Many job hunters know that by the time a position gets posted, several strong candidates are likely to be already under consideration — and that's if the spot hasn't already been filled.
In fact, about 85 percent of open positions are filled through networking rather than classifieds, according to a report by LinkedIn.
Yet it's possible to get the inside track on job openings before they become public, according to Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI.com, a business networking organization with more than 220,000 members worldwide.
Here are Misner's tips for getting a leg up:
The best networking strategy begins with friends, family and business contacts whom "you know, like and trust," Misner said. "Plant the seed that you are looking."
Since you'll be depending on your network to speak highly of you to their hiring manager and contacts, confidently tout your skills, Misner said. "If you look desperate and sound desperate, people will not refer you."
Assume any potential employer will take a look at your social media profile and give it a good once-over. Most job hunters know not to post drunken pictures from Saturday night, and bad language or overly political posts should also be avoided, Misner said.
Expand your circle to include LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends and so on, Misner said. "Don't forget to check in with neighbors, professional organizations, past customers and community organizations for more leads," he added. But don't start spamming, Misner cautioned. "Reach out individually to each potential contact."
The best networking is done on the ground, Misner said. Find out if someone in your network can connect you to a current employee at the company you are interested in, and then meet that person for coffee. If you don't have a lead, check in with the front desk and ask to meet with the HR director, Misner said.
"Be clear on your own skills and background, as well as research the company you are interested in and the person you are meeting with," Misner said. If that goes well, "ask them to consider you for a position before it opens up to the public."