Job Searching? 19 Creative Ways To Build Your Target Company List

As your job search consultant, I aim to provide you 19 creative ways to build your target company list, so you can find your own job leads. This way, you are taught how to fish and you are not be dependent on third party recruiters and job boards. Here, I expand on the target company list building examples I provided in my previous LinkedIn article (“How to Build A List of Target Companies”), and outline additional, proven steps that you can use immediately. These tactics have been used to build target company lists for current job search practice clients and when I built a recruitment practice in my earlier career. Check out this list:

1. Create a Wish List of target companies where you have always wanted to work.

If you are going to conduct a job search, you might as well think BIG, right, and aim to work where you want to work? Think about what characteristics and accolades those target companies have that inspire you to want to work for them. When writing down those traits, use those ideas to spring board your thinking to come up with other target companies that seem to embody those same traits and philosophies.

2. Apply The CAVAC™ Model to build your Target Company List.

What is the CAVAC™ Model? The CAVAC™ Model is a methodical, hub-and-spoke thought process that helps the job seeker create a stream of new ideas pertaining to potential companies where they may find their next position. The C’s are the company’s clients and competitors. The V is vendors. And the A’s are associations and affiliate companies that compliment the target company’s business.

For each company on your initial Wish List, place the employer or target company name in the middle of the diagram below. Then write out the clients, associations, affiliates, competitors and clients that come to mind and from your research to expand your list. Each company listed can be a possible entry on your developed target list.  I will use one of my previous employers as an example, as if I was looking for a new position.


CAVAC Model V2

3. Expand your list.

Now for each company in the CAVAC™ sections, take a blank CAVAC template and one of the companies from the outer circles into the center. For instance, put Bullhorn, the Applicant Tracking System Vendor, into the center as a Target Company, and research, who are the competitors, associations, vendors, affiliates and clients of this organization. This exercise can go on and on, ensuring you are never short on Target Companies.

4. Cultivate leads from Industry Conference, Convention, and Trade Show literature.

Ideally if you can attend the conference live, that is always best, as you will network and start/nurture relationships with people that can help your job search, and ultimately, your career. However, practically speaking, if you are unable to attend, review the website/conference literature: Look the speaker list: Who do they work for? Review the sponsor list: who is committing advertising dollars to this conference? These are companies, by the nature of funding speaker travel and sponsorships, typically will have the philosophy and long strategic view to growth and leadership that you may be looking for and could be create candidates for your target list.

5. Join job lead groups or form your own.

The key here is to be sure you are surrounding yourself with positive, action-driven, generosity-minded people who will exchange job leads equally based on the needs of each person in the group.  These groups can be listed regionally online with State Unemployment offices or  private websites, such as The Landing Expert, who has an updated list of New Jersey job search clubs citing meeting times, dates and locations.

6. Search for blogs in your industry to build your target company list.

When identifying for blogs in the industry, there are a few ways you can use this information. If it is a corporate blog, then that company can become a target list candidate. You can make note of the employer of the blogger, if they are writing from an independent opinion. Lastly, you can look for upcoming or expanding companies discussed in the content of the articles to add to your list. And based on what you do, even companies downsizing can be job leads possibly, as well. (Yes, companies downsizing actually hire people as they are releasing some—one of the great perplexities of the employment space).

7. Use target list building services, in addition to the LinkedIn Company Search function.

Hone in on companies that meet your company size and industry, revenue, employee size targets.,, and are all database lead companies that provide contact lists from the companies where you want to work.

8. Research the investments of Private Equity, Venture Capital and Angel Investor companies.

If you would like to work for a newly formed firm,  a firm in its high growth stages or a firm fueled by private equity or venture capital funds, review publications like Merger & Acquisition Magazine or The Deal Pipeline. You can also access information in niche databases, such as the Mid-Atlantic Venture Capital and Private Equity Directory, as suggested by my colleague, Phil Dubinsky, CEO of Thoroughbred Private Equity Partners.

9. Get out from behind your computer and drive around your neighborhood, especially if you are looking to have a short commute and focus on quality of life.

I have done this in my own neighborhood and, while I was very knowledgeable about companies hiring in NYC (where I worked at the time), I was amazed by all the search firms right down the block from me and in close proximity of my home in Northern  NJ. I find over and over again, that job seeker clients are amazed that a major company has a field office or secondary presence in their town that they never knew of—because the job seeker was only aware of the location of the corporate headquarters.

10. Look at your day-to-day activities. What companies do you interact with each day?

This is based on the Peter Lynch philosophy of investing (Former Fidelity Magellan Fund Manager…I know I may be dating myself here.)  Go with what you know and with which you are familiar. Every company that you encounter in your daily life could be a possible lead, depending on what you do. After all, if you are a VP of Human Resources, human resources is a function in, well, every organization. Let’s be clear, whether or not a position exists, every company has someone doing an HR function. So use the obvious, available information in front of you to research if the company is a viable target company list item. For instance, you may have a local brewing company in your county. If you come from a food packaging/distribution/production background or have a hospitality/restaurant background, having your favorite brewery as a target company, and eventually your employer, could be an awesome thing!

11. Tap the knowledge of the people you interface with each day.

Do not underestimate the power of your immediate network. Ever. For example, I have a client who simply told her hairdresser that she was looking for as an administrative manager ideally in a creative organization, to appeal to her artist side. The hairdresser had another client who she knew worked for a major publishing firm as a merchandising executive who happened to be looking for an administrative management professional. The hairdresser made the introduction to the company (that fit my friend’s company profile, but was not initially on her target list—new target company discovered!) Fast-forward two to three weeks later, she has the job.

12. Learn about local companies in your area first hand, and not just thought online research.

Attend and consider joining your area’s local Business Association Partnerships, Chambers of Commerce, and other business-embracing organization in your city and county. The employers of the area will attend these meetings and you can meet your area’s local employment players in person.

13. Go beyond the alumni database to capture the influence and leverage the potential offered by your college alumni network.

Subscribe to the alumni magazine. When I receive Cornell University’s Alumni Magazine, I highlight notes in the articles and class notes of where people moved to professionally to come up with ideas for job leads for my clients. The publication is meant to be a ‘who’s who’ and ‘who’s where’ meant to be leveraged in a proper manner (no spamming, of course.)

Also, consider volunteering for the membership committee for your local college alumni chapter. Having access to the local chapter members and their employers can spark ideas of where you can look for your next opportunity (again, never using the list improperly, just for brainstorming.)

14. Look at the advertisers in the magazine and in any other online or physical industry publication.

For any industry, alumni, mainstream or professional publication (online or print), make note of the advertisers in that publication. If you are a CFO at a pharmaceutical industry, the advertisers in a pharma industry publication could be packaging companies, labeling manufacturers,  professional development firms,  drug security/counterfeit drug prevention firms, and drug distribution firms all who need a CFO and would be interested in your CFO pharma experience from the perspective at a company within their CAVAC™ network.

15. Learn who is pitching your CAVAC™ network to find new companies and new industries

While you can do this exercise for any professional, if you are business development manager or VP of Sales & Marketing for an electronics firm, look at your CAVAC™ network, and reach out to select people you truest within that network, and find how who is calling them? Who is pitching services to them? Those organizations are all leads to either idea generation that will lead you to an open role or an actual open role.

16. Search for current and previous employees of target companies in your CAVAC™ network and review the employees’ profile on LinkedIn.

Where did they work previously? What is going on with that previous employer now? Ask yourself if those companies are worthy to be on your Target List. To take an extra step with this information, if you are within three degrees of this target company’s former employee, consider asking for an introduction to determine if you can obtain any information about the hiring process.

17. Where there is smoke, there is fire. Use job boards as information portals, and not just job portals.

Some say applying online can be futile, and I do not disagree. However, online job postings are an indicator of who is hiring. So if you discover a great company through an online job posting, but it is not the right job for you, use it as evidence that the company is hiring. If they are hiring sales managers, consider approaching the company outlining how you are an exceptional client service director and correlate how your accomplishments can become an asset to the prospective firm.  Don’t wait for the job opening to become available—use what is there to craft your own proposal.

18. Search for companies hiring and expanding.

Do Google Searches and set up Google Alerts on terms like “downsized” (this is an important term to search on if you are looking for consulting work), “hiring staff”, “expanding operations” and other like terms, combined with your zip code and/or industry, to unearth companies in the news that are doing these activities. The movement activities these companies are performing are ripe for new perspectives and additional talent to execute the plan at hand.

19. Get extra value from your professional development coursework.

Look at where your fellow students work. Based on the information they share about their employer in case studies and lab work, does it give you a warm and fuzzy feeling? Would you want to work there? Network with your fellow students and see where the opportunity takes you.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but a great start. It is also yet another lesson that information can always be updated, improved and represented in a more effective way to ensure you, the job seeker, has the most current, practical tactics to persevere in your job search!

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About Lisa

Lisa Rangel and The Chameleon Team are the only executive resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and job landing consultancy who has been hired by LinkedIn and recognized by Forbes. Our 4-Stage META Job Landing System stems from decades of corporate and executive recruiting experience to position you to land your next 6 or 7-figure role faster.


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