Targeted Approach: Why and How to Create a List of Target Employers

Creating a target employer list will help you to immediately get focused so that you aren’t wasting time applying to jobs at companies you then later find out don’t fit your lifestyle.

Most people start the job search by looking for the position they’re interested in, but this isn’t the only strategy. Employer targeting involves researching and examining potentially interesting companies and conducting a highly targeted, directed search.

Creating a target employer list will help you to immediately get focused so that you aren’t wasting time applying to jobs at companies you then later find out don’t fit your lifestyle. Another advantage is it will help you have a ready answer when people ask you how they can help you in your job search. People generally want to help, and having a list of companies you’d like to work for not only gives them an idea of what you are looking for but could lead to some networking opportunities.

Which leads to the biggest benefit of creating this list: It will allow you to go all in on networking with these company. While some experts say about 70% of jobs are filled due to networking, other experts put that number even higher at more than 80%. If you create a highly targeted employer list you can engage with these companies through social media, make connections with their employees, and boost your chances of getting the right position.

Here’s how to build your target list.


Clarify Your Priorities

Are you looking for a brick and mortar office with regular hours, or flexible, work from home opportunities? Do you want the stability of a well-established company or the excitement of a start up? Are you comfortable with casual attire, or professional work wear?

How important are good benefits? Are you willing to take a lower salary if a company has a great reputation regarding paid time off, insurances, retirement, and stock options? How important is career advancement, ie. do you want a company that has opportunities for promotion or do you prefer to job hop?

You’ll be spending a significant number of hours working every week, so this is your chance to work in an environment that feels right to you. Ask yourself the tough questions, and really take the time to assess both what you really want and what you really need out of a new employer.

Do your research

Your research should start with the company’s website, but it shouldn’t end there. Search the leadership team’s names, names of people you’d be working with or for, and the name of the department you are interested in working for (along with the company name). Do they have any positive or negative press?

Explore any professional organizations the company may be a member of, as well as any charities the company might support to see what their role may be. Check them out on social media to see what kinds of people or other companies they are connected to. Are the organizations and causes they are connected to align with your values?

Investigate online reviews from current and former employees. Utilize social media to learn about the culture of the company. What kind of reputation to they have among those who are there day in and day out?

Learn more about companies that are hiring now

Mobilize Your Network

There are a couple of ways to use your network to create a target employer list.

Use your personal contacts and social media accounts to see if anyone you know works for the companies you’ve identified. Reach out to them to verify the information you’ve gathered and ask if there is anything else you should know, including if there are any internal job postings that might be of interest to you. This is also a great opportunity to ask for an informational interview with recruiting, a hiring manager, or other employee of interest.

Another way to use your network is to make a general post on social media letting people know you are on the job hunt (if possible), and asking them if they work for a company they love, or know of any companies with great reputations. Take the time to follow up on the suggestions given, even if they might not immediately seem fruitful. You might discover a company you’ve never even heard of.

The next steps

While five to eight companies is a good start, you can continue to add to your target employer list as you go along in the job search process. Once you have a solid list, make sure these companies know who you are. Connect with them on social media, and engage with their posts. Create or foster existing relationships with employees. Attend events they might be putting on, or events they might be at as a vendor or volunteer. The more you interact, the better your chances of success.

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About the Author

Jennifer L. Grybowski has been a journalist and writer for 20 years. She has written about business, government, politics, education, and culture. She holds a MFA from Southern New Hampshire University, and also writes fiction. Connect with her at