Researching Great-Fit Employers to Target in Your Job Search

Job Searching: Knowing where to look for rewarding jobs–from entry-level employment to more specialized positions–can feel like trying to hunt down a needle in a haystack! By creating a defined target list of potential employers to target in your job search, you can significantly improve your job search results.

List 10 – 20 Industry Categories to Target for Your Job Search

Begin by listing between 10 – 20 industries that are a good match for your job search focus. When you’ve finished listing these major industry categories, as well as related industry categories, your list may look something like this:

Hotels & Resorts: Bed & Breakfasts, Retreat Centers, Inns
Event Supply Centers: Caterers, Party Rental Centers
Non Profit Agencies: Children’s Services, Housing Support, Arts

Panic Point! Are you thinking, “I really don’t care which industry I work for. I just want a job!” Or, “My specialty can fit into pretty much any industry. Why should I limit myself to only a few types of businesses?” If either of these statements is true for you, consider this: the purpose of defining a list of industries and businesses is primarily to help you job search more effectively. It will be much easier for you to uncover interesting, good-fit positions if you have a defined number of places to look. If you don’t like the idea of defining potential employers by industry, use another criteria— geography, for example, and identify businesses within a certain distance from your home. But I highly recommend having some kind of defining criteria. Otherwise, you’d need to investigate hundreds or thousands of potential employers, rather than just 20 to 100. Your search would be so broad and scattered that you’d wind up frustrated, with poor results. I don’t want that for you! Go ahead and define a list of potential employers. It will significantly contribute to your success in the long run. I promise!

Got your initial categories defined? Good for you! You’re well on your way to developing a valuable, productive target list. Now you can move on to the next step.

Develop Lists Potential Employers to Investigate in Your Job Search

Since you’ve already chosen your job search target company sorting criteria, this next step should be easy-sneezy. Now it’s time for you to develop a list of specific employers that fall within the categories you’ve selected to research for your job search. As you do so, keep in mind that it’s wise to list small- and medium-sized employers, as well as larger, more well-known companies on your job search company list. Why? Because most of us—about 75%, in fact—work for organizations with fewer than 25 employees, so it makes sense to factor in some smaller companies in your job search plan. Following are some resources to help you build your job search target list.

LinkedIn: The social-media networking site is one of the most valuable resources available to job hunters, for several reasons, one of which is that you can use LinkedIn to easily research prospective employers. For instance, type in an industry label such as “Breweries”, then choose the Companies search filter, and voila!—you have a list of business links to investigate. Another way to use LinkedIn to build your target list of potential employers is to look at profiles of colleagues who are succeeding in your field and see where they’ve been working!

Yellow pages: Yes, the good ‘ole yellow pages. You can make use of either the hardcopy or Internet version, however an Internet yellow pages directory offers some real advantages: Often, these sites will automatically suggest other categories for you to consider (such as, if you picked “Jewelry” it may also suggest “Accessories” or “Antiques”). And these sites will often provide links to company web pages, making it easy for you to gather additional information about an organization.

Directories: Several useful directories and registers exist to help you in compiling your list of target companies. Many are free or are very moderately priced. For instance, in Northern Colorado where I live, job searchers can obtain lists of companies using the Northern Colorado Business Report’s, “Book of Lists”, or one of its many other industry-specific directories (they publish medical, technology, agricultural, and construction versions). Your city may offer helpful resources like these also, for purchase or for use at your area library. One significant advantage to using local directories is that they often provide information about smaller organizations that may not be included in national databases. Professional groups and associations may also be a great resource. Call or stop by your library’s reference desk for ideas and to learn which directories may be available and useful to you.

Databases: Similar to directories, a wide range of electronic databases exist to help you research organizations for your target company list. My local library, for example, offers access to Reference USA, a database of businesses in the United States, which can be accessed on line or by using one of the computers at the library. This database (as most do) allows you to obtain lists of companies by industry, using a coding system such as the NAICS (North American Industrial Classification System). Several other company databases can be accessed on line.

Developing your target list can be fun, fast, rewarding activity. For instance, using the categories I defined above, and researching organizations using (my regional yellow pages web site), I came up with a list of 200+ businesses for a job search target list in just five minutes of searching. And there’s a wonderful bonus that comes along with researching company names: You’ll very quickly see that there are many more potential employers and opportunities out there than you realized. This can be a huge boost in your motivation!

Compile Powerful Profiles About Your Target Job Search Companies

As a final step in your target company job search research process, you’ll want collect important details about each of your target job search organizations to help launch your job search successfully. For the companies on your list, aim to gather the following information:

Organization Name
Phone, email, web address
Summary of the organization’s purpose, mission, products, and services
Details about the business’ customers
Key decision makers in the company, particularly those related to your specialty (such as the Director of Sales, if you’re seeking a position as a sales representative)
Bonus Information: Recent announcements provided on the company’s web page, or through news sources, such as the newspapers

Panic Point! Are you feeling overwhelmed with the amount of information you’ll need to gather for your job search? I don’t blame you! You’re not the first job searcher to feel this way. In fact, most job searchers quit at this point. It takes discipline to pull together all of these details, and most people just aren’t willing to do it. Plus you may be asking yourself, “Is it really worth it?” Here’s the scoop: Each piece of information you collect is one more brick in the foundation of your solid job search. The data you gather will help you present yourself more successfully to potential employers, giving you a huge advantage over your competition. So yes, it’s worth it to gather all of this data about your target companies to help your job search results. Just keep nudging yourself to take tiny steps forward. Pick an organization that seems especially interesting to you as a place to start. You’ll most likely discover that gathering the info doesn’t take that much time or effort, and may actually be fun.

For instance, let’s say that you want to gather information about my business, Career Solutions Group. How would you do it? A company name search on is a good place to start. From there, you could then log onto my webpage to gather most of this information:

Organization Name: Career Solutions Group
Address: 430 Stover Street, Fort Collins, CO, 80524, USA
Phone, web, email: (970)224-4042,,
Summary of the organization’s purpose, mission, products, and services: Empowering career-minded individuals to achieve meaningful, satisfying career goals through fun, effective, and accessible products and services, such as career counseling, resume development, interview preparation, and job search assistance.
Details about the business’ customers and / or activities: Career changers, job searchers, and companies needing outplacement support for transitioning employees.
Key decision makers in the company: Katy Piotrowski, Career Counselor
Bonus Information: Recent announcements provided on the company’s web page, or through news sources, such as the newspapers:

In total, aim to compile a list of 25 – 100 potential employers, researching as many key pieces of information as you can. Your target list will be one of your most valuable job search tools.

Excerpted and adapted from “Career Coward’s Guide to Job Searching” by Katy Piotrowski, M.Ed.