A job search has a lot of moving parts. From finding positions to filling out applications to sending follow-up notes, it can be easy to let things slip through the cracks. Instead of missing out on a good opportunity, think of your job search like an ongoing project where you’re the project manager, suggests Cheryl Hyatt, cofounder of Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search.
“Strategic lists can help you focus your energy on the substance of your applications and interviews rather than getting mired down in distracting details,” she says. Here are eight lists you need to make to track your progress and find your next job.
Start with is a list of 10 to 15 potential employers, says Jill Gugino Panté, director of the Lerner Career Services Center at the University of Delaware.
“This list is important because it makes your search more targeted and manageable,” she says. “Once you have this list, you can start seeing what jobs are posted, which alumni work there, what events they will be attending, what connections you have on LinkedIn, and, more importantly, you can share this list with your internal networks.
“It’s difficult for people to help you when you tell them you’re looking for a job in finance, for example. But when you say, you are looking to get hired at XYZ company (in finance), people can already make those connections in their networks.”
If you don’t know where to start when assembling your dream employer list, look at businesses deemed the “Best Companies to Work For” by local magazines or journals, suggests Carisa Miklusak, CEO of tilr, an app that matches companies and job seekers. “Take time to research the types of companies you want to work for, and make a list of the top ones that you want to spend extra effort to target,” she says.
Positions of interest come your way through many avenues, says Hyatt. “Whether you see a position on LinkedIn, hear about it from a friend, or are contacted by a search firm, you need to capture the position to a central list where you can return to it later,” she says. “Research jobs in this list to determine if they are a good fit for you, and gather information about the company to inform your cover letter and résumé.”
Make a list of all the people you know and interact with both personally and professionally, says Debora Roland, vice president of human resources for CareerArc, a hiring and outplacement firm.
“Give them your elevator pitch on what you do and what you’re looking for in your next role,” she says. “You never know where your next job will come from. Make a list of people who work at companies you’re interested in, and see if any of your contacts know these people. Sometimes, you can get your foot in the door by asking for an introduction.”
4. Local networking events
Networking is always one of the best ways to find a job because you’re building face-to-face or digital relationships with people who can pave the way to opportunities or provide advice and information, says Miklusak.
“Research and compile a list of some upcoming networking events in your area, and then pick two or three to attend as part of your job-hunting process,” she says. “It also helps to prepare a succinct list of what you hope to accomplish ahead of time so you can stay focused on your mission.”
5. Interview responses
Most interviewers will ask some of the standard interview questions, such as “tell me about yourself” or “what can you bring to our company?” Make a list of your answers and practice them so you’ve got them down, suggests Miklusak.
“These are some of the most popular icebreaking questions asked during an interview, yet some of the hardest to answer on the fly,” she says. “Athletes practice many times before they play the actual game. Think of yourself like a career athlete, and practice alone, with friends, and with family before you actually swing.”
6. Questions to ask
During the interview process, you’ll have an opportunity to ask questions. Make a list of go-to questions to ask a recruiter or potential employer—because interviewing goes both ways, says Miklusak.
“You want to ensure the position is suitable for you before you sign on, so think of questions that will help you understand culture fit, what the position entails, the management structure, their work-from-home policies, and the performance review process,” she says.
Once you have submitted an application, it’s normal for there to be a lag as the hiring manager or search committee reviews all the applications they’ve received, says Hyatt.
“Checking in to see that they have all the materials necessary can prevent you from being passed over for an incomplete application,” she says. “You can also use this list to track thank-you notes once you’ve had an interview.”
8. Weekly action steps
Finally, make a list of weekly action steps, says Gugino Panté. “Sitting and waiting in the job search is never a good idea,” she says. “Have reachable goals each week.”
For example, set a target number of jobs to apply to, people to contact, networking events to attend, and companies to research. “Your job search is like a business plan for your career,” says Roland. “List out your activity for every day, achieving one bite of the apple at a time—each phone call, each résumé sent, each interview, each conversation. This helps you to recognize that you are moving the ball forward and keeps you on track.”