So where do you want to work, anyway? That’s the million-dollar question.  

We believe in treating a job search like a sales funnel. You need to start with dozens (and maybe 100+) of opportunities at the top to reach a handful of offers at the end. 

One of the biggest challenges in a job search is not knowing what opportunities are even available. Most people default to checking out the job boards. The problem with this strategy is two-fold: every job you see could have hundreds of other great applicants, and some of the best companies never even post their jobs!

We advise people to make your own path in your job search: start with identifying companies doing things you’re passionate about. Do a lot of research and force yourself to identify 50+ companies and track them on a spreadsheet creating a list of companies you want to target (Target Company List). Figure out who you know at these companies and what they are hiring for. Anyone that has done sales knows that you need to track every step with every contact. Nothing can slip through the cracks. This can seem like a daunting process but the good news is we’ve already outlined the process job seekers should follow so that potential job opportunities aren’t missed. 

What is a Target Companies List? 

A target company list is a working document that will help keep track of organizations and opportunities that you’ve identified as being a potential fit for your next employer. Once complete, the list will comprise of companies that make practical sense and others that are more unconventional and exciting to you as an individual. These could be places that have piqued your interest because they align with your skillset, are known for having an excellent culture, or because their mission is something you believe in. Whatever the reason, these are places that are worth exploring. 

Why should I create a Target Companies List? 

Simply put, job searching is overwhelming. It’s time-consuming and if you aren’t using your time wisely you’re wasting it. It might seem like a good idea to apply to 100+ jobs but it isn’t if you’re applying to jobs that don’t match your skill sets, goals, or interests. You should be dedicating your time to applying for jobs at companies you believe are a good fit for you. Streamlining the job search process to target companies you’re interested in by narrowing down your search allows you to better track open opportunities, strategically use your network to gain referrals, and ultimately get your resume in front of the right people. 

How to create a Target Companies List

Ideally, the template of your list should be created using spreadsheet software like Excel, Google Sheets, or Apple Numbers. You should create additional columns to capture other pertinent information like location, company website, connections from your network, and links to their career website (if they have one). We’ve attached our template, which you are free to use! 

Now it’s time to start brainstorming companies to add to your list.  But where do you start? We’ve provided some jumping-off points to help get you going. Challenge yourself to identify 5-10 based companies based on the concepts below:

  • Competitors – An obvious and common choice for a new job. Direct competitors of your current company will value your profile because of how easily your skill set and market knowledge can be applied in a new setting. If you’re not already aware of who your competitors are, a quick Google search or business information tools like Owler and Craft can help.   
  • Industry – Sometimes your market knowledge and skillset is still desired by companies beyond your direct competition. Identifying companies within the same industry, in a more general sense, widens the scope of possibilities. Try to think of clients, suppliers, and vendors that your company currently works with as they could be in the same industry and value your experience. A Google and LinkedIn search can also help identify companies in a particular industry.  
  • Location – Location is an important yet sometimes forgotten factor when developing a target list. It’s a good idea to consider what companies are a commutable distance from home. How far are you willing to commute every day for the right job? Depending on where you live this could help you narrow down your list very quickly. Are you planning on relocating? If so, considering location should be one of the first items you consider while building your target list. 
  • Best of Lists (Glassdoor, Forbes, BuiltIn, Crains) – if you’re looking for ‘the best small start-up for millennials in the Midwest’ the good news is someone has probably already created a list for that and a million other ‘best of’ lists as well. Glassdoor, Forbes, Builtin, and Crains (just to name a few) offer ‘best-of lists’ and in some cases also share open jobs from the ‘best of’ companies too. Spend time looking through the lists that align with your interests, read the descriptions of each company, and add the companies that fit your industry interests and your ideal company culture to your target list.
  • Your Network – Talk to your friends, family, and previous co-workers. Where do they work? Why did they decide to work there? Would they recommend these places to someone that is looking for a new job?  If these companies sound like a good fit ask if they are hiring or if your connection is comfortable being a referral. 
  • Peer Group – Besides your direct network, try to identify any individuals that have a similar background to you and see which companies they’ve worked at. These can be people with similar educational backgrounds, similar skillsets, or people who’ve worked at the same companies like you. You might not know these people directly, but if you have a similar background, their company movements could be as equally applicable to your job search. LinkedIn is a great tool to research this. 
  • Hobbies/Interests/Passions  – This is a more creative one. Think of the activities and related products that you’re passionate about outside of work. There is likely a company that services that space and is full of people who are as equally passionate as you. Sports, outdoor activities, entertainment, fashion, games, exercise equipment/classes, charity work, crafts, food, and beverages are all areas to explore. These companies will likely have nothing to do with your current company or professional network, but that doesn’t mean they won’t need someone with your skillset. 
  • Alumni Networks – Alumni networks are a great resource for students and recent college graduates in their job search but they’re also a great resource for folks that are already in the workforce. It’s never too early or too late to utilize your alumni network. 

For current college students networking with alumni early on can help you during your career exploration phase. Talking with alumni from a variety of industries during your freshman and sophomore can help you figure out your professional career path and the best classes to take to get there. Connecting with alumni early on in your college career puts you in a better position for networking when you’re close to graduating. Building relationships takes time and more than a simple email asking someone to help you land a job. Creating relationships with alumni is all about what the relationship can yield in the long-term. Remember, when someone is going to bat for you they’re putting their reputation on the line so you need to build trust (which takes time). Campus career centers are a great resource for getting in touch with alumni but it’s not a one-stop solution. Current college students and graduates alike can utilize LinkedIn to find alumni by searching for graduates. Some cities also have regional alumni chapters that put on mixers or informal meet-ups where alumni can connect in person. 

  • Professional Associations – Find associations in your industry or the industry you are interested in and check out the list of companies that are members of the association. If you already belong to associations, reach out to fellow members to network. If you do not belong to any associations, review this directory of associations tool which lists associations by state, category, and type. 

What do I do with my Target Companies List once it’s created?

Once you’ve created your Target Companies List, use it as a tool to organize your search efforts. Start checking out job opportunities. Many companies give you the option to be notified as new positions are posted on their career websites. If available, you should opt-in for every company on your list with that option. Find contacts at companies who can help you get a foot in the door. Begin building relationships with people at your target companies. Stay on top of the organization’s work, keep in touch with the folks you’re networking with and regularly search for job opportunities. Update your list accordingly with your progress. Hirewell will be publishing additional content on the best way to approach companies and jobs after you’ve identified a possible fit, so stay tuned!