Job Search Strategy #1-Building Your List of Target Companies

To effectively conduct a targeted job search, it is critical that you define a list of target companies.  To take a trip, you need a destination to enter in GPS.  You also need a target for your job search so you don’t expend valuable time and energy in unproductive aspects of your search.

Consider the Universe

Think about the types of companies you would hope to work for and start making a list.  Consider the industry and the products and services.  Think about location.  Consider size.  Do some initial brainstorming to capture a broad range of possibilities.  As you start to identify trends such as industry, do additional online research to identify other options.  You may not be aware of small to mid-sized companies in your desired industries without doing some online research.  At this stage, do not limit your thinking, just capture a broad list of possibilities.

Narrow the Focus

Now review your list and based on your very limited current knowledge, rank them based on your interest level as A – top priority, B – medium priority, and C – low priority.  You are not taking anything off the list at this point just focusing a bit for next steps.  I’d recommend capturing your data in a spreadsheet so you can continue to refine it as we move through the process.  For now, list companies and interest priority.  Sort by priority so your “A” companies are at the top.

Preliminary Research

For your “A” companies, do some quick research.  This is where you need to be careful not to fall into the trap of over-researching or getting distracted by online applications.  This is a quick review to further prioritize your list.  You need to do two things for each “A” company.  Check LinkedIn or your alumni database to see if there are alumni at that company.  Just yes or no on your spreadsheet in a column for alums.  Do not start looking up individuals, seeing what jobs they hold, etc.  Just yes or no, are there alums at the company.  Second lookup is on  Check to see if the company has posted positions in the last 2-3 months and if any were in your field.  Do not look up the jobs or apply right now.  Yes is the posted and Yes if there are jobs in your field.

Prioritize Your List and Start Networking

Now, resort your “A” companies so that companies with alumni connections and recent, relevant postings are now at the top of your list.  This helps you focus your search on the companies most important to you with the greatest opportunity to have an impact.  You will now work your way through your target companies in priority order looking to identify relevant alumni connections.  Ask for networking meetings and conduct informational interviews.  Learn all you can about those companies and their hiring processes.  Work to build strong relationships so you can an internal advocate when an appropriate position does post.  Keep track of your networking activity and what you learn about each company.  Make progress on networking in your target companies by setting weekly goals and holding yourself accountable.

Update and Refresh

As you work the process, it is likely that some “A” companies will drop lower on your list and you can repeat the process to move “B” companies further up the list.  Continue to use the same process to prioritize your list.  To effectively manage a job search, you should have between 30 and 50 target companies that you are working.

By prioritizing and monitoring your list you are focusing your networking on your top companies instead of random activities and this has a significant impact on your success.  Build a strong target list to lead you to success in your search.


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