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Are You a “Hidden Worker?”

The Harvard Business Review has released a new study this month about what they have termed to be “hidden workers.” Comprising roughly 27 million people in the United States, this segment of the workforce has the power to significantly benefit the economy by filling job vacancies of all skill levels.


So…are you one of them?


Working mom holding a baby

The researchers define hidden workers as a diverse mix of individuals: veterans, caregivers returning to the work force, those with disabilities, immigrants, those previously incarcerated, those with a career gap or without a college degree, and those who have had to relocate. These people are often actively seeking employment, yet they struggle to make it through the first steps of the hiring process.


What makes them “hidden?”


Though they have different backgrounds, hidden workers have one thing in common: they are typically overlooked when it comes to the hiring process. According to the study, there are several reasons for this:


1. Hiring Technology


Applicant Tracking Systems and Recruiting Management Systems, which we have covered in several Revision Resume blogs, are partially to blame.

Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Software

This software is designed to help human resources by filtering and sorting candidates whose resumes match certain exact keywords in the job description. Companies often keep adding new technology or requirements to their job posts, so more and more words are required for the system to label your resume as a “match.” If the ATS/RMS doesn’t find what it’s looking for, it will bounce your resume out of the running.


2. Job Training


Many types of training are only offered or funded on the job. Without current employment to give you access to this software or these skills, it is difficult to position yourself as an ideal candidate.


3. Company Mindset


Often, if a company does hire a hidden worker, it is seen as an act of charity. This can make it hard for the new hire to feel and be seen as an equal among their peers. In addition, hiring managers are often rewarded based on how fast or cheaply they can bring someone new on board, instead of hiring with longevity in mind.


The situation as it stands has serious consequences: namely, 27 million people—all with something to offer—are being passed over, creating hardship for them and for companies that are struggling to fill open positions.


One of the most striking findings from the study is that hidden workers “outperform their peers materially on six key evaluative criteria—attitude and work ethic, productivity, quality of work, engagement, attendance, and innovation.” (4)


If hidden workers are such an asset, and “companies who hire hidden workers are 36% less likely to face talent and skills shortages compared to companies that do not hire hidden workers,” what could help solve the problem? In our next blog, we’ll take a look at what you can do as a hidden worker/job seeker to step out of the shadows!


Source: Fuller, J., Raman, M., Sage-Gavin, E., Hines, K., et al (September 2021). Hidden Workers: Untapped Talent. Published by Harvard Business School Project on Managing the Future of Work and Accenture.

Related Reading:

What is this Applicant Tracking System I Keep Hearing About?

Why are Keywords so Important?

Can I Cut Corners to Beat the ATS?

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