Expert job search advice.

Expert’s Guide to Creating Targeted Company Lists

Building a target company list

10 out of the box ways to build a target company list

Savvy job seekers often already know that the best way to approach a job search is not to spend all day on job boards, but to develop a written target list of organizations where they’d like to work. Orville Pierson, author of the Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search, suggests in his book to “look for opportunities to talk informally to others about the organizations on the list and look for opportunities to meet people in those organizations”.

Clients often tell me that it’s easy to identify the first 5 companies on the target list, but beyond that, it’s challenging.

I asked 5 job search experts to share their most out of the box tips on how to create a target company list

TIP #1: The INC 5,000 List of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the US is a great starting place for building a target company list

Tip Contributed by: Biron Clark, Founder of Career Sidekick

“This is a great way to find high-quality companies that are growing and you can filter by state, city, and industry.

This is also a great way to get promoted and grow your career rapidly; joining a fast-growing company ensures you’ll have opportunities to try new things, take on new responsibilities, and get raises and promotions.

I used this strategy myself when I joined my first recruiting company. We were a small start-up outside of Boston, and within two years of joining we had doubled in size. I had an opportunity to become a Project Manager (full promotion with $10,000 pay increase), be on the panel that interviewed new candidates for our firm, and mentor/train new employees. All of this experience allowed me to then get a $15,000 pay raise when I moved to my next recruiting job at another firm.”

Tip #2: Job boards for company research

Tip Contributed by: Biron Clark, Founder of Career Sidekick

“You don’t need to apply via the job board; in fact, you’re much better off trying to reach the employer through your network or applying directly via email if you can’t get to them through networking.

However, job boards allow you to filter job listings by location and other criteria so you can quickly find companies in your city and industry. Plus, if you see that a company posted a job online recently, you know they’re hiring right now.”

TIP #3 Pitchbook provides data and analysis on potential target companies

Tip Contributed by: Tim Windhof, Executive Resume Writer and Founder of Windhof Careers

“One resource I frequently recommend to my executive clients in the process of creating their target company list is The Seattle based entity provides a data software, research, and analysis tool with extensive information on Venture Capital, Private Equity, and M&A transactions (including public and private companies, firms, and people). It is, thus, a wonderful tool for researching companies and recent merger trends beyond the scope of what LinkedIn might provide. Besides identifying and learning more about potential target companies, you should also be able to find the contact details of the senior leadership teams at those target companies. Pitchbook is generally a fee-based resource, but it does have the option to request a free trial.”

Tip #4: Alexa can be a great tool for uncovering companies

Tip Contributed by: Mark Anthony Dyson, Career Consultant and founder of The Voice of Job Seekers

“The tool I think has value is The reason is their website traffic insights offers a perspective rarely presented.

For example, let’s pretend I want to work in the financial industry, and I’m interested in advising young professionals. Discover (the credit card brand) is a company that I (hypothetically) already admire. I could enter an example) in the search box, and the results return with the site’s traffic ranking and four other competitive sites.

You can use the results number of ways including to target companies. If you want to see if they present their company culture on their blog, you can compare and contrast companies.

Overall, someone who wants to get a list of 30, it’s easy to do through this tool. You still would need to go to each site and vet based on your pre-search standards.”

The above image is a search query that we ran using the free version of Alexa competitive analysis. The platform gives a list of sites with audience overlap. For the sake of this example, we pretended like our job seeker was interested in working in the grocery industry and liked the Kroger Company. The audience overlap results shared similar sized grocery chains including Meijer and Publix but also two lesser known companies (Instacart and Softcoin) that this job seeker could continue to research.

Tip #5: Industry and regional “lists” can help you find companies of interest

Tip contributed by: Madeline Mann of Self Made Millennial

“Once you know what industry and regions you are targeting, you can find lists of companies that may interest you. Such as I’ve always worked at companies in the technology industry in LA. I used the site where they publish lists like “Top 50 Los Angeles Tech Companies” and even more specific lists like “Top 15 Los Angeles FinTech Companies.” I would go to the website of each company on the list, see if it sounded interesting, and then check to see if they had any open roles for me. I got my last job from a cold email I sent a company I found on their top 50 list! Look for company lists in different industries by doing a Google search and see what you can find.”

Tip #6: “Best companies to work” lists highlight companies that care about culture and talent development

Tip Contributed by: Michelle Rademacher, YOUMap Certified Coach and Founder of RP4C

“ When I hit the Strategy Phase with my clients, the short-list of companies they will apply to looks pretty unique for each of them depending on if they are making a big or little shift in their career. Let’s assume you’re making a little shift, which means you are in the right lane for what you’re supposed to be doing, now it’s just about finding the best where you should be doing it.

Given that you’re going the normal routes of search methodologies, (i.e. Indeed, Glassdoor, etc.) an additional idea to add to your target companies list would be to peruse the primary business news source in your city. From where I’m located, that would mean following Crain’s Chicago Business. Not only is it helpful to be up-to-date on important business news that could impact your search, but many of these publications, such as Crain’s, will put out the “Best Places to Work” each year. Since part of the research process to generate their list comes straight from surveying current employees, its a really great way to know people love working there and maybe you will, too.”

TIP #7 Venture Capital backed Companies for Startup Opportunities

Next 3 Tips Contributed by (me), Sarah Johnston

One of the smartest ways to look for opportunities at start up companies to target is by doing a Google search for venture capital firms. Once you get to their website, look at the list of companies that they support. This is usually listed as “our investments”, “portfolio” or “our companies”


There is a list to start your research. My advice is to start looking regionally as it’s easier to network and set up in-person meetings locally.

For example, if you live in Houston, you could do a Boolean Google search for “Venture Capital Firms in Houston”. There are dozens including Main Street Capital, Mercury Fund and Rock Hill Capital. You can visit the VC “About Us” page to learn more about their investments. Some VCs like to invest locally; some invest in women or minority-owned business and others invest in specific interests (example: bio-tech or artificial intelligence).

I visited the Mercury Fund website and found a list of companies that they support under “our companies”.

Tip #8: Boolean keyword search tools can help you uncover lists and databases which can help you identify lesser known target companies

Learning how to perform Google searches using Boolean operators is a great way to uncover lists and databases.

For example: searching “filetype:pdf San Diego Venture Capital” gave me a great (albeit older) list of VCs in the area.

If you were looking for a hospital administration job in Alabama, it might be helpful to search “filetype:xls List of Hospitals Alabama” for this list.Add blockAdd block

Tip #9: Andy Rachleff’s annual list

Andy is the CEO of Wealthfront and a lecturer at Stanford. Every year, he selects the private information technology companies that his company believes has enough momentum to become very large and successful businesses. They produce this list out of the belief that “Your choice of company is more important than your job title, your pay or your responsibilities.”

Finally, TIP #10: LinkedIn is a great tool for uncovering target companies

All of the career Experts on this list agree that LinkedIn is a top place for job search research

LinkedIn is a gold mine for targeted research. It’s the largest professional online network with over 400 million users. Biron Clark, shared that one of his favorite tricks is to look at “similar pages” on the right-hand side of a company’s LinkedIn page.

I personally like to identify “people of interest” at company’s that I am targeting and look at their career history for ideas. I walk through how to do this in the video below.

Video on how to use LinkedIn to find companies for your target company list



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