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How Lists Can Take Your Job Search from Chaos to Efficiency

When looking for a job, you become a de facto project manager, monitoring the status of myriad applications. How can you keep track of all the details and keep the process moving? Strategic lists can help you focus your energy on the substance of your applications and interviews rather than getting mired down in distracting details. The job-search process has four main stages: research, applications, interviews, and offers. Interviews and offers are bracketed by some necessary follow-ups. By keeping lists that correspond with these phases, you can stay organized and productive.

  1. Positions to pursue. Positions of interest come your way through many avenues. 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. Research jobs in this list to determine if they are a good fit for you and to gather information about the company to inform your cover letter and résumé.

  2. Applications to complete. Applying to a position is a process. While you craft your cover letter, obtain permission from your references, and tailor your résumé, keep a list of your applications in progress and the status of each.

  3. Follow-ups to complete. 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. Checking in to see that they have all the materials necessary can prevent you from being passed over for an incomplete application. You can also use this list to track thank-you notes once you’ve had an interview.

  4. Interviews to prepare for. Use a list to track the interviews you have scheduled and how you want to prepare for each. This list will often be one of the shorter lists of the set. While different items will have priority at various times throughout the process, understanding the broad picture of your job-prospects enables you to keep all applications in motion.

  5. Offers to consider. Closing out the process, you can keep a list of offers. This list can also include colleagues you want to discuss your offers with and response deadlines.