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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

How to Figure Out Which Companies to Apply For

Job searching is a pretty huge endeavor. It’s especially overwhelming when you’re just sort of going through the motions aimlessly. How great would it be to have a map or some sort of guidance on where you should be spending your time?

Turns out, it’s not too hard to create just that. To make the best use of your time, consider creating a target list of companies for you to really focus your efforts on—places you’d love to work that often hire people in your field. This is especially helpful if you’re trying to approach networking with some sort of strategy. Having a place—or, well, list of places—to start makes the task a lot less daunting.

But how do you narrow down all the companies in the world to one short list? Here’s how to get started.

1. Start With Your Dream Company

A great place to start is with your dream company (or a couple of them). What company have you always secretly admired? Maybe it’s Facebook, NPR, SXSW, Gucci, the NFL, or a small business in your hometown—whatever it is, put this workplace as number one on your list.

2. Add Your Dream Company’s Competitors

From there, think about what it is that’s really exciting to you about your dream company, and try to find competitors that operate in a similar space. If you’re looking to join an advertising agency and your dream company is Ogilvy, for example, you can actually just pop the company name into Google and a little box on the right side of the search results will pop up with other agencies that people have searched for. LinkedIn’s company pages are another good resource—just check out the “People also viewed” box on the right of the screen to find other options you may not have considered.

3. Include Other Considerations

At this point, your list is probably either too long or too short depending on how many direct competitors you were able to find. Depending on your situation, you can either broaden or narrow your search by size of company (do you thrive in a large organization or prefer a small team?), geographic location (do you want to stay close to home or are you open to moving?), and other areas you care about (great benefits, flexible work arrangements, a team who gets together outside of the office, whatever).

To find out which companies fit the bill, use resources such as LinkedIn to see how large companies are, The Muse to get a sense of company culture, or Glassdoor to learn more about what current and past employees are saying.

4. Get Feedback

Finally, your list shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. Reach out to friends, mentors, and old colleagues and seek their feedback. Let them know these are the companies you’re looking at, and they might be able to let you know of other companies they know of that might interest you based on your existing list. (Or, better yet, connect you to people who work at those companies so you can get started on networking!)

Having a target list of companies is a great way to keep the chaos of your job search under control. Whether you end up with six companies or two dozen, knowing what you’re after will not only make it easier for you to know what your next steps should be, but also help you stay focused on your goal.

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