How to Build a List of Target Companies

Take control of your job search by learning how to penetrate the unadvertised job market. According to a 2012 study performed by CareerXroads, at least 75% of all available jobs are filled through employee referrals, social media recruiting and hiring managers’ personal networks. This means you should focus your job search on proactive networking to ensure you can find or be found by hiring managers.

Start by building a target list of companies where you would like to work and where you have an applicable skill set to contribute, regardless of whether or not they have an advertised job opening. Use Linkedin and other available sources of company information to research the hiring managers at those businesses and to network with their current employees. Reaching out to these people directly will generate exploratory discussions and informational interviews that will greatly increase your odds of landing a job you want, whether or not the company has any advertised openings.

So how do you find the 75% of open jobs that are unadvertised? Here are 6 steps to help you construct your list:

Look at industry peers

Brainstorm a list of industry leaders as potential targets to pursue in your active quest, provided there are no contractual bindings or non-compete clauses from your previous employers’ that might prevent you from doing so. If you have experience and skills in your field, competitors will want to talk to you. Using LinkedIn’s Company Search function, you can locate the companies within your industry and narrow down by geography, company size, and your relationship to that company (i.e. whether you have 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree connections that work there).  

Consider vendors and clients of previous employers

Whom did your past employers serve? Who served your employer? Compile a list of the companies that did business with your previous employers – these are potential employers where you could leverage your expertise. Be sure to check your employment contract and use common sense and good karma when approaching these types of organizations. Burning bridges is never in good form. Searching for vendors and clients by industry, size and geography can help you zero in on the right ones to pursue.

Check out "Best Of" lists

Review companies that appear on the various “Best of” Lists produced by associations, such as SHRM (Society of Human Resources Management), and business journals, such as Fortune, Crain’s New York and San Francisco Business Times. This will give you the top employers in various categories, including Industry Leaders, Most Family Friendly and Fastest Growing Companies. Research the LinkedIn Company Pages of these companies to see how you are linked to their current employees through your contacts, groups and college alumni relations. Reach out to them, mentioning the high regard their employer generates in the industry.

Do a geographic search

Look in your own backyard for companies where you can apply your transferrable skill set. By doing a zip code search using LinkedIn’s Company Search function, you can assemble a list of employers in your area, sorted by industry, company size, and more. Then see whether you have connections with their employees or reach out to the hiring managers at those businesses.

Pursue companies that fuel your passions and hobbies

 Are you an accountant that has always wanted to work for an environmental non-profit? Do you love to hike and want to pursue an accounting role with an outdoor sports equipment company? Find businesses related to your passion and see where your skills could be put to professional use. Perform a search for these companies using LinkedIn’s Advanced Company Search function to find companies that do business with the firms that support your passion.

Seek out like-minded co-workers who share your interests

Would you simply want to stay in your current field, but work with like- minded people who share the same interests? To find like-minded prospective co-workers, use the newly improved LinkedIn Groups Search to find fellow-yoga aficionados or altruistic volunteers at children’s organizations. Take note of the firms where these individuals work and add companies that fit your professional needs to your target list for further exploration in your job search.

Finding companies that interest you to pursue in your job search, whether or not they have posted a job opening, will help you take an active role in your job search. Don’t just wait passively for the right job to be advertised. Instead, seize the initiative and pursue companies where you know you can make a difference and where your passion is ignited.