Job Seeking Strategies - Section contents

A successful job search strategy will involve using both:

  • The published job market – positions advertised via online and print media
  • The hidden job market – opportunities which are not necessarily advertised, and are found by making direct approaches to employers, or being approached directly by employers

Approximately 50% of graduates find work through advertised positions, and 50% through the hidden job market.

Published Job Market

To make the most of the published job market:

  • Be familiar with the full range of job search sites including:
  • Take time to browse for opportunities on job sites; while it is useful to set job alerts, don't rely on these – browsing can also unearth opportunities that you may not have anticipated
  • Develop skills in 'reading' job advertisements to identify all realistic possibilities. Firstly, this means looking closely at advertisements so that you don't dismiss possibilities too easily. For example:
    • Qualifications – don't be limited by the disciplines or qualifications specified; think about whether your course has provided relevant skills; employers may not be aware of all relevant courses.
    • Experience – where some experience is asked for or preferred, don't be put off if you have little experience - emphasise your skills instead; at the same time, if a number of years of experience is asked for, and you have none, then it is probably not the job for you
    • Selection Criteria – don't expect to meet every criterion fully; keep in mind that those at the top of the list tend to be most important.


At the same time, it is important to 'read' job advertisements closely to make a realistic assessment of whether the job is really suitable for you. For example, if five years of experience is being asked for, and you have six months, then this is not the job for you.

Competitive job applications are time consuming. It is generally better to do fewer high quality applications than to do many mediocre ones….and better to use your energy on applications which have realistic chance of success and save time for these by avoiding 'long shots'.


Hidden Job Market

Using the hidden job market means that either you directly approach employers, or they approach you.

Here are some examples of hidden job market in action:

  • being offered work following an internship or voluntary involvement
  • being referred to an employer by someone in your network who works in the organisation
  • directly approaching an employer of interest
  • being offered a professional position by an employer for whom you did part-time work while studying

The most common approach, especially for career entry positions, is to approach employers directly, though it is becoming increasingly possible for employers to approach job seekers eg by viewing profiles on LinkedIn or other online platforms.

Employers are generally pleased to receive well thought out approaches (as recruitment is a very expensive business, if organisations can recruit from a short-list of promising candidates, this works for the them too!). Even organisations who are required to advertise eg public sector, also take note of any promising approaches; while you may not go straight to the job, you have a good chance of 'leapfrogging' to the short-list.

Being able to represent yourself directly to employers is widely practised and considered a necessary professional skill in contemporary work life.

There are two steps involved in approaching employers:

  • identifying employers to approach
  • making your approach

Identifying employers to approach

Making direct approaches only works if you have a well-developed idea about what you want to do, for whom and why. Your approach needs to be purposeful, making it clear to an employer why you have chosen to approach them, and what you have to offer.

There are a number of ways of identifying organisations to approach. In addition to organisations you have in mind already….

  • think about employers with whom you already have a connection eg organisations where you have undertaken work experience or part-time work
  • ask people in your network if they know of opportunities or organisations in your interest area
  • research to identify organisations eg using online organisation directories (Yellow Pages business directory, lists on Professional Associations sites), industry reports such as produced by IBIS (available via LibGuides), media searches

Organisations can be approached as a 'warm call' or a 'cold call'.

Warm calling means that you can use the name of a contact in approaching someone in the organisation and usually that your contact will have provided a name of someone in the organisation to whom you can direct your enquiry.

Cold calling is perfectly acceptable; however, it can be easier and more fruitful if you can warm call. This relies on having a network and knowing how to make use of that network.

The document below outlines how to identify, build and use your network effectively.

Knowing, Growing & Using Your Network

Approaching employers

Employers can be approached via phone, email or on occasions, in person. Which of these is appropriate will vary with the type of organisation and your own style.

It is critical to be well prepared – to have a good understanding of the organisation, why you have targeted the organisation, and be able to articulate this clearly, whether in writing or in person.

For organisations of particular interest, aim to meet with the employer to discuss your interest more broadly rather than focusing only on immediate opportunities; this way, you may be remembered for opportunities which come up subsequently.

The document below provides more detail on how to plan your approach and what you will say in a direct approach.

Approaching Employers

The slides below intoduce you to LinkedIn and how you can use the platform to build your network

LinkedIn: Build Networks, Find Career Direction

Further resources that oultined the benefits of a LinkedIn profile and presence are available at https://university.linkedin.com/linkedin-for-students