ed muses upon


Target Employers

Welcome to the third installment in the Job Search Best Practices blog series! Although I touched on the subject of targeting specific employers in a job search process previously, I felt it merited more specific focus.

Archer releases arrow at target

Image courtesy of Free Things To Do In Los Angeles

I’ve always had a fondness for archery. When I was younger, I was a Boy Scout and one of my merit badges was in archery. There was something I always found appealing about the simplicity of shooting an arrow. You hold a bow by the grip, nock the arrow and in a smooth motion, draw back the bowstring. Then there’s a moment of calm as you hold the bowstring in place, take aim and release the arrow. I always did, and still do to this day, find a real elegance in the simplicity of that act.

Irrespective of whether a job seeker is remaining in the same industry or attempting to break into a new one, it is important to identify target employers where he or she wishes to find employment. There are several reasons for this, and the relevance of each will likely vary for any given job seeker, but broadly speaking, it’s important for two reasons: research and networking.


I’m very fond of a quotation by Roman philosopher Seneca: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Perhaps owing to my youthful experiences with the Boy Scouts, I’m a big fan of good preparation.

This relates directly to the job search process. If suddenly thrust into a situation in which you can speak with a decision maker at an organization that interests you, you’ll make a much better impression with him or her if you are able to ask intelligent, informed questions about the organizations, current challenges it may be facing or offering congratulations for a recent accomplishment.

This is ultimately a matter of ensuring you are position to propagate your personal brand, as previously discussed. So by researching organizations where you want to work, you’ll be prepared to take fullest advantage of an unexpected opportunity. And if you get the opportunity to talk with a representative of one of your target employers, think about how well you’ll be able to customize your unique value proposition to the organization’s current needs. If your target employer is completing an acquisition and your skill-set revolves around business process integration, this is an organization that has a specific, time-sensitive need for the value you offer.

Being at the right place at the right time to have that kind of conversation can be dismissed as a matter of luck, but as we already know, it’s more: it’s a matter of preparation and making your own luck.


Every job seeker has heard the old chestnut that 70% of jobs are landed through networking: it’s a subject I’ve previously addressed. But networking without any specific direction will yield connections that may not be as directly beneficial as may be ideal. So while attending these events, having a target list of employers gives direction to your networking efforts.

If you are able to tell people you are interested in learning more about what it’s actually like to work for Amazon (for example), people will have a clear way to help you. Maybe they don’t know someone who works there, but perhaps they know someone else who does. In this way, having a target list of employers helps give focus and direction to your networking efforts when you meet people. It makes it easy for people to find powerful ways to help you.

There are many job seekers who are unfamiliar with the importance of targeting employers with their job search process. It can be difficult, especially in the case of a more radical change, such as moving to a new geographic area, or changing industries—or both. In these cases, the importance of informational interviews cannot be overstated.

But there isn’t a doubt in my mind that targeting specific employers is indeed a job search best practice.


  1. I couldn’t agree more about the importance of having a clear target in mind for your job search. In addition to the reasons you discussed, it’s also beneficial for answering the common interview question, “Why do you want to work here?” If you’ve targeted a company well, you’ll know!

    Comment by Melissa Cooley — 2011/05/26 @ 3:10 pm

    • Goodness, how did I forget about that–you’re absolutely right, Melissa! Knowing your target employer certainly positions you to speak more powerfully about your level of interest in the organization, and demonstrate that interest in very concrete ways!

      Thanks for commenting and your kind RT!

      Comment by edmusesupon — 2011/05/26 @ 3:30 pm

  2. Thank you Ed, I am convinced that your approach is absolutely right, true, and more or less necesary. Any job seeker will have much better results by targeting.

    With regards to your “archery” analogy, it is essential to target and before targeting an employer, even selecting the right arrow. Some require broadheads, other targets need field tips. To convert that back to job-hunting, when you target your employer, know what THEY look for. Know what THEIR strengths, weaknesses and problems are. Know how YOU can be the solution to those problems. Imagine if you were going to meet with Mark Evans before he left Borders… and you could explain how Borders could compete with and defeat its competition, digitally. Knowing those things creates an enormous opportunity for a job seeker.

    (reference) http://www.quora.com/Borders-Books/Why-is-Barnes-and-Noble-performing-well-as-a-business-while-Borders-has-filed-for-bankruptcy/answer/Mark-Evans-9

    Comment by John Akerson — 2011/05/26 @ 5:39 pm

    • John, thanks so much for stopping by! I’m sorry I didn’t see this until now. not sure how that happened.

      Excellent point re: the importance of arrow-selection, and a particularly well-chosen story to illustrate the point, I thought. Good arrow selection absolutely positions us to have much more engaged and informed conversations with the people we meet, and your comment makes the point with admirable clarity.

      Thank you for the nicely substantial comment!

      Comment by edmusesupon — 2011/06/02 @ 10:50 am

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