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Job Hunting: How to Make a Hit List of Target Companies - Part 2 of 3

Target Companies - Part 2 of 3

This is the 2nd part of a three-part series of articles. In the first article, “ Job Hunting: How to Launch a Job Search Strategy - Part 1 of 3 ”, I briefly touch on the importance of creating a “hit list” of companies to strategically target during your job search. In this article, we're going to break down the science of exactly how to create your hit list of target companies to focus on in your job search.

You can also jump ahead and read Part 3, " Job Hunting: How to Communicate with Potential Hiring Managers - Part 3 of 3"

Job Hunting: How to Communicate with Potential Hiring

Job searching is a daunting task and most people spend a majority of their time applying to posted positions. I hate to break the bad news to you but you’re usually about 6 weeks too late when you apply to an online position. It's not uncommon for the position to be internally open for weeks before HR gets final approval to post the job description.

Meanwhile, HR has already created a short list of candidates from their database and the hiring manager has reached out to their online network for referrals. By the time you apply, there is a short list of at least 5 candidates ahead of you.

Think proactively instead of re-actively

It doesn’t have to work this way if you learn

to think proactively instead of re-actively.

Here's the secret: 

Here's the secretYou want be known to companies before a company has a position open. Why? Because every department has natural fall off or “attrition,” and the larger the department, the more likely that in the next 60 to 120 days, someone will resign, someone will get promoted, someone will be fired (eeek!), new business creates a need for new hires, and maybe someone won’t return from maternity leave. Wouldn’t you like to be on a first name basis with the hiring manager of these departments before this happens? Of course you do, and I’m going to teach you how.

Companies on your hit list most likely won’t be companies with open positions (remember, if the job is posted online, you’re already "late to the party"). In  Part 3  of this series, we’ll discuss how to communicate with potential hiring managers  via LinkedIn to build rapport with those hiring managers and influencers./p>

So what exactly is a target

"hit list" of companies?

These are companies that you might want to work for IF there was an open position. The more companies you have on your list, the higher the odds that natural attrition (as mentioned above) will happen in one of them. With an effective communication campaign over the course of 6 to 8 weeks, you’ll know about the opening before anyone else. Wouldn’t that be great?!

Getting Started: 

Creating your hit list of target companies is 85% part science and 15% part gut feeling. If your gut says it should be a company you should target, add them. Always trust your instincts.

The tools you’ll want to use are Microsoft Excel,  LinkedIn Premium (the paid version), GlassDoor ZoomInfo  and the Houston Business Journal’s  “ Book of Lists .” Yes, these cost money, but job hunting requires an investment - and it’s only temporary. Suck it up, skip Starbucks for a couple of months and purchase the tools you need.

How to Determine What Companies

to Add to Your Hit List

Step 1: Define Your Deal Breakers

The more deal breakers you have, the less companies you’ll have to choose from. Make sure your deal breakers are real deal breakers and keep them to a minimum of no more than 3. You'll want to filter every company you discover through your deal breakers first before adding them to your hit list.

How to Determine What Companies to Add to Your Hit List

Here are example deal breakers and how

to find companies based on them:

Deal Breaker: Location/Commute

If you know you don’t want to commute more than 20 miles, then the companies you’re considering should be within a radius of 20 miles from your zip code. Use  ZoomInfo   and LinkedIn to search companies by distance.

Deal Breaker: Department Size

If you only want to work in a department of at least 10 or more (or whatever your number is). Some people want to work in a big department, others want to work in a small department. If this is important to you enough to turn a job down if this isn’t met, then it’s a deal breaker. Only consider companies that meet this requirement.

Use LinkedIn and  ZoomInfo  to research the titles of people most likely in the department you would work in to get a feel of the headcount of that department. It’s not a perfect science, but you should be able to get pretty close; close enough to know if they should be a target company.

Deal Breaker: Company Size

If you only want to work for a large company, define what that means. $2B in revenue with 5,000 employees? Or perhaps you only want to work in well-funded startups.

ZoomInfo , and the Houston Business Journal’s “ Book of Lists ” will help in this area. If you’re targeting startups, get in touch with the  Houston Technology Center . They may have a list of well-funded startups you can look into. Start with the "Book of Lists" and look for the companies that are the size you’re interested in, then follow up with more research on  ZoomInfo  and LinkedIn to determine if they meet your size deal breaker. When you find them, add them to your hit list.

Deal Breaker: Culture

100% of the professionals I speak with tell me culture is important to them. Of course it is! No one wants to work in a toxic environment. This is a hard one to know for certain until you interview with a company but if you identify a company you’d like to work for an are concerned about culture, you can do some research before adding them to your hit list.

Company Culture

You can learn a lot about a company’s culture by reading the reviews on  GlassDoor but please take what you read with a grain of salt. Many a disgruntled employee has vented on Glassdoor but that doesn’t mean a company is a bad place to work.


Use GlassDoor as a starting point, then go on LinkedIn and find 2 or 3 people that left the company about a year or two prior. Reach out them on LinkedIn and let them know you’re thinking about applying to a company they used to work for and would they be open to a 10-minute confidential informational discussion on the good, the bad and the not so good about the company.

Use GlassdoorMost people are delighted to help in this area (especially if they had a bad experience, they’ll enjoy telling you about it!). Bad feedback doesn’t mean you can’t add them to your hit list. It just means that you’ll add them but if you land an interview, you’ll have the right kind of questions ready to ask to clarify just what the culture is like.

Step 2: Look for people that have (or had) the title that you want.

Look for people that have (or had) the title that you want.

A great way to add to your hit list of companies is to search on LinkedIn and ZoomInfo for people who have the title that you want. If they have someone doing your job, that means they have the departmental infrastructure in place to hire someone like YOU. Remember my point above about natural attrition? As long as the company meets any deal breaker requirements you’ve defined, add them to your hit list and then use the “touch strategy” I explain in Part 3 of this series, “ Job Hunting: How to Communicate with Potential Hiring Managers – Part 3 of 3.

Take this one step further and look the previous job the person had. If it’s still the same role, run the company through your deal breakers and then add the company to your target hit list if they qualify.

Step 3: Think about the peripheral industries that might be interested in your subject matter expertise.

Think about the peripheral industries

If you work in the health care industry, there are probably companies in Houston who provide some sort of service or product to the Health Care Industry. You may already know a few because the vendors visit your work or you are using one of their services / tools on the job. Don’t throw away your knowledge from one industry if you don’t have to. Find companies that could benefit from your industry knowledge and add them to your hit list.

Step 4: Listen to your intuition “aka” your gut.

Listen to your intuition “aka” your gut.

If you’re driving down the street and see the name of a company and think “hmm that might be a great place to work,” add them to your hit list. Just be sure to run them through your deal breakers before spending a lot of time reaching out.

How Big Should My Hit List

of Companies Be?

That depends on how soon you want to find a new job and how much time you have. If you’re gainfully employed and not in a rush, a hit list of 10 to 15 works and about 3 to 5 hours a week should be invested on your job search. If you’re unemployed, your hit list should be 30 to 50 and you should be investing 40 hours a week on your job search with the RIGHT activities.

Your hit list is dynamic and ever changing.

Your hit list is dynamic and ever changing. The key is to always keep the same number of companies on the list. If one company drops off because you realize they are not ideal or a fit for you, find another to replace them with. Always be working the same number of companies. This is called the Law of Numbers. If you keep a steady flow of companies you’re targeting (verses reacting to by applying to a position), you’ll dramatically increase your chances getting a new job within 30 to 120 days.

What do you do after you build your hit list? Read Part 3 of this series called, “ Job Hunting: How to Communicate with Potential Hiring Managers – Part 3 of 3.”

RaeganWant a Coach to help you build, manage and execute an effective Job Search Strategy? I can help! Contact me directly to discuss a customized solution based on your specific needs. Best of luck to all of you who are job hunting!

Topics: Job Search Strategy

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Job Hunting: How To Launch a Job Search Strategy - Part 1 of 3

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Job Hunting: How to Communicate with Potential Hiring Managers - Part 3 of 3