2023-08-24T12:17:25-04:00Dec 21, 2022|

15 tips to tap into Canada’s hidden job market

Finding a new job can be challenging, and even more so when you’re settling into a new country. As a newcomer, landing a job in Canada is among the most pressing items to check off your to-do list to ensure your financial security and kickstart your career. When you begin your job search in Canada, it’s important to get access to as many opportunities as possible to increase your odds of landing the job you want sooner. That’s why accessing the hidden job market is so essential to get a job in your desired field of work.

Since newcomers are often unfamiliar with Canadian work culture, this article addresses questions about what the hidden job market is, why it’s important to access it, and most importantly, on how to tap into Canada’s hidden job market.

In this article:

What is the hidden job market?

The hidden job market is a term used to describe all the job openings that are not publicly advertised or posted online. Many newcomers limit their efforts to jobs that are advertised online through portals, company websites, and social media, but by doing so, they miss out on opportunities that are hidden. 

The hidden job market relies heavily on referrals to fill positions, rather than applicants responding to job listings. For many jobs, employers may reach out to their own networks, including internal staff and professional peers, or will actively recruit from competitors for top candidates with the hopes of finding someone with similar experience. In fact, some employers may already have top candidates in mind even if the job opening is publicly posted. Other positions may be “hidden” because the company only formally creates a position after an ideal candidate appears to fulfill a need or skill shortage.

Why do you need to tap into the hidden job market in Canada?

Tapping into the hidden job market in Canada can greatly improve your chances of landing the job you want. Canada’s hidden job market represents 65 to 80 per cent of all job openings. While this proportion may fluctuate based on industry and economic conditions, there’s no doubt that candidates who position themselves to access these hidden jobs – and be considered for them – will have an edge. Here are some key reasons why it’s essential for you, as a newcomer, to tap into the hidden job market in Canada:

Jobs are filled before they’re posted online

By the time you read a job posting online, it may be too late to be considered seriously for the role. That’s because the employer often reaches out to current employees, recruiters, competitors, and personal network for referrals long before the job listing goes live (which could take weeks or months). Once an ideal candidate is selected for the position, the job posting may still go live to comply with company policy or regulatory requirements, but the selection is largely made.

Trusted referrals are preferred by employers

Employers often prefer to hire through their networks because referrals come with a degree of trust. If someone can personally and professionally vouch for your skills, work ethic, and qualifications, employers will likely view your candidacy with more openness and certainty than an applicant they know solely through a resume. As a result, a well-crafted resume that lands on a hiring manager’s desk via referral may not undergo the level of scrutiny that comes with applying through a job portal directly. If your referral was a glowing recommendation, you have the added benefit of positively impacting the manager even before your first meeting.

Skip the ATS round

When you connect with an employer through a professional referral, your resume is often sent directly to the hiring manager – either in addition to, or instead of, applying through the company’s application portal. This means your application is less likely to be weeded out by the company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS) which is where most resumes are rejected.

Tips Icon  Tip: Even if you’re being referred for a position, it’s a good idea to create an ATS-friendly Canadian-style resume that includes relevant keywords from the job description and is customized to the role you’re applying for.

Access to more jobs

As a newcomer, tapping into the hidden job market potentially gives you access to significantly more jobs than you would find through job portals or job fairs. Of course, you can never know how many jobs are in the hidden job market, which is why strategically exposing yourself to opportunities to learn about openings is so essential. This enables you to apply for more jobs in Canada than what’s available online.

Less competition

It’s easy to feel frustrated when applying for a posted job along with hundreds of candidates. When you apply for jobs through the hidden job market, you’re typically competing with far fewer candidates. Furthermore, with the right job search strategy, you’ll learn about jobs that directly relate to your skill set and experience, so you spend less time applying for positions that are not an ideal fit. 

Tips to access the hidden job market and get a job in Canada

If you want to leverage the multitude of job opportunities available through the hidden job market, you may need to rethink the way you look for jobs. One of the most important facets of discovering opportunities in the hidden job market is to expand your network and actively engage with it. In this section, we’ll share 15 ways to access the hidden job market and get a job in Canada that you love.

Reconnect with people you already know

If you’ve just moved to Canada or are arriving soon, you may not yet know many people here. Even still, connecting with the people you know is an ideal first step. Many companies have global opportunities, and you can’t be sure who your current contacts know. Consider alumni from your school, former colleagues, and friends or family members who are in Canada. Since you already have an established relationship with them, you can ask them directly if they know about any open positions that match your skill set and experience, or if they can introduce you to other people who might. If the companies they work for are hiring, or plan to hire soon, ask if they’d be willing and able to refer you to the hiring manager.

Polish your LinkedIn profile

If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, be sure to set one up immediately as this platform is crucial to building a professional network and searching for a job. If you already have one, make sure your LinkedIn profile projects the image you want employers to see. Some people refer to this as your personal brand, encompassing your skills, experience, career aspirations, as well as how you want to be presented to potential employers. It’s a good idea to be clear on the image you wish to portray, then update the relevant sections to align with that image.

Share your expertise on LinkedIn

Once you’ve clarified your personal brand and pinpointed the type of job you want to land, show your expertise and passion for your field of work by sharing related content on LinkedIn. Review the latest trends and news stories about your industry and post what you find. Consider asking questions to engage others. You can also write and post your own articles. Post often to help build your reputation as someone with expertise in your field – this can increase views of your profile, including by recruiters and hiring managers in companies you want to work for. As a newcomer, you have global experience, which many companies see as an asset – be sure to leverage that through your posts. Remember to engage with other people’s content, as well, to cement your connections and increase your visibility.

Create a networking strategy

Networking can be time-consuming, especially without a clearly defined strategy to focus your efforts on where it will most benefit your job search and career trajectory. To narrow your efforts, clearly identify the role you want. Consider details such as industry, size of company, and work culture, then draft a list of employers you want to work for. Identify the key contact people in each company, such as recruiters, hiring managers for your target role, or even new recruits in your area of expertise and reach out to them on LinkedIn. Ideally, you should be meeting two to three professionals each week. As a newcomer actively looking for a job, you can even fit four to five networking meetings into your weekly schedule. 

Ask for coffee chats

Even if your ultimate goal is to get a job referral, the first step to building rapport with a new connection is to ask for an informal chat. You may be surprised by how many people are willing to have a coffee chat (virtually, by phone, or in-person) to share information about their role and company. You should be prepared with questions about the company’s hiring processes or skills needed for the role you’re seeking. Through these discussions you can let people know about your skills, strengths, and career goals, and hopefully lay the foundation to be referred for a role. When it’s time to conclude your chat, ask for additional introductions, such as: “Is there anyone else in your network you think I should be connecting with? Would you mind introducing me to them?”

Have an elevator pitch

While there are occasions when you plan to meet valuable contacts, such as at a career fair or industry convention, you should also be prepared for impromptu meetings that could happen anywhere – from the local gym to the coffee shop lineup. Having a well-rehearsed (yet natural) elevator pitch ensures you convey yourself in an ideal way, whenever the occasion presents itself. To create an elevator pitch, include your introduction, your expertise or credentials, and your aspirations. You may have to adjust how you conclude your pitch based on the person you’re speaking to or messaging. It could end with you asking to learn more about the company, the skills needed for your desired role, the Canadian work culture, or even a job referral. Use your best judgment. Your pitch should be no longer than 30 seconds long, or approximately 75 to 85 words, if typed. An example of an elevator pitch is: 

“Hi, I’m Jasmine Cooper, it’s nice to meet you. I have a Bachelor of Commerce degree with a minor in marketing and, for the past five years, have been a market research analyst in Brazil for a global advertising agency. My research and data analysis skills helped my team design two award-winning marketing campaigns. I see your company has led some innovative advertising campaigns and I would love to learn more about what kind of market research goes into them.”

Offer your help 

If you feel you can provide valuable tips or guidance on something your contact is working on, offer to help. This is a great way to make a lasting impression as it explicitly shows your value and demonstrates your skills in practice. Plus, a connection will be more likely to remember someone who helped them than someone who asked for help. Consider leveraging your international work experience here to indicate the unique value and perspective you can bring to a Canadian workplace. If your contact needs support with a project on an ongoing basis, it can even open the door to freelance or full-time opportunities in the future.

Portfolios speak louder than words 

If you work in a field where you can provide samples of your work, such as communications, design, engineering, or information technology (IT), a portfolio is an ideal way to showcase your best work. You can also start a blog to share your subject expertise – just remember to update it regularly! Your portfolio can be created through a personal website and then linked to your social media accounts. Alternatively, you can build a portfolio right in your LinkedIn profile so connections can easily view your samples with just a few clicks. Be sure to post what you upload, so your connections see what you can deliver.

Look beyond LinkedIn for networking opportunities 

Don’t forget about all the opportunities to network outside of LinkedIn. Consider industry-related associations and conventions for in-person networking events, as well as career fairs and business associations like chambers of commerce. With a little research, you may discover many that resonate with you, from local writers’ groups to women in business associations to meetups for young professionals. Job opportunities can surface through a variety of sources, so the more people you meet, the higher the likelihood you’ll learn about openings in the hidden job market. As a newcomer, these events can also help you acclimatize to the Canadian work culture in a relaxed environment.

Reach out to employers even if they don’t have advertised jobs 

You don’t have to wait until a job is posted to reach out to a company you’d like to work for. Reach out by phone or email to voice your interest in working for them and ask if you can meet to learn about their business and the skills they value in an employee. Use your elevator pitch to introduce yourself, adjusting it for each company. If you impress them, employers may keep you in mind for future positions. In some cases, fast-growing companies may be open to hiring you even if they weren’t actively recruiting for the role.

Leverage volunteer opportunities and survival jobs

You shouldn’t dismiss the effectiveness of volunteering – especially if the work you do is within, or adjacent to, your role or industry. Use it as an opportunity to showcase your skills, knowledge and work ethic, as well as share your career aspirations with others who may learn about new jobs before they’re posted externally. Even a survival job has the potential to grow your network and expose you to relevant jobs not yet posted publicly. Always keep an open mind and have your elevator pitch ever ready. 

Nurture your network 

Stay in touch after a coffee chat. It helps to keep a spreadsheet that details the people you’ve met including a record of what you discussed. Engage with them periodically on social media or send an occasional note asking how they are doing. If you come across an article that might be of interest to them, share it. This will help you remain top of mind should a relevant job open up in their network. 

Ask for advice

Since you’re new to the Canadian job market, asking for advice may be a great way to connect with other professionals and potential employers. You can choose to seek feedback on your elevator pitch, your resume, or your performance during an interview if you did not get an offer. Consider enquiring about your industry or desired role in Canada to understand the cultural differences that you may need to adjust to, such as jargon, scope, major players, and industry associations. This will improve your applications and expand the number of people invested in your success. Keep in mind not everyone will respond – but for those who do, it can turn into a valuable connection.

Tap into your second- and third-degree LinkedIn connections

An easy way to grow your LinkedIn network is to ask the first-degree connections with whom you’ve developed a rapport to introduce you to their connections. You can ask for targeted introductions by reviewing their LinkedIn connections and shortlisting a few people you feel would be most beneficial to meet. Of course, you can reach out to these connections on your own, but a warm connection is more effective.

Never burn any bridges

Always try to maintain a positive perspective on every connection you make. Don’t take any responses (or silences) personally. Keep in mind, people are busy and simply may not have time to respond to your requests. All your interactions should be courteous and professional, leaving the opportunity open to reconnect in the future. Burning bridges is a strategic mistake. You never know when you may need a referral from someone you’ve connected or worked with, or who may suddenly respond to a request after multiple attempts.  

As a newcomer, tapping into the hidden job market can be a difficult, but necessary strategy. Given the sheer volume of job openings that are filled through word-of-mouth or recruiters’ networks, you will stand a better chance of landing a suitable job if you can leverage your Canadian professional network. Referrals from your network not only give you access to jobs that aren’t posted publicly, but can also position you as a trusted candidate and get your resume to the top of the pile.