Have you been exploring alternatives to traditional job search methods? If you have, congratulations! You are on your way to greatly increasing your results and response rates!

I believe you will find this does wonders not only for reaching your job search goals, but also in keeping up your excitement and confidence in the process.

Developing the right list of target companies for you is so important because, done right, it’s going to save you a tremendous amount of time, increase your interviews and save you from the frustration of doing it wrong, which can create an illusion that the reason you are not getting enough quality interviews is because there is something wrong with you or your resume.

So here are 5 tips on how you can get started developing your own amazing list of target companies today:

Tip #1: Focus – Example A
Let’s say for example you want to stay in the state of Georgia and you would like to remain in the field of Academia. Your challenge is to find the institutions potentially suited for you in your state. You need to identify where these lists of institutions are AND you need to track where the movement or growth is with these individual institutions. Your best bet is to check out your trade and association journals for these lists and late breaking news like campus growth, appropriated funds, and promotions etc… anything that might indicate growth or development and a great reason for you to connect. Start by Googling Academia+Georgia or Associations+Higher Education+Georgia.

Tip#2: Focus Example B
Perhaps you are in sales and marketing of consumer goods and you want to move into a senior sales role for the “green” market. You are open to relocating anywhere in the US. In order to not spread yourself too thin, you must come up with a nice handful of portals you can use to find emerging or developed companies that specialize in your “green” market of choice. Begin by Googling Green jobs+products. Interested in wind farms or solar? Google green jobs+wind farms and wind farms+USA. You can also try Googling wind energy+investors. These are just a few examples. Not only will you find companies and contact decision maker names this way, but you will also find articles and information on companies that are growing and developing new products and services. Any and all companies that you like should make your list!

To supplement this information I also highly recommend using Manta.com. Manta provides free company profiles and company information on US and International companies, including market research reports, business news, contact information and key contact names.

Tip #3: Create an Abundant List
The general rule of thumb is: the smaller your geographic parameters are, the more you really need to dig to add anyone and everyone that meets your career focus parameters to your list. If your list is too small, you minimize your responses. Try to begin with 30 to 50 companies, ideally.

Conversely, you may develop over 150 potential company picks in your industry of choice. If this is you, then consider sending your mailings out in phases or hiring a printer (I like Insty Prints) to help you with your mailings.

There is another industry school of thought that touts concentrating on just a few companies at a time. If you are not in a hurry and are willing to invest in learning about, and networking with, key decision makers in each of these companies then I would agree this method is also effective.

Tip#4: Get To the Decision Maker
Sending all of your correspondence to the human resource department will get you far less valuable connections and interviews – primarily because unless HR has been handed a job description that closely matches your qualifications at the exact time you send them your resume, they are probably not going to be interested in you.

So, don’t gamble your confidence away! Though rarely you might hit the jackpot, these just aren’t very good odds. Get to the decision maker… the person two to four levels above your ideal position that is going to be interested to hear about your successes in productivity, profitability and problem solving.

No offense to my human resource friends that serve a valuable and honorable function.

Tip #5: Follow Up
You have to be prepared to follow up with a phone call once you have sent out your correspondence. I know, you are thinking, “but it is so uncomfortable to follow up with someone I don’t know and ask them for a job!” Good news! You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) come right out and ask them for a job.

As a professional, one of the things you must do in your job is learning the basics of networking. We ALL have to do it, so let’s discuss for a moment the value of learning how to network in a way that is comfortable and breeds confidence.

Here is a technique that I use: when I network, I think about it in a way that does not put undue pressure on myself or the immediate outcome.

In other words when you follow up, don’t set yourself up by rationalizing that the only acceptable outcome is a job interview. Here is your realistic goal: to make an introduction, either personally or via voice mail that you feel good about. That’s it. When you go on a first date do you berate yourself that no one got married at the end of it? Of course not! So just take a deep breath and give the situation a chance to materialize into something positive.

Okay, so here is how to leave a nice message you can feel good about. Try something like this: “Hi this is ____, perhaps my name sounds familiar – I sent you some correspondence last week and indicated I would be following up with you. Its Wednesday, 10am and I will be in the office all day. Please feel free to call me back at ____ and I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.”

This is a nice general introduction. Not to short and not too long.

If you connect with your contact live, this is even better! Say hello, inform him or her why you are calling and then share what you specialize in. Perhaps you increased revenue in your division by 57% last year, or you are a turnaround expert or you just lead your corporation through a very successful merger. Whatever your latest and greatest achievement is, this is what you lead with.

State your achievement in just a sentence or two and then say that you greatly admire their company and for these reasons you wanted to introduce yourself and find out if he/she might have an interest in learning more. This structure concentrates on your quantifiable achievements, is short and is flattering – a recipe for success!

Using these simple tips will put your job search focus in order and allow for a smooth transition from one objective to the other so in no time at all you will have garnered positive results from your ideal companies!