6.3 Why Research Is the Key Differentiator to a Successful Job Search

Learning Objectives

  1. Review how research can be used to support all stages of your job search.
  2. Understand how research can be used to access the hidden job market.

Research Is Useful at All Stages of Your Job Search

Table 6.2 How Research Can Help You at Each Step of the Job Search

Six Steps to Job Search Success Research can help you…
Step 1: Identify your targets. Confirm that your targets fit your decision criteria.
Step 2: Create a compelling marketing campaign. Tailor your marketing to fit your desired target’s requirements.
Step 4: Network. Establish your credibility as someone worth meeting.
Step 4: Interview. Position yourself as the best candidate for the job.
Step 5: Stay motivated, organized, and troubleshoot your search. Identify any gaps that may lead to search problems, or find additional targets as needed.
Step 6: Negotiate and close the offer. Determine customary compensation levels and structure so you know what to negotiate for.

In Section 1 of this chapter, we mentioned how the different items you research help you confirm and refine the work you did in steps 1 and 2. Research also helps to drive your job search forward into job-related networking and interviewing opportunities. The knowledge gained from the research lets people know you are committed to your search and career. When busy senior people decide who to grant networking meetings, this preparation is a key differentiator. When you get the meeting or job interview, the research enables you to give legitimate reasons for your interest in the job and to talk intelligently about how your skills and experience relate.

If your search has problems to troubleshoot in step 5, research will help you find additional characteristics to emphasize or to add more targets to your list. As you negotiate your offer in step 6, the research you did on what is customary for compensation levels and structure enables you to know what to negotiate for.

Research Lets You Access the Hidden Job Market

The hidden job marketThe market of jobs that are not posted publicly. refers to jobs that are not posted publicly. This happens a lot more often than you may think. The Five O’Clock Club, a national outplacement and coaching firm, estimates that most jobs are filled outside job postings.See point 3 at http://www.fiveoclockclub.com/2011/02/unemployed-for-a-long-period-of-time Put yourself in the position of the hiring organization:

  • They need to hire because they are busy.
  • They are too busy to spend time hiring.
  • They may want to post the job and do an exhaustive search.
  • If someone walks through the door and fits exactly what they need, they can just take that person and solve their problem immediately without all the hassle of a job search.
  • Furthermore, the person who knows about the need (the hiring manager) is not human resources (unless the need is in human resources, of course).
  • There are always at least three steps before a job is posted: (1) the need is discovered, (2) HR is called in, and (3) the job is posted.
  • Keep in mind that the job may not ever be posted, even if HR is called in. Maybe HR has a candidate already in mind, for example, someone who was interviewed for another position. If taking someone already known to the organization and already qualified means a faster hire, an open job may never be posted.

If you have researched your organizations and know either the hiring manager or HR, then you get a jump on everyone else who is waiting for the posting.

The Best Research Gets You to the Hiring Manager

Look back at the research suggested in Sections 1 and 2, and recall that it focuses on getting an inside understanding of jobs, organizations, and industries. You are trying to understand exactly how the job, organization, or industry works and how it is structured so that you can interact in and among people of that job, organization, or industry, ultimately landing in the exact department and in front of that hiring manager where you’d like to work.

For a specific job within a specific organization, you want an organizational chartA map or diagram of how a company, organization, or group is structured—who reports into whom from the top of an organization to the bottom. that answers the following questions:

  • What is the exact title of this job?
  • What is the name of the department where this job resides?
  • Who manages the people in this job?
  • Who runs the department? What is the relationship among the people in the job, the direct manager, and the department head?
  • Are there other departments that interact with this one?
  • Are there other decision makers who will influence the hiring decision?
  • How does the department report into senior management?
  • Will senior management be involved in the hiring decision?

As you research the responsibilities, day-to-day activity, and reporting structure of a job and the locations and structure of an organization, you want to keep this organizational chart in mind and try to fill in as much as you can. Sometimes you will see specific names cited in a news article or as part of an online community. Mostly, however, you will have just overall department head names and the senior-most staff, and you will need to use networking to get the actual names of people beneath the senior staff. Even though you need networking to get the rest of the way, the research to date is crucial to get an overall outline and to establish your credibility as an insider who people are willing to help.

The Hidden Job Market Resides within the Individual Departments

Once you are networked into the target department, it is a question of staying in touch with the departments where the jobs you want reside. This way, when they need to hire, they think of you right away. They don’t need to worry about posting the job, as you are readily available to help them. Remember that the jobs reside in these individual departments, not in a general job board overall or even in a specific organization’s job board. You want to get as close to where the job originates as possible.

A good example of finding a job in the hidden job market by getting close to the job originator is Luisa B. Luisa had an interest in health-care finance, specifically working in the accounting area of hospitals. She joined a trade association that focused on health-care finance issues. She researched the market of hospitals in her area to determine all of the hospital names, the department names where they handled finance, and the names of the finance officers. She conducted informational interviews of these finance officers and kept in touch with news from the trade association. A few weeks after starting this process, one of her early interviewees called her back: there was a position opening up and they thought of her. She got the job.

Key Takeaways

  • Research is helpful in all stages of your search.
  • Research can drive your search forward to networking meetings and interviews.
  • Research into the hiring departments and managers can help you access jobs that aren’t posted—the hidden job market.


  1. Do you know decision makers who hire, even for jobs you don’t want? If you have a friendly relationship with people in a position to hire, ask them about the reporting structure within their own firm. Ask about decision making during the job search process. Practice with them filling out an organizational chart. Of course, this is just a sample for an organization and role you may not want, but it’s good practice.
  2. For jobs you do want, do you have a basic understanding of how you might find your way to the decision makers?
  3. What research resources will you use to get an organizational chart that reveals the decision makers for the jobs you want?