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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

How to Target and Find the Best Employers for You

How to Target and Find the Best Employers for You

A few hours of systematic searching can make all the difference.

Published on October 26, 2014 by Katharine Brooks, Ed.D. in Career Transitions for Psychology Today

I recently had the pleasure of attending a workshop conducted by Mr. Steve Dalton, MBA, who is a Senior Career Consultant and Associate Director at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. As you might expect he works with students who are seeking employment in some of the most competitive fields around: finance, investment banking, consulting, etc. Like all of us, his students are busy, and they are not enamored with spending hours and hours researching and digging up potential employers. As a result, Mr. Dalton created a “work smarter, not harder” logical and systematic process to help his students target key employers most likely to hire them. His book, The 2-Hour Job Search, which describes the system in great detail, is available from Ten Speed Press, online or at your local book store.

While it’s described as a “2-hour job search,” don’t be concerned if the process takes you a little longer. Also, because it is designed for individuals seeking mid-to-high level business positions, this process assumes a certain sophistication with spreadsheets or Word table documents. But I think it has tremendous value for almost any job seeker (including new college grads and mid-career changers) so while you might need more time to idenitfy employers and work the system, given its value, I think you’ll find it worth it.

One of the hardest parts of the job search is creating the list of possible employers you want and need to reach. Using Dalton’s approach you move quickly and systematically through a 3-step process: Prioritize, Contact, and Recruit. You start by creating a prioritized list of employers; what Dalton calls a “LAMP” list. The acronym LAMP stands for: List; Alumni; Motivation; Posting. Here’s a 5-step breakdown to create your LAMP list.

1. First create an Excel spreadsheet or a Word table with the following columns: List, Alumni, Motivation, Posting. Then do a fast (40 minute) brainstorming session of potential employers. Start by identifying your chosen career field. Identify companies you already know about and would like to work at. You can use search engines like Google or Reference USA (check your library for access) to help broaden your list. In some fields you can Google a “top fifty” list to work from. (If need be, you can target this initial list by geographic region, willingness to hire H1-B, or other factors that pertain to your situation.) Enter the names of the companies you discover under the heading “List” on your spreadsheet. Dalton recommends that you list at least 40 organizations if possible.

2. Now use LinkedIn to find potential alumni or other connections. Start by going to the company employee list and search using the name of your college or university. No luck? Try entering your high school. Enter the name of your hometown. What you’re looking for is some sort of common ground and reason for that person to be willing to speak with you. Be sure you click the “3rd degree connection” button so that you will reach the largest number of individuals within that organization who have a connection to you. In the Alumni column of your spreadsheet or table put a “Y” or “N” to indicate if you found an alumnus or close connection at the organization. (Dalton offers many more tips for finding connections in his book, including joining targeted LinkedIn groups.)

3. Decide how motivated you are about each organization on your list. Dalton encourages you to do this from a “gut” perspective rather than research. Remember, you’re trying to do this quickly and research is going to take time. In the Motivation column, rank each company from a “5” (meaning “I am psyched to work for this place”) to a “2” (“I’m not really than interested”). If you don’t know enough about the organization to make a judgment call, rank it as “1” and plan to research later.

4. Now use Indeed to see if each of your organizations has openings at the present time. The openings may be above your current skill level, but that’s all right because if they promote from within as many companies do, lower level positions may open up. The point is to ascertain if the organization is hiring. In the Posting column, score each organization as: “3” if they have a posting that’s directly relevant to you, “2” if the posting is somewhat relevant, or “1” if not hiring.

5. Now you’re ready to work the magic. Sort your table first by your Motivation column (with 5 at the top). Then, sort again by the Posting column (with 3 being the best). Finally sort by Alumni = “Y.” You now have a list of the “top ten” or so companies where you are most likely to find career opportunities which relate to your interests and field. These are the companies to start researching more thoroughly and making connections with the alumni or other potential contacts you might have. Dalton stated at the program that most people don’t need to go past their top ten before they have an offer or opportunity.

Now that you’ve created your LAMP list, the next part of the process involves identifying and connecting with the key people at your desired organization. Dalton presents in great detail his 5-point email for connecting with your contact. In this email he recommends that you use fewer than 100 words and do not mention the word “job” at all. He also presents a nice system for tracking all your connections so that you stay in touch on a regular basis and don’t forget to follow up to those who haven’t responded to you.

Finally, once you have identified your key organizations and contacted your identified connections, Dalton presents the third step of the process which he calls “Recruit.” Dalton dives into a deep explanation of information interviews, and encourages you to “build likability—don’t ‘sell yourself.’” He encourages you to prepare for the information interview by creating several questions to ask your contact focusing on their experience with the organization as well as what advice they might have for you.

If you’ve been feeling that your job search approach has been rather haphazard and you’re looking for a systematic way to identify and connect with employers in your field, Dalton’s system has a lot going for it. Listening to him explain the system, I was impressed with how organized his approach is. I’m not totally convinced that it can all be done in two hours but that’s a small issue. The system is thoughtful and efficient.

Mr. Dalton’s talk was sponsored by the Market Readiness & Employment team at Wake Forest University.  

©2014 Katharine S. Brooks. All rights reserved. Find me on Facebook and Twitter.


Category: Professional Development

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