There are a lot of logistics that go into looking for a new job. You have to keep track of not only all the jobs you applied for and which materials you sent in, but also which companies have gotten back to you, which have scheduled interviews, where and when those interviews are, what you need to prepare, when to follow up...
It’s a lot to manage. And if you don’t want to drop the ball (or feel totally overwhelmed!), you’ve got to be organized.
But how, exactly, do you do that? Here’s some practical advice to help you get and stay organized during your job search (so you can focus on landing your dream gig):
Pick a Tracking System That Works for You
“I find that most people, when they're looking for a new job...get bogged down with all the different things that are going on and there's no system to organize it,” says productivity expert Jeff Sanders, host of The 5AM Miracle podcast.
There are a lot of details to stay on top of when you’re looking for a new job, so putting an overall system in place is a great place to start. But which system? Everyone’s different, so you’ll have to find the one that makes sense to you. You could use:
1. A Spreadsheet
If you’re looking to get all your job search details organized in one place, you might want to “start with a spreadsheet—it will keep your job prospects organized,” says Rae Sanders, a partner at talent acquisition firm WinterWyman. “For every application you send, add a row [to] track the company’s name, date of application, job applied for, a link to the job if one is available, and a link to the website." You can also copy the job description and paste it into your spreadsheet; that way, if the company takes it down for some reason, you still have it on hand (and can tailor your application and interview responses accordingly).
As you move through the hiring process, you can use additional columns to track details including:
- Hiring manager’s name
- Hiring manager’s contact information (email and/or phone)
- Interview dates/times
- Interview notes (if you have multiple interviews, having notes can be helpful so you can remind yourself of what was discussed in each interview—and what you need to reference in any upcoming interviews)
- Thank you note sent
- Date to follow up
- Outcome (hired/not hired)
You can also add a tab in your spreadsheet to track any networking related to your job search, with categories such as:
- Contact name
- Contact information
- LinkedIn profile
- Relationship details (for example, did you meet them at a networking event? Did a colleague recommend you reach out to them?)
- Connection date and details (for example, “9/12: Sent LinkedIn message regarding referral for open position at XYZ company,” or “3/14: Met for coffee to discuss job search and what type of role I’m looking for”)
- Thank you note sent
- Date to follow up
- Outcome (for example, did the connection help you get an interview?)
Having a place to store and track all this information will help you juggle multiple interviews, applications, and job-related conversations and networking—and will ensure that no important details fall through the cracks.
If creating your own spreadsheet from scratch feels intimidating, you can use this template as a starting point.
2. A Project Management Tool
If the idea of tracking all your job search logistics on a spreadsheet doesn’t jive with your personal organizational style, not to worry! There are other ways to stay on top of everything. You might, for instance, consider using a project management tool, like Asana, Trello, ClickUp, or Monday.com.
When you use a project management tool for your job search, Sanders says, “all of that information is in one location, and you can lean on that all day, every day to organize your time [and] to make sure that you can prioritize what matters most.”
You can, for example, create a different project or card for each job you’re applying for. From there, you can create individual tasks, gather all the relevant information to complete these tasks, and set reminders to help you stay organized.
So let’s say you have an in-person interview scheduled for a job you’re really excited about. You can create several individual tasks to make sure you get all the interview prep and follow-up done. You might have a task for doing research on the company (complete with relevant links), a task for printing copies of your resume before the interview (with your resume file attached to the task), and a task for sending a thank you note to your interviewer. You can also set due dates for each task and get reminders to ensure you don’t miss any deadlines or wait too long to follow up.
Which project management tool you choose and how exactly you organize your job search information within it is up to you. But in general, these platforms can help you systematize the process and make it more manageable.
(Want a more in-depth example of how to use Trello to organize your job search? Read this.)
3. An Old-School Binder
There’s a certain level of convenience that comes with organizing your job search with digital tools (like a spreadsheet or project management tool). But if you’re more of an old-school organizer—and like to see everything printed and laid out in front of you—a job binder can be just as effective.
“Create a job binder and use separate tabs for different companies you have applied to [or] will apply to,” says Amy Vance, a professional organizer and owner of Houston-based organization company Eco Modern Concierge. “Be sure to print out blank calendar pages for deadlines, each job description, checklists for each job you are applying for, extra copies of your resumes”—and any other documents you need.
As you move through the job process, you can add or remove documents from the binder based on your results. So, for example, if you end up not getting a job at a company, you can remove all their information from the binder. Or if you have a company ask you to complete a test project as part of the interview process, you can print out the assessment details and add those to your binder under the appropriate tab.
Set Up Your Inbox and Files
When you’re applying and interviewing with multiple companies, there’s going to be a lot of back and forth. And if you don’t have a way of organizing your files and correspondence with each company, things can become confusing and get lost.
That’s why you need a system. Using labels, folders, and file naming conventions to organize your inbox and your documents can help you stay on top of who you’re talking to, what you’re talking about, and any files you’ve sent—like which version of your resume does this company even have?
Let’s start with your inbox. First, create labels for the types of emails that you receive related to your job search (like “In-Person Interview,” “Phone Interview,” or “Reference Check”). Then, create separate folders (in Gmail you’ll have to stick with additional labels) for each company and/or position you’re applying for. When an email comes in, give it the appropriate label and file it into the right folder. Once you have a system in place, you can easily pull up different types of emails (like all of your interview requests from the past month) or go into a folder and review all of your correspondence for a specific role or company.
If you want to be even more sophisticated, “create a Google Alert for a company, industry, topic, or individual [you’re interested in working with],” says Ashley Marie, career coach and founder of Ashley Marie Coaching. “[It’s] literally information sent straight to your inbox that you can leverage in your interviews.” Just make sure to create a separate label for Google Alerts—and file each email in the appropriate company folder.
You’re also going to be generating a lot of files—and you want to make sure you stay on top of which ones you’re sending where. Save any relevant files (like your resumes, cover letters, portfolios, and work samples) to a designated folder on your computer and/or a service like Google Drive or Dropbox—which allow you to access your documents from anywhere. Use the same file naming convention so you can immediately see which version you’re dealing with (so, for example, if you go with, “Document Type_Company_Role_Version Number_Date Modified,” one of your files might be, “Resume_The Muse_Account Executive_v2_01062020”).
Whenever you send a file to a company, note it it in your job spreadsheet or binder so you know which version of each file you’ve sent where. This way, you can stay consistent and make sure you’re not sending different versions of your resume or portfolio to the same company (or worse, accidentally sending a cover letter that mentions the wrong company).
Setting up your inbox and relevant job search files takes some effort up front—but will ultimately save you a ton of time, energy, and hassle.
Make It All Portable
In a perfect world, any important event in your job search (like a call from a recruiter or an email asking for references) would happen when you’re at your desk and ready to go. But unfortunately, that’s not the way things work—and you’re just as likely to get an important job-related call when you’re out running errands as you are when you’re sitting in your home office. So be prepared!
“As you go through the process, be armed with information at all times, so you're ready whenever the phone rings,” Sanders says.
If you keep all your job details organized in a spreadsheet or project management app, make sure you can easily access them from your phone in case something comes up when you’re not near a computer. If you go the job binder route, make sure to bring it with you if you’re going to be away for an extended period of time (think going away for the weekend—not out to the grocery store). Finally, even if you like having your documents saved to your personal computer, it can be worth having copies on Google Drive (or a similar service) so that you can easily send them off from any device connected to the internet.
Now, if a company reaches out and you’re not prepared right at that moment? Don’t stress—just ask them if you can call them back when you are prepared. “Remember—if a prospective employer is calling and you are not in a good place to talk, it’s OK to ask if you can call back,” Sanders says. “Find out what time later in the day they will be available and make sure you call at exactly that time.”
There’s a lot to manage during a job search. But now you have everything you need to stay on top of the entire process. So what are you waiting for? Get out there, get organized, and get the job you deserve!