The Hidden Job Market [part 2]

In Part 1 we spoke about how companies hire, how to find jobs that people don’t know about, and tools that you can use to find these jobs.

Now that you have this information, we can take action. Rock n’ roll baby.

Putting the Technique to Use

The first thing you could do is use those tools to setup automatic alerts. You could then research into companies you are interested in, and start reaching out to them if you think they might be hiring based on the above criteria.

We need to be proactive, organized and strategic. We’re now stepping into the real territory of the hidden job market.

So here’s what we’ll do next:

  1. Create a Target List. Based on your research, make a list of 50 companies that you think are growing or have given some indication that they might be hiring.
  2. Organize. Download this free CRM tool Inisghtly to manage the list and stay organized. Or you can use Google Sheets/Excel if you prefer. Separate your columns into company name, contact (hiring managers name), links, action taken and notes. It should look something like this:
Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 12.27.34 PM.png

3. Include Relevant Articles/Info

Under the “links” and “notes” columns you can plug in articles you found online or through google alerts for your reference. For example, if Amazon announces the launch of Amazon Echo Platform in the U.S which you found out about through their press release, then you know that it will probably launch in Japan. But when? I don’t know, probably very soon. Save that article.

4. Identify Key Stakeholders

Continuing with the same example, you could reach out to the Head of Amazon Echo business, or whatever their title is, in the U.S. There is certainly some head honcho in Head Quarters that would be responsible for expanding into Japan. Maybe the head of international expansion? Or wherever.

The point is we need to identify the key stakeholders in the company — the hiring managers like Amanda who I mentioned previously. Now if one of the companies you are contacting is very small or in startup phase, then it might be relatively easy to reach out to the founder/CEO. Their info could be listed on or you could connect with them on Facebook. For larger companies like Amazon that will be difficult, so it’s better to pin point who the hiring manager is for the department you are interested in.

If you’re interested in marketing, then you should be aiming for the marketing director. Sales, the sales director. Engineering, senior engineering managers/CTOs. And so forth. Figure out what your bosses title might be hypothetically.

You can find all of this information through LinkedIn by searching for the titles of the people followed by their company name. Here is a good article on how to use LinkedIn.

5. Create Something Valuable

In order to get noticed you will have to go the extra mile.

If you know that a company is going to a release a new product and needs a product manager to develop it, then you can take steps to brainstorm ideas, create product road map, and throw together a 10 page power point presentation. Solidifying your ideas and presenting them will be part of the interview process anyways, so you’re just leaping a few steps forward.

Why put in the work in before you even reach out to the company? I know most people won’t do this. It seems time consuming, and it is. You won’t want to do this for every company you reach out if there’s 50 on your list, and it’s not always possible.

But saying “I have an idea for your product” or “I have a plan for your product that I would like to run by you” is a lot more powerful than just introducing yourself and saying your interested. If you have something ready to show the hiring manager, it will boost your confidence and will increase your chances of getting noticed tremendously.

What could you possibly create?

-If you’re an engineer, a product plan or service idea.

-If you’re a sales person, a new sales approach and map of prospects.

-If you’re a teacher, a teaching plan for students.

-If you’re a marketor, an in depth marketing plan

-If you’re a PR manager, lay out your approach to create buzz

-If you’re in operations, present an idea to improve workflow

-If you’re in business development, explain a partnership model and plan of attack

-If you’re a translator, translate something valuable for them

-If you’re a UI designer, create some great mock ups or suggest improvements

Alternatively, you could show them samples of work from your previous job if you have that.

6. Making the Approach: Email, LinkedIn

Now comes the hard part. You have a list of companies you think might be hiring, relevant research, and the names of hiring managers.

We are going to customize our approach for each individual employer and we’re going to reach out to them, expressing our interest in their business. A key reminder is that we are NOT going to reach out to HR, because they are gatekeepers and are there to protect the status quo (usually). Instead we are reaching out to the hiring managers in your list.

Let’s contact them on LinkedIn first because that’s simple. Download a free tool like Google Chrome Hunter extension for LinkedIn. This allows you to view peoples emails addresses on LinkedIn. It’s a pretty nifty tool.

Using the information you’ve gathered you can craft an email/message to the hiring manager directly. Four points to include in your message:

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Show them something valuable
  3. Demonstrate knowledge of the company (reference an article or something about the company)
  4. Express your interest in working for them
  5. Suggest a phone call or meeting.

Hey [First Name],

I’ve been following your business closely and excited to hear about new phase of your business with the recent funding of 10m USD — congrats!

I wanted to reach out and share with you the [power point plan/strategy/deliverable/idea] I already took the time to develop for [Company Name]. It’s built around what I know works, through my experience in building [Previous Company’s] [X,Y,Z Project or Product] with [experience] Check out [Link to Project Example] I created, that’s done X,Y,Z for [Previous Company] and has had [Results, # Downloads, # Signups, etc].

I’m currently based in Tokyo and have a very solid foundation for working in/with [Relevant Languages/Relevant Tools]. I’m looking forward to helping [Company Name] and would love to have an opportunity to discuss further.

Let me know when you have a moment to chat this week.


[Your Name]

What happens if Amanda responds to you now? Perhaps she will want to meet you, or perhaps she will not. If she does not, then try different managers inside the organization until someone says yes.

Often times hiring managers will forward your email or message to HR. This is a good thing, actually. Why? Because now you are anointed. You are special. There is a halo over your head. The VP or Director has suggested you to HR or whoever, so in the eyes of HR you seem a lot more legitimate now. Whether or not you are legitimate or not is besides the point, and if you are forwarded to HR you’re more likely to see things more forward faster.


7. Pick up the phone

You’ve done a lot more than most people have — congratulations. Now you can use your CRM tool or Excel list to keep track of who responds and follow up with them again with a second email.

Email and linked in don’t always work, of course, so you’ll have to push a bit more. You can also use other social media — even Facebook and Twitter — to identity hiring managers. Sometimes managers will make slide decks on Slideshare or their projects on Github.

But also, you could try calling them. Nobody uses the phone anymore. In fact, some companies don’t even have landlines so this seem tricky. But some do, so it’s worth checking.

The goal of the phone call is to get a meeting with the hiring manager. If you know that they are hiring with a job post, then you can mention that specific job post.

However, if you do not know they are hiring, which could likely be the case since we are assuming this based on your research, then you will have to give them something of value, or else meeting you is a waste of time.

Again, you definitely need to prepare certain ideas, a marketing plan, service idea, or something tangible that you would like to show them in your meeting.

Your phone approach is going to be similar to your email approach — introducing yourself and expressing interest in their business, and asking for a meeting. Here is a list of great cold call phone approaches that you can use.

What can you do to increase the chances of them responding?

#1 Network. Be Present.

Going back to my description about the hiring manager Amanda who is desperately looking for an engineer, her first stop will be asking her direct colleagues and existing network for referrals to good engineers. You want to be the person that is referred to Amanda. But how could you do that, if you don’t even know Amanda and her colleagues? How do you get referred? Why would people refer you in the first place?

Here’s the thing:

Most people don’t have a list of great referrals in their heads of all of the people they think could do the job. They might know one person. People are going to clearly remember someone that they met recently, especially if that person stood out for some reason. 

You want to be that person.

The easiest way to get in front of people is to network with them at events, and you increase your likelihood of being at the forefront of Amanda or one of her teammates minds.

They key to networking is actually straightforward. Don’t approach “networking” as a business conversation, and don’t try and meet a lot of people. Treat it casually — people are attracted to those who are approachable and don’t seem like they are there for their own personal gain. If you’re they’re for fun, it’ll actually be easier to network.

Any networking event should have one goal in mind: have at least one decent, semi-long conversation with someone. If you meet one person and get to know them, share some stories, have an interesting conversation, then you’re much better off than taking a “spray and pray” approach of throwing your business card at people.

#2 Demonstrate Knowledge

One of Amanda’s first stops will be LinkedIn and other news, media or websites…maybe  Github if you are engineer, or if you are generally interested in startups (or go to an FCCJ event in Tokyo if you are interested in journalism or writing). And she will start looking for people active in the community. She will look for people who are posting frequently, she will be looking for people who show their work online, and who have some sort of clout or social presence online.

In order to further increase your chances of getting noticed by a hiring manager, we have to take a proactive approach. Here’s what you can do:

Start posting and creating content about a topic of interest. It doesn’t matter where it is, but find out the groups where people in your industry of interest hang out. Subreddits, Quora, blogs. Start commenting on blogs that you like — Techniasia blog, for example if you are interested in Asian startups. When you do this you begin to build your personal brandOnce you write something it will always be online, so just write it and forget about it.

Someone will see a comment you posted. People will start talking to you, giving you feedback. You can comment on other peoples comments. They will be directed to your linked in profile. This can lead to several different opportunities for someone to reach out to you. A great example of this is how Victor, who I interview in my other blog post, really put his work and app projects online to be easily discoverable, and then eventually a company contacted him on which turned into a gig in Japan!

A great resource that breaks down the steps to marketing yourself can be found here — the side project marketing checklist. 

What about using recruiters? 

I definitely think there are some fantastic recruiters out there, and if you are lucky to find one then your chances of success will naturally increase. Many people get jobs through recruiters — I know because I used to be one. They will do everything I lined out in the steps above for you, so you don’t have to be as proactive.

However, I will add that recruiters are paid by companies looking to fill positions…this is the business model. They find you a job, and the company pays them. Ultimately they have the best interest of the clients in mind, not necessarily yours.

What does this mean? It means you have to look out for yourself and be proactive — and no matter what you must take full ownership of your job search. You and only you are responsible.

Wrapping it up now…

Let me conclude by saying that nothing good in life comes easy.  The first step to acquiring a skill or tasting success usually comes from is gaining access to knowledge and learning. Sometimes you have to admit that the habits you picked up and the methods you were taught in the past are no longer relevant.

There is certainly a learning curve. The second piece is more difficult and requires hard work and persistence — this is where most people give up.

They are handed the keys to the door but they never turn the doorknob.

Now you have the information and tools at your fingertips — what actions will you take today?


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Japan-based writer, consultant and entrepreneur.

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