Most people get jobs through their extended network connections. This is even more the case in a tough economy. Employers want to pre-screen as much as possible, especially for a “culture fit.” They know that employees or colleagues tend to refer people most likely to meet qualifications and fit into the company culture.

In fact, quite a few employers have ceased posting some jobs. There is a bigger “hidden job market” than ever before. Because the job market continues to be very competitive, it is simply overwhelming for them to wade through the piles and files of resumes submitted by people. Many applicants are complete mismatches for the position because they lack the required qualifications or experience.

In addition to looking for referrals from people they know, employers and recruiters also are combing job sites and LinkedIn for people who have resumes containing plenty of relevant key words. If a job requires certain skills and experience, the search engines are now able to find those people among the many who have posted on Monster or HotJobs or LinkedIn.

This HotJobs article has some great tips on how to find the “hidden jobs.”

A key to finding “hidden jobs” is knowing what you want to do, what skills you love to use and want to use again, and the kind of companies you want to work for – industry, market position, culture, impact. Being specific about your goals allows you to do a few things better than most people. You can:

  1. Tell people in your extended network – those people one, two or more degrees removed from your immediate circle – exactly what you are looking for. They may not have anything, but they may be able to refer you to someone who does.
  2. Craft a resume and LinkedIn profile (and VisualCV) that emphasizes your core strengths and skills, shows off your accomplishments, and makes clear what you want to do next. Employers can then find YOU.
  3. Search online for companies that could use someone with your abilities, and target them for introductions, informational interviews, and connections through your existing network. Maybe that company doesn’t have jobs open now, but you may be top of mind later if they get to know you and see how interested you are and enthusiastic about working for them.

Getting specific about what you want to do helps you rise above the rest of the people looking for jobs. It conveys self-knowledge, self-confidence, and a sense of the value you can really provide to an employer.