Create Your Target Job Shortlist

The Dozen List is a key part of your job search. After you expand your perspective to identify as many prospects as possible, now its time to narrow your focus.

So, “Where do you want to work?”

That’s the second-most important question on a job search—right behind, “What do you want to do?” It’s important to decide where you want to work.

It takes two full days to research and identify a handful of places where you’d consider spending the majority of your waking hours. Day one is to expand your perspective. Day two is to narrow your focus.

DAY TWO: Narrow your focus

Yesterday, you identified a Big List of maybe 50–100 prospective companies. Now it’s time to whittle those options down to the Dozen List. Like a game of corporate Survivor where you’re choosing the contestants, here’s how to pair down the competition and find your winners:

1. Build your criteria

Create a list of required and preferred attributes you’re looking for in a company. Your unpacking list will be a helpful source of ideas. If you’re honest, your list of preferences should be longer than your list of requirements—three key areas at most.

2. Screen for requirements

Scan through your big list and look for any companies that obviously don’t meet your three requirements. Move them down a tier. Hopefully, this will take care of about half your list, leaving more time for evaluating the higher potential targets.

3. Screen for preferences

Of the remaining companies, which ones match with the most items on your list of preferred criteria? Move these companies up a tier for further evaluation.

4. Read up online

Visit each company’s website. Review their products and services. How do they make money? What is their competitive advantage? Look for core values, a careers page, and any other culture indicators. Read any leadership bios, press releases, and other documentation.

Look up each company on Glassdoor provides honest and authentic feedback about companies, written by current and past employees, like TripAdvisor for travel or Yelp for restaurants. This site is controversial because of the potential for negative bias. Happy employees may not take the time to post on Glassdoor, whereas people who were fired or didn’t fit the culture may have an ax to grind.

Search each company on Google. What do the first few pages of articles talk about? is another good source of information on larger companies.

The second-most important question of any job search: Where do you want to work?

A few common mistakes

You might find that brainstorming and creating a large list was easier than narrowing it down to twelve. Beware of these common mistakes that could derail your effort.

1. Don’t rush to judgment

If you’re a quick decision-maker, emotions about each company might come quickly. Trust your gut instincts, as they are typically right, but take a little extra time to verify with some facts.

Your initial excitement about a company might change after due diligence reveals information that causes you to pause. On the other hand, you might feel a neutral or negative first impression, based on a company’s reputation or a product or service, but some quick research could reveal more to the story and suggest that the company is worth consideration after all. Keep an open mind.

2. Don’t overthink it.

If you’re a slow, methodical decision maker, you might overthink the list-making process. Deep analysis is good and better than less, but don’t overcomplicate your research by adding ten criteria and a complicated ranking system. If you arrive at the end of day two without any clear winners, go back and adjust the numbers to get the results you want. Funny how that works, huh?

3. Don’t forget the B-list

Once you’ve established the Dozen List, don’t toss your Big List. Companies will move up and down your list, and in and out of your top twelve, as you apply for jobs, interview, meet people and learn what’s out there. That’s why it’s important to keep all of your company research and notes in a single place in your Target Company Tracker (PDF / Excel / Google Sheet).

Your Dozen List is not written in stone, but it will help you focus your job search and achieve faster results.


For more helpful job search tips: Ultimate Job Search Guide: Recruiter Insider Tips