How to Build a Target Company List to Focus Your Job Search

target company listDo you know how to build your own highly customized target company list? The companies you would love to work for?

There is an old saying: give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. As a job search consultant, that is part of my job… to teach you how to fish.

So I would like to provide you with some creative ways to build your target company list, so you can find your own job leads. This way, you are not be dependent on third party recruiters and job boards.

Bonus: These tactics have been used to build target company lists for my current job search clients.

So check out these tips for building a comprehensive target company list of your own…

1. Create a Target Company Wish List

If you are going to conduct a job search, you might as well think BIG, right, and aim to work where you want to work? Think about what characteristics and accolades those target companies have that inspire you to want to work for them. When writing down those traits, use those ideas to spring board your thinking to come up with other target companies that seem to embody those same traits and philosophies.

2. Expand Your List

Next, for each company on your wish list, research their competitors, associations, vendors, affiliates and clients. This exercise can go on and on, ensuring you are never short on target companies. Eventually, you’ll see that one addition to your target company list can add several more.

3. Cultivate Leads from Industry Conference, Convention, and Trade Show Literature

Ideally if you can attend the conference live, that is always best. After all, you will network and start/nurture relationships with people that can help your job search. Ultimately, they’ll help your career.

If you are unable to attend, review the website/conference literature. Then look the speaker list. Who do they work for? Next, review the sponsor list. Who is committing advertising dollars to this conference? These are companies, by the nature of funding speaker travel and sponsorships, typically will have the growth and leadership you may be looking for. So they could be great candidates for your target list.

4. Join Job Lead Groups

The key here is to be sure you are surrounding yourself with positive, action-driven, generosity-minded people who will exchange job leads equally based on the needs of each person in the group.  These groups can be listed regionally online with State Unemployment offices or  private websites, such as The Landing Expert, who has an updated list of New Jersey job search clubs citing meeting times, dates and locations.

5. Search for Blogs in Your Industry

When identifying for blogs in the industry, there are a few ways you can use this information. If it is a corporate blog, then that company can become a target list candidate. You can make note of the employer of the blogger, if they are writing from an independent opinion. Lastly, you can look for upcoming or expanding companies discussed in the content of the articles to add to your list. And based on what you do, even companies downsizing can be job leads possibly, as well. (Yes, companies downsizing actually hire people as they are releasing some, one of the great perplexities of the employment space).

6. Use Target Company List Building Services

Hone in on companies that meet your company size and industry, revenue, employee size targets. Then look at,, and Each of these resources are database lead companies. Each provides contact lists from the companies where you want to work.

7. Research the Investments of Private Equity, Venture Capital and Angel Investor Companies

If you would like to work for a newly formed firm,  a firm in its high growth stages or a firm fueled by private equity or venture capital funds, review publications like Merger & Acquisition Magazine or The Deal Pipeline. You can also access information in niche databases, such as the Mid-Atlantic Venture Capital and Private Equity Directory, as suggested by my colleague, Phil Dubinsky, CEO of Thoroughbred Private Equity Partners.

8. Get Out from Behind Your Computer

True,  I was very knowledgeable about companies hiring in NYC (where I worked at the time). And yet I was amazed by all the search firms right close to me I did not know. Some were right down the block from me. Others in close proximity of my home in Northern  NJ. Over and over again, I find that job seekers are amazed that a major company has a field office close by. Or a secondary presence in their town that they never knew of. Why? Because the job seeker was only aware of the location of the corporate headquarters.

9. Look at Your Day-to-Day Activities

This is based on the Peter Lynch philosophy of investing (Former Fidelity Magellan Fund Manager…I know I may be dating myself here.)  Go with what you know and with which you are familiar. Every company that you encounter in your daily life could be a possible lead, depending on what you do. After all, if you are a VP of Human Resources, human resources is a function in, well, every organization.

Let’s be clear. Whether or not a position exists, every company has someone doing an HR function. So use the obvious, available information in front of you to research. Determine if the company is a viable target company list item. For instance, you may have a local brewing company in your county. Do you come from a food packaging/distribution/production background? Or have a hospitality/restaurant background? Having your favorite brewery as a target company could be an awesome thing!

10. Tap You Network

Do not underestimate the power of your immediate network. Ever. For example, I have a client who simply told her hairdresser she was looking for as an administrative manager. The hairdresser had another client who she knew worked for a major publishing firm. She happened to be looking for an administrative management professional. The hairdresser made the introduction to the company. Now fast-forward two to three weeks later… she has the job.

11. Learn About Local Companies First Hand

Attend and consider joining your area’s local Business Association Partnerships, and Chambers of Commerce. Then look for and other business-embracing organization in your city and county. The employers of the area will attend these meetings and you can meet your area’s local employment players in person.

12. Leverage Your College Alumni Network

To start, subscribe to the alumni magazine. When I receive Cornell University’s Alumni Magazine, I highlight notes in the articles and class notes. I look to see where people moved to professionally to come up with ideas for job leads for my clients. The publication is meant to be a ‘who’s who’ and ‘who’s where’ to be leveraged in a proper manner. No spamming, of course.

Also, consider volunteering for the membership committee for your local college alumni chapter. After all, having access to the local chapter members and their employers can spark ideas. That includes where you can look for your next opportunity. Again, you never use the list improperly, just for brainstorming.

13. Search for Current and Previous Employees of Target Companies

Where did they work previously? What is going on with that previous employer now? Ask yourself if those companies are worthy to be on your target company list. To take an extra step with this information. Are you within three degrees of this target company’s former employee? Then consider asking for an introduction to obtain information about the hiring process.

14. Use Job Boards as Information Portals

Some say applying online can be futile, and I do not disagree. However, online job postings are an indicator of who is hiring. So you discover a great company through an online job posting, but it is not the right job for you? Use it as evidence that the company is hiring. If they are hiring sales managers, consider approaching the company outlining how you are an exceptional client service director. Then correlate how your accomplishments can become an asset to the prospective firm. Bottom line: don’t wait for the job opening to become available; use what is there to craft your own proposal.

15. Search for Companies Hiring and Expanding

There’s nothing worse than building your target company list, then finding out the companies aren’t hiring.

So do Google Searches and set up Google Alerts on terms like “downsized”. This is an important term to search for if you are looking for consulting work. Also try, “hiring staff”, “expanding operations,” and other like terms. Combine these with your zip code and industry, to unearth companies in the news that are engaged in these activities. The movement activities these companies are performing are ripe for new perspectives. They’re ready for additional talent to execute and expand the plan at hand.

16. Look for Employer Testimonials

Look at where your fellow students work. Specifically, look at what they share about their employer in case studies and lab work. Does it give you a warm and fuzzy feeling? Then ask: would you want to work there? Network with your fellow students and see where the opportunity takes you.

This list of tips is by no means exhaustive, but a great start. And a great way to build your all-important target company list.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Chameleon Resumes.


chameleon resumes


Lisa RangelAbout the Author: Lisa Rangel, founder and managing director of Chameleon Resumes, a Forbes Top 100 Career Website. Lisa has helped hundreds land the exact job they want. A former recruiter, she is a 10-time certified resume writer and job search consultant. Lisa is also a paid moderator for LinkedIn’s Job Seeker Premium Group. She has been an Official LinkedIn Blogger since 2012. Lisa is also a featured expert on Fast Company, Investors Business Daily, The BBC and the author of Follow Lisa on LinkedIn.



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