Having a target company list is not just nice to have in your job transition; it is a critical step to a strategic, proactive approach that accelerates and optimizes your transition. Having a criteria list, as well as a target company list ensures that your time is well spent pursuing opportunities that you have prequalified as good fits.
Think of it this way: do you think that recruiters spend their time looking at the larger candidate pool for anyone who might be available for a job? Or, do you think that they look for candidates who first meet their basic qualifications and possess skills that are necessary for success and then dig further to make sure that a candidate is also a cultural fit for the organization? Why shouldn’t you do the same during your job search? Doesn’t it make sense that if recruiters are specifically targeting potential candidates and you are specifically targeting particular opportunities and companies that you’ll meet sooner in the middle?
I would really love to eliminate from job seekers’ belief systems that the wider you spread your net, the faster you will transition. This proves time and time again to be inaccurate, and job seekers continue to experience frustration as they find themselves working that much harder to achieve even less traction. Then depression, resignation, and anxiety set in. These emotions are not good states of mind to be in when making decisions about the future. Assumptions are made about what is possible, and they become self-limiting beliefs. We’ve discussed this time and time again.
These self-limiting beliefs and assumptions can all be prevented by being more proactive than reactive during a job search. Last week we talked about criteria that you can use to qualify your next position. We demonstrated why creating a list of criteria can mean the difference between taking any job offered and landing the right job. Once you develop this list using the 11 categories we suggest, you can use it to identify companies that meet your criteria so that you can proactively and effectively market yourself to them, and beat out the competition for opportunities.
1. Workplace environment:
Choosing a workplace that you will like is just as important as the job itself. If you don’t like the workplace environment, it could quickly become a drag on your happiness and productivity. Consider what types of environments you like to work in. Do you need a large and well-lit office? Do you prefer a window that you can easily look out of from your desk? Do you prefer an urban setting with a visible city skyline, or a more suburban setting? Determining a potential employer’s location and type of workplace environment could be one of the easiest ways to look for target companies. But, this does require you to physically be in the environment that you want to wind up in and see what’s at a location.
What is the boss like as a person? Does he or she clash with employees? Or, are they loved as a leader by the staff? Ask specific questions of your network. It makes for a good, short agenda for phone calls that you can parlay into introductions and greater traction once you identify a company as a fit. Visit Glassdoor and Vault.com to get a general sense of management from employees, even as you call contacts within your network.
3. Passion and interest:
This is more internal. You can use a number of personal assessments tests, such as the passion test, strength indicator, Myers-Briggs personality test, and the DISC Profile to help you determine your personality and passions. But, all of these assessments depend on your ability to be introspective. Chances are, you’re going to have to ask yourself questions you might have been afraid to answer, or reluctantly answer because you believe those answers not real possibilities for your life. Answer them anyway, because the ideas you may have created about yourself may not be based on truth. After all, our thoughts and our ability to tell ourselves untruths is more powerful and common than we think. We all have a negativity bias because our brains are wired to think this way. Recognizing the untruths we tell ourselves and making a conscious effort to overcome these lies go a long way in realizing what is possible in our lives.
Will you have the ability to telecommute? This one is pretty easy because most job descriptions for a company will include whether the position is remote. However, just because the company has flexibility for one position does not mean they’ll allow other positions to have such flexibility. You want to validate whatever your findings are by asking people in your network. If a company doesn’t offer the ability to work remotely as a policy, it doesn’t mean they won’t. You’ll also want to understand if the policies are written based on cultural decisions or security decisions.
5. Job structure:
Does your target company give you the freedom to work at your own pace? Or, will your supervisor always look over your shoulder? This is also information that you may be able to identify through Glassdoor, job descriptions, or your network. Some companies experiment with their structure, and may even write case studies about things they have tried and if it has been successful.
6. Public perception:
What does the public think of your target company? When companies win awards it usually implies that there is a positive public perception of them. If this is important to you, check award lists. Awards may be granted by professional organizations, at conferences, and even industry publications to particular companies. Business awards run the gamut from local to international. Some prominent examples include the Best in Biz Awards (judged by members of the press and industry analysts), The American Business Awards, and the SCORE Awards. You can also search your local business journals, newspapers and magazines for companies in your area that may have won awards.
7. Force for change:
If you’re looking for a particular affiliation, look at companies that sponsor events like 5K’s, Black Tie events, or conferences. Attend these events whenever possible because the chances of you being able to ask questions of someone within the organization about your list of criteria are very high. If the company has a blog, a Facebook presence, or a Twitter presence, they will be promoting their change initiatives through these outlets and seeking engagement with the community. You will also want to check if they have a press page.
There’s no better way to observe a company’s culture than by observing its people. Sit outside the company while people leave for lunch. Check to see if there are many cars outside when 5 o’clock comes around. You can gain insight into a company’s culture by observing how employees dress and what kinds of cars people drive. Do only the executives drive nice cars? Or do the employees also have nice cars? If so, the employees are doing well, too. Of course if you’re in the city, people may not be driving at all. You’ll still be able to get a good sense of what kind of culture a company has by observing the people who enter and exit the building.
Values take more work to identify, because you’ll have to take a cross-section of people who work there and look into them a little bit further. See if your target company employees have social media profiles, and observe what they’re making public and posting. If the company employees are not posting anything sensitive such as politics or religion as a group, you may come to the conclusion that people are not going to be very verbal about these beliefs in the workplace either. Another way to learn about a company’s values is to look directly at its leadership. Is the CEO outspoken about his or her religious or political views? Does a company website directly state its core values? Check news articles, publications and other forms of press to gain insight about a company’s political views. Do CEOs regularly contribute to political organizations? Have they ever voiced support or opposition to a major political issue? It is possible that employees may not share their employer’s views, but learning about them can give you a better glimpse into a company’s values before you pursue a position.
10. Co-worker relationships:
You can make a lot of observations at 5 o’clock. Do multiple people get into one car? Or do they all go their own separate ways? If there is a pub or restaurant in the vicinity, are coworkers going there together? If employees constantly gather after hours, it implies that co-workers have social relationships that extend outside of the workplace. Dig a little deeper. Do the employees seem to just be executives? Is it a boys club? There’s a lot you can observe this way.
11. Best methods:
You can use a variety of organization methods to keep track of your target company list. Create a spreadsheet, use one column for your list of criteria, then add a column for each company, and cross-reference your criteria for each company. If a target company matches your criteria, further expand your spreadsheet with columns for contact information, companies you’ve sent a résumé to, interview dates, and times to follow-up. Make sure to add and remove companies from your list on a regular basis. Tools such as DropBox, Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive will allow you to access and instantly update your documents on any internet connected device. Block out a period of time each day to work on your list and keep to your set schedule.
Creating a target company list allows you to take an informed approach to your job search. Instead of applying for a position at any company, being selective allows you to focus on what you really want from a potential employer. Casting your job search net too wide doesn’t yield better results; it just takes up more of your time. In the same way, recruiters and hiring managers focus their attention on a few promising candidates. If this approach works for them, it can also work for you. Don’t search harder for more employers- use your time to search smarter. The time you spend targeting and researching companies will pay tenfold in the future, as you land a job faster, negotiate the salary you really want, at an employer you know will be a good fit for you.
If you need or want more help developing a list of criteria, we’re here for you. Our Criteria Identifier and Target Company Evaluator is a great tool to aid in your employer research.