadians.


The Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC) has released findings of a survey conducted by Environics Research Group asking Canadians about their job satisfaction, their perceptions about their workplaces and performance management, and the tools and resources they turn to when looking for a job or building a career. This project is a follow-up to a benchmark initiative completed in 2007 that asked similar questions. This article is an excerpt from the 2011 survey report.

According to conventional wisdom, the hidden job market (i.e., unadvertised job sources) is becoming increasingly important to job seekers because few open employment opportunities are ever posted somewhere public or easily accessible. Assessing how important it is to Canadians can illuminate how much of an effect it has had on the current Canadian job market.

A strong majority (65%) of Canadians report that the hidden job market has been very (27%) or somewhat (38%) important to their careers. Only one in ten (10%) think it has not had an effect on their careers, suggesting that almost all Canadians have used the hidden job market at some point in their lives.

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Q.7 Common wisdom states “80 percent of all jobs are never advertised. Thinking back over your own career and the jobs you have had, how important has the “hidden job market” (unadvertised job sources) been to your employment…?

There are some notable differences between demographic subgroups. Canadians with the highest ($150,000+) and lowest (under $30,000) incomes, and those who identify as a visible minority are more likely than others to think the hidden job market played an important role in their careers.

Although many Canadians report that the hidden job market has been important to their career development, when prompted to consider the importance of a range of tactics, including unadvertised job sources, Canadians’ top source for jobs is the advertised job market. Eight in ten (81%) report that advertised job sources – both print and electronic – were very or somewhat important to their job search, compared to some six in ten (58%) who cite unadvertised job sources. Networking also stands out as a tactic that a large majority of Canadians (73%) feel has been important when seeking a new job (roughly half say very important).

Importance of tactics and sources of securing a job

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Q.8 Again, thinking back over your career and the jobs you have had, how important have the following tactics/sources been in your efforts to securing a new position or job…?

Somewhat surprising is the number of Canadians who have found tactics such as submitting unsolicited resumes (59%) and in-person employer cold calls (56%) helpful in securing a new position. Although less common than other approaches, these gutsy tactics have been useful to majorities of Canadians, especially those with lower household incomes, proving a proactive approach is vital when seeking a new job.

Visible minority Canadians have also turned to the hidden job market more often than others, possibly by accessing their cultural or ethnic connections. They also more actively develop new contacts; nine in ten visible minority Canadians (versus seven in ten non-visible minority Canadians) think networking has been important to their career development, while seven in ten have found unsolicited resumes (73% versus 57%) or unadvertised job sources (71% versus 56%) important.

Finally, students are less likely than Canadians in general (55%, compared to 65%) to report that the hidden job market has been important, although majorities have found it to be at least somewhat helpful. Their decreased dependence on the hidden job market is likely because many are young and have only had a few jobs. Indeed, they are equally as reliant on advertised job sources, networking (or any other unadvertised sources) as other Canadians, suggesting that as they continue to develop their careers and personal networks, they may turn more frequently to the hidden job market.
Read the full report, “On-line survey on public perceptions about career development and the workplace”, on the CERIC website.


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