Seek out the market's hidden opportunities

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 October, 2009, 12:00am

In uncertain times, many opportunities in the employment market are not immediately apparent. According to some human resources specialists and others in the field, only half of employment opportunities are advertised through public recruitment channels or released to recruitment and executive research firms.

There can be a string of reasons for this. Some hiring managers tend to hire by referral because it is easier and less risky to hire someone who they know or have contact with, particularly when the budget for recruitment is scaled back in the present market. Sometimes companies may tally the hiring needs from various departments and plan for the best time to launch their recruitment programmes, and this usually takes time before they are made known to the public. As a proactive job-seeker, one of your responsibilities is to keep yourself well informed about the latest trends not only in the job market, but also the development of the industries or companies you are interested in. For example, if you have read in the news that a company is launching new products or services, and venturing into new business areas, you could deduce from the information that it may need more staff to support the new initiatives and will soon be hiring people. In cases like this, it is definitely possible to access these hidden vacancies by approaching your target companies to get a head start in gaining an edge over prospective competitors.

Look for the hidden job market Mass mailings of your r?sum? in the generic format are not effective in selling yourself to companies for vacancies in the hidden job market. To get better results, you need to tailor every self-marketing cover letter and r?sum? to the needs of the target company. To increase the chances of a positive response, you should do thorough research on the company through channels such as the corporate website, annual reports, press releases and people who have a good understanding of the business or the company. To have an impact, make sure you personalise your letter and highlight your attributes and achievements closely linked to the firm's business needs and latest developments. To increase the efficacy of your self-marketing letter, you should follow up with a call after a few days to introduce yourself and enquire about the progress of your pitch. Demonstrate your enthusiasm and be open to any possible opportunities the company suggests.

Update your skills and become marketable If your skills have become outdated, you may need to identify new skills and knowledge that can help increase your chances of landing your dream role within or outside of your company. Commit to the job hunt by creating a marketing plan and check out employment opportunities at your ideal organisations or fields of interest. Studying for additional qualifications is always a good way to enhance your competitiveness in the workplace. Seemingly, everyone tries to gain a higher degree but you need to consider whether the qualifications you are pursuing are essential to raise you to the next level in your career. Though a master's degree would give some applicants an advantage to stand out from the crowd, it is no substitute for work experience, at least in some roles such as customer service and sales. Employers in the private or business sector don't look at the educational background of an employee as the only pointer to be considered for a job promotion. If you have identified a gap in your present skills or professional knowledge and decided to enrol in a course of study, it is important to choose the right course. For example, a higher degree in business management is an added quality but not essential for accountants whose expert knowledge should focus on accounting. To some employers, a higher degree from a reputable overseas university means the candidate not only has good academic training but also good English language skills. Some employers may be concerned that local applicants are not used to thinking outside of the box, and an additional master's degree would help to some extent. Taking a course to acquire new knowledge and skills can help you make a smoother transition into a new role within your own or in other sectors.

Practise and refresh your interview skills and techniques After having been inactive in job hunting for some time, it is possible that your interview skills have become rusty, especially if you are looking for a different role in the same industry or a similar role in a different industry. Role play with friends or human resources specialists in different interview scenarios, predict the questions you will be asked and come up with appropriate answers. They can give you feedback and help you identify areas that require improvement. This can help you get enough practice for the real interview and build up confidence.

Top tips

Look for the hidden job market

Update your skills and become marketable

Practise and refresh your interview skills and techniques'