I’ve lost count of how many clients have told me, “I’ve applied for so many jobs and haven’t gotten any responses. I just don’t know what to do.”

The irony is that although 80% of jobs are never posted online, you’re likely spending 80% of your job searching time online. This severely limits your options, since employers are now conducting more “stealth searches” – also known as the Hidden Job Market.

What is the Hidden Job Market?

Employers may not post jobs online, even though they are actively searching for qualified candidates. This means that as a job seeker, you’re better off placing yourself into your targeted employer’s referral pools. This requires a more strategic and proactive approach than searching through online job boards.

Why aren’t jobs advertised online?

It’s time-consuming and expensive to manage the hundreds of applications that come in through online job postings. Employers will therefore first reach out to people they know, and then to their networks for referrals and recommendations for potential candidates. This saves them time and money. Unfortunately you, the job seeker, may slip through the cracks if you’re one of the hundreds of candidates applying online.

What this means for you?

To be a successful job seeker, you need to tap into the Hidden Job Market. In today’s competitive world, every resume and application submitted for an advertised job competes with hundreds of others. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) use specific algorithms to extract key words and relevant information, scoring each resume for the most qualified candidates – all before a human being ever sees it. Recruiters then use the scores, as well as key-words, to search for candidates.

If you aren’t using the right key words, if your resume isn’t formatted correctly, or if you’re not using very specific language, you’ll be lost in the ATS abyss forever!
Networking is a Must

“How”, you ask, “can I access this magical Hidden Job Market?” My short answer: become an employee referral. According to the 2015 Jobvite Recruiter Survey, over ¾ of recruiters say their best candidates come through referrals from current employees.

This list of 7 ways to become a referral will greatly increase your access to the Hidden Job Market:

1.) Former employers, clients, and co-workers. These folks know better than anyone what you’re capable of professionally. If they’re unable to offer you a position, they’re most likely well-positioned to refer and recommend you to others.

2.) Your alma mater. Many recruiters and employers contact local colleges and universities to advertise positions. It’s also well-known that alumni associations regularly share opportunities with their members. These are positions that aren’t generally available to the general public.

3.) Your local library. There’s a reason why over 30 million people use libraries for employment-related activities! Many public libraries have premium databases related to employment, as well as free resources and instruction to help patrons in their job search. Some even have librarians who specialize in career resources.

4.) Professional development / industry-related events & seminars. These are good places to improve your skills while meeting influential people. Build up your courage to speak to the speakers at these events, keep up-to-date with trends, and participate in online forums and association websites.

5.) Volunteering. Helping an organization related to your target career gives you huge kudos in most industries. Not only are these additional opportunities to stay on top of industry trends, and get inside information on who is hiring, but you’ll have tangible experience for your resume.

6.) Social Media. Using social media to research your target organizations can provide valuable information about who works there, what projects they’re working on, and what the culture is like. You can use this information to craft a message and resume that gets noticed. Active participate in LinkedIn groups, thoughtful responses to Pulse articles, and meaningful conversations with 2nd and 3rd tier connections can also help you to connect with the right people.

7.) Niche job boards. The hidden job market is more likely to be found within niche job boards – which cater to a specific profession or industry – rather than mega job sites. Since there are so many search sites in cyberspace, do a little research into which one(s) are best for your position/industry.

Stay in touch with your network

It should go without saying, but if you only reach out to people when you’re job hunting, they probably won’t be as inclined to help you. Putting in the effort to maintain the great relationships you’ve built will go a long way.

This article originally appeared at CareerMetis.com