How To Organize Your Job Search

Looking for a job?  Not much fun, is it?  Job hunting usually doesn’t rank high on anyone’s top-ten list of “things I like to do.”

Conducting a job search can be highly stressful and disorganization can make it even more so. There are so many moving parts to worry about. It is possible you are using multiple copies of your resume. There are emails and LinkedIn messages to answer. Networking lunches to attend. Follow up phone calls and letters to be sent. Thank you notes to write. Research to do. Interviews to keep track of, and so much more.

How to organize for a job search? Our advice: Spend a few hours at the start of your job search. Set up organizational systems. This time spent at the start of your search is almost certain to be a good investment of your time. You will avoid frustration, missed appointments, possible mistakes, and all sorts of unnecessary frustration and stress. Your systems will prevent disorganization from spiraling out of control and will help make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Ultimately, it may help you find a job much faster.

Simply put, keeping accurate, up-to-date records of your job-search activities, logs of contacts you’ve made, and step-by-step plans of the activities you must complete to reach your job-search goals will result in a faster and more successful job search. At the very least, you need
a calendaring system, a system of logging inter-related and follow-up activities, a contact management system, and a filing system.

Here are some tips:

  1. Set up a dedicated workspace.
    If you don’t already have a private office space in your home, it’s time to set one up. It doesn’t have to be fancy—you can even set up a corner of a room as your private job-search headquarters. Just make certain it’s in a quiet area and in a place where you can keep your files organized and secure. Clear all clutter from this space. Clutter will make it harder to focus and will have a negative impact on your productivity.
  2. Develop a filing system.
    You could do this using a traditional paper-based filing system (we recommend a portable file box) or something as simple as a three-ring binder. If you have gone paperless, you have many options. Simple folders in which you can file documents on your computer will work. If you do it this way, we recommend Google Drive, Dropbox, or another cloud-based storage solution so that you have the ability to access your files no matter where you are. Evernote is another excellent solution that you will be able to access on your computer or any of your devices. Here are 9 categories that almost every job seeker will need, and you may think of more that are specific to your search:- Career Vision & Job Target
    – Resumes and Other Career Documents
    – Master Letters (masters that can be customized and personalized as you need them)
    – Job Advertisements
    – Networking & Referrals
    – Recruiters & Agencies
    – Company & Industry Research
    – Interview Preparation
    – Salary Research
  3. Set Up a Calendar, Logs & Activity Tracking Systems
    You’ll need a simple and easy-to-maintain way to track and organize data related to your job-search activities and contacts. Again, there are numerous ways to do this. You may want to use what is already familiar to you, but if you don’t already have a preference, you might want to look into using tools such as Google Calendar, Todoist (simple task management), or Trello. Evernote is an excellent option for keeping logs that can be accessed from anywhere. Or, try setting up a spreadsheet using Google Apps. You may also want to use an app dedicated to job search organization such as JibberJobber. At the very least, you will want your system to:- Maintain contact data for people in your network
    – Track referrals and leads and where they came from
    – Track job ads you have responded to and where you have sent your resume
    – Schedule and track phone calls
    – Schedule and track interviews
    – Send and track correspondence (both paper mailings and email)
    – Schedule and track follow-up activities
    – Log and track job-search expenses
  4. Set Up Your Email and Voicemail
    Consider creating a separate email address that you use only for job searching. Forward that new address to your regular address so you don’t miss anything. Personal email addresses often reflect personal hobbies or preferences that should remain private. Also, make sure that your outgoing voicemail message is professional. If others answer your phone, make sure they will do so in a professional manner and will take detailed messages for you. This is not the time to let your three-year-old answer the phone!
  5. Create a schedule
    Set aside blocks of time in your calendar that will be dedicated to the many tasks you must complete. If you are unemployed, the old saying to “make looking for a job a job itself” is wise. If you are employed, try blocking out two or three hours each day. Consider these time blocks as appointments with yourself and commit to keeping them. Batching your time is another good idea. This means that you will use a block of time to complete similar tasks. This practice improves productivity. If you have a hard time remaining focused for your scheduled time blocks, try using a timer. Pledge to yourself that you will remain focused until the timer rings.
  6. Create a List of Target Companies
    Very few jobs are landed by applying to advertisements. A more efficient and effective use of your time is to identify 20-25 companies that you would consider ideal and aligned with your career goals. Research these companies, mine your network contacts to find and leverage connections, and consider setting up informational interviews. Make sure you keep a file on each company.
  7. Set Up a Bookmark Folder on Your Computer and Devices
    There are websites that you will find yourself using on a regular basis. LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, and others. Visit websites of companies in the industries of interest to you. Create bookmarks. Visit the sites regularly; many employers post openings directly on their own company website. Complete your search of all sites one right after the other, apply for the openings, log the activity, and continue one right after the other.  You’ll appreciate the rhythm you fall into.
  8. Engage on Social Media
    Research and categorize which companies have LinkedIn pages, Twitter accounts, or other relevant social networking sites. Follow them.  Diligently.  You’ll not only learn about openings and the focus of each company, but you can also learn a great deal about their corporate culture.  Again, set up a separate folder for each so that you can quickly refer to something specific rather than have to scroll through pages of info or lists of documents. Try to spend 15-30 minutes each day sharing relevant and interesting profession or industry-related articles on social media, like and comment on relevant posts others have made, and generally engage with your network. The key is to stay focused and use this time for your job search activities and nothing else. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted.
  9. Stay Focused On Your Goals
    With so many advertised job openings, it may be tempting to apply for them all. Don’t. This is a waste of your time. Apply only for positions that truly interest you and for which you are reasonably qualified.
  10. Immediately Log & Save Information
    (Don’t keep things in your Inbox or Sent Folder-you’ll hate looking for it later). Resumes, cover letters, thank you letters, rejection letters. When you apply via email, send a copy to yourself via Bcc.  Save copies of all materials related to each job you apply for. Using whatever calendar works for you, meticulously record the who, what, and when of all of your job applications and requisite follow-ups.

Article originally published July 24, 2012, updated for 2020.