Why The “80% Hidden Job Market” Is A Bologna Statistic.

Growing up, I was always wary of the hidden job market. I was told when looking for work that 80% or “x-percentage” of jobs were not advertised. It was perplexing. I mean, how could someone being hiring but not actively looking? Or, how could they expect to find a viable candidate when no one knows?

It was confounding to me for a number of reasons.

Still, it held somewhat true for me. I found my first job working at our local computer shop, merely by being a customer. I was around 14-years old and since I lived in a town small enough where we can get to know our customers, they had noticed the repairs/changes I had made to my family computer each time my mom and I brought it in to be fixed.

The ironic part is that most of my modifications required “professional” help, but they saw what I was doing and thought I was trainable.

Nonetheless, this was back in 2002-2003. Back when people were still running Windows ’97 and Minesweeper was all the rage. Back when people were still deciding whether or not the Internet was an essential service (spoiler alert: it kind of is…). Back when people hadn’t leveraged the true communicative capacities that the personal computer and the internet offer — i.e. still picked up the phone with a cheesy “Hello, you’ve reached the ____ residence.” greeting.


It was understandable that there were numerous jobs that weren’t advertised. Spending the start of my adult career working in Human Resources and Recruitment, I started to understand why and how certain jobs could be sought after but not overtly advertised.

  1. It wasn’t always a top priority; rather, it was something they would love to have but it wasn’t on the top of their to-do list.
  2. They didn’t have the infrastructure to post jobs — i.e. they may have been a small outfit and saw success in having people come to them for job opportunities.
  3. It could have been something they weren’t aware they needed; i.e. with my job above. They weren’t actively recruiting or even interviewing candidates. Rather, they saw a young, trainable person that they wanted to develop. The return I brought vs. the pay I earned was a plus for them, so it was a no-brainer to bring someone on that they trained to essentially earn the organization $90/hour while being paid just above minimum wage.
  4. There are likely more reasons, but those are all that are terribly pertinent at the moment.


Regardless, the way job-seekers and employers interacted in the labour market was profoundly different than today. It’s almost considered “odd” to walk into an employer with your resume and cover letter unless they have requested it. Heck, even most job postings have a disclaimer prohibiting candidates from phoning in, walking in, or the like, to inquire about the job.

Where, back when I was getting my first job, it was the absolute norm. I mean, unless you saw a “Hiring” sign out front of the organization, or read in the newspaper, there weren’t a lot of options to find available jobs online.

Still, being a cynical person in nature, I always wondered how they came up with those statistics I would see. The norm would suggest that at any time, the hidden job market would compose 80%+ of the entire labour market. So, I always asked, who came up with these numbers? How are they able to extrapolate accurately? And most importantly, WHY are so many jobs unadvertised?


Looking back, it was remotely understandable how so many employers could be hiring without directly advertising. Simply put, it was a different labour market and the approaches to hiring and job-seeking were vastly different.

However, when you fast-forward to the labour market in 2018, it’s absolutely inconceivable to think that even 50% of the jobs available are in the “hidden” job market. While full-cycle recruitment may not be as quick or efficient, I can guarantee you that any employer out there who can type and has access to the internet (either with a computer or a phone) can post a job in less than 5-minutes if they want to.

You have multiple websites that are DEDICATED to posting jobs and retrieving applications. If you’re self-employed and hiring, you can post for free on indeed.ca, Craigslist, and many other websites out there. You can access local employment services centres and inform them of your openings/what you’re hiring for.

So, when I see articles talking about the hidden job market, and how it’s an untapped market, I question it. Are they just recycling old myths about the job market that are throwing people off? Are they actually convinced with any form of objective measures that these numbers are true? Most importantly, if there is an employer out there who cannot take even 5-minutes to post a job, are you sure it’ll be a good fit?

Sure, there are still plenty of organizations you can reach out to with varying levels of success, and inquiring about roles that aren’t available. I’m not trying to dissuade you from reaching out, but, in my professional experience, you would have to be making a pretty darn compelling case for your hire, to expect them to create a role for you.