Shorten Your Job Search with an Employer Target List

There are two basic types of job search: reactive and proactive. The reactive search entails looking for job postings on job boards and applying to those that interest you. While this can be effective, it is well-known that the majority of jobs are found through networking and referrals. Therefore, most career coaches focus on the proactive search, which entails reverse-engineering the job search process by first identifying the organizations (or sub-departments of organizations) that are most likely to offer the positions you are interested in, then establishing relationships with people in the right departments. The goal is to build a group of people who know who you are, will send you job postings before they are ever listed publicly, recommend you for the job, and give you the “inside scoop” on the position so you know as much as possible about what you are getting into before you accept the role.

For proactive search to be effective, it is helpful to generate a list of targeted organizations you are most interested in working for. There are several ways to build such a list.

  1. If you are unsure of which employers are likely to hire you, consider writing a list of your favorite skills, and a list of the types of employers you have worked for in the past and/or contexts you have been exposed to. This should generate certain “keywords”—specific, technical terms and phrases that define your career field. Then paste these terms into a generic job board, like or (if you are searching for an exact phrase, be sure to use quotation marks around the phrase to get the right search results). Look at the jobs that pop up. Make a list of the employers who repeatedly have the positions that fit your background.

  2. Once you have a few employers listed, expand your list. Google has a little-known search functionality, called the “Related” search. Go to Google, and type in “Related:” and then paste (with no spaces) the web address of one of your favorite employers. For example, typing in “” (the website for NY Presbyterian Hospital) generates a list of other NYC-based hospitals.

  3. Visit the Company Page of your favorite employers. Notice at the bottom right-hand side of the page the “People also viewed” list, to find a list of six other employers that are similar to the one you are interested in.

  4. Consider visiting websites for professional associations in your field to see if they have a list of other member organizations in your field of interest.

  5. Look at other databases of company information, like (for companies), (for nonprofits), or (for government).

  6. Once you have your target list, start finding the right people to connect with by doing an Advanced Search of LinkedIn—click “Advanced” at the top of the page on LinkedIn, and type in the company name and other items. Connect, ask for coffee, and build up your referrals.



Back to listing