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by Rob Porter | October 12, 2023


During your job search, you might think that by applying to many jobs in succession, you’re increasing your chances at generating interest and getting a response, but this isn’t necessarily true. It can be far too easy to scroll down a page on Indeed while clicking “apply” on every job description you see. The problem with this is that there are not only fraudulent job listings on each and every online job search platform, but you’re also forfeiting the opportunity to make yourself stand out with job applications that are tailored to the company you’re applying to.

A targeted job search helps you to hone in on the employers that you actually want to work for, and allows you to take the time to customize your resume, cover letter, and application for each company. All of this makes you a more attractive candidate, and will greatly increase your chances of receiving a response and subsequently landing an interview. Here are some tips to help you conduct a successful targeted job search.

Be Mindful of Your Goals

Motivation is required to accomplish just about any task. When it comes to conducting a targeted job search, it’s important to understand what you’re looking for and what drives you. Are you motivated by success or status, or does the satisfaction of your work drive you? Is your career a top priority in your life, or do you take on jobs simply to generate the funds necessary to pay the bills and enjoy a vacation once in a while?

Along with this, consider your goals. Do you want to become the vice president of a company, or would you be happy performing ground-level tasks in a lower-pressure role? Once you’ve established your goals and motivations, the path that’s right for you will become clear, and you’ll know which companies would be a good fit for your life.

Identify Potential Employers

The next thing you want to do is take a look at the companies you’d like to work for. You might have seen their advertisements, bought their products or used their services, or perhaps you have a friend that works at a great company. Whichever the case may be, create a list of about 30 to 40 companies. The philosophy here is the bigger the list the better, but you don’t have to go overboard.

Next, start to whittle down your list by adding new criteria such as location, job title, salary, and preferred benefits, just to name a few. You may also want to conduct further research into a company’s core values and leadership team in order to help you narrow your list down. If you’re having trouble creating a list, search for companies by specific criteria. For example, try searching “companies with the best employee perks.”

Decide on Your Preferences

We all have our own unique tolerances, wants, needs, and preferences when it comes to potential employers. For some, long hours and a fast-paced environment might actually be preferable, while others might be looking for a more laid-back workplace environment. Depending on an individual’s lifestyle they might prefer hourly pay over a salary, or in-person work over remote and hybrid roles, and so on.

Take inventory of your preferences and prioritize the employers that most directly align with them. Remember, no job will ever be absolutely perfect, so be mindful of the things that are most important to you, and be willing to let go of less important or low priority wants and needs as you refine your list of potential employers.

Network Your Way In

Now that you’ve got a nice list of employers going, take some time to check out their social media profiles. LinkedIn is particularly useful for building a solid professional network, and you may even find the hiring managers for some of your favorite companies there. Don’t be afraid to establish connections with people you don’t know, especially if they work at one of the companies on your list.

Another tactic is to identify any second-hand connections. Let’s say someone you know works at a company you’re interested in applying to. Here, you can reach out to them and ask them for further information about the job listing, or for a direct pathway to the hiring manager. If you’re feeling particularly industrious, you may decide to directly connect with the hiring manager via LinkedIn and send them a message inquiring about the open position.

Be Direct

When you’re ready to apply, do your best to track down job listings that are posted directly on a company’s website. Most candidates will apply on job search platforms such as Indeed or Monster, which may cause fatigue for the hiring manager. If you apply through a more direct channel, it will help make your application stand out.

In fact, when conducting a targeted job search, you should always try to see things from the perspective of the hiring manager. In what ways can you customize your resume, cover letter, and application to address the requirements outlined on the job listing? Is your resume optimized in terms of length, and does it have an effective and unique summary statement? If you were the hiring manager, what would make an application stand out to you?

By conducting a targeted job search, you’re greatly increasing the chances of landing a job at a company that shares your values, and that provides the kind of work/life balance you’re looking for. Try to imagine job applications that are submitted this way as being “high-quality” when compared to rapid-fire “scroll and click” applications. Always keep in mind that any job search requires patience, so keep your head up, take your time, and be deliberate.