How to Make a Target List

Target lists provide an organized way to manage part of your search process. They help you to identify organizations you should immediately invest research and networking efforts. Our discussion on target lists uses the LAMP list method Steve Dalton introduces in his book, The 2 Hour Job Search. Steve is an Associate Director in the Career Management Center at the Fuqua School of Business and developed the 2 Hour Job Search approach when looking for a new role after determining that his post-MBA marketing role wasn’t a fit for him.

  • Why Should I Use a Target List?

    Target lists answer the questions faced by every student at some point in their process–Which organizations should I research further? How do I prioritize my time in this research? How can I make my job/internship search more efficient and systematic? A target list is essential in your process.

    A target list:

    • Saves time
    • Distributes your research energy appropriately
    • Determines the criteria you deem important
    • Prompts you to identify similar employers that could be a good fit
    • Provides organization to your process
  • Creating a Target List

    There are many ways to develop your target list of organizations, Steve Dalton’s LAMP list method from The 2-Hour Job Search is just one method, but it has efficient and effective approaches that we will encourage you to utilize and customize in the development of your target list. It also takes only 70 minutes to create! The LAMP list method asks you to take action on the following questions to populate your target list columns: 

    • L = What organizations are potential employers?
    • A = Do advocates (potentially alumni) work for the organization?
    • M = What is your motivation level to work for this organization?
    • P = Is the organization currently hiring? Are there job postings?

    If you would like to learn more about these approaches, feel free to read Dalton’s The 2-Hour Job Search or you can watch a recording of Steve Dalton’s presentation (you will need to use your net id to view the recording). 

    Similarly, to The 2-Hour Job Search, we suggest you start your Target List with a manageable number of organizations, which we define as around 40. Always keep in mind your list will change over time as new organizations are added, some are removed, or the list is re-prioritized. You may be wondering, can I do less or can I do more than 40?

    We do not suggest you do less as it is important to have enough organizations at the start. As the search progresses, organizations will be de-prioritized and relieved from the list and some new organizations will be added. If you have too few organizations, it would result in a weak target list. Invest time now to add 40+ organizations, to save you time later in the process. It is totally fine if you want to have more than 40 organizations. So, if you find an organization that could be interesting, add it to the list now. If you find an organization that you do not know, add it to the list now. You can set aside time to research the organization later.

    To create your Target List use the Excel template we’ve provided or create your own. You can also download a blank LAMP template at Excel is the recommended format as it allows for ease in sorting your target organizations. Dalton’s four approaches to adding organizations are listing:

    1. Dream Employers
    2. Alumni (or affinity) Employers
    3. Actively Hiring Employers
    4. Trending or Open to Sponsorship Employers

    As you start your LAMP list, stay focused on the task. Now is not the time to get lost exploring websites or organizations. Focus is a key ingredient to creating your LAMP list in 70 minutes, and to the search process as a whole. 

  • Completing the L Column

    After describing the approach, there will be an exercise. During the exercise we encourage you to continue until you have 10 organizations added to your list or you have spent 10 minutes on each section, whichever comes second.

    -Dream Employer Approach

    A dream employer is like a dream college; it is an organization that you aspire to work for. Your dream organizations will be the start of your target list. You can take dream organizations a step further, by looking up related organizations. This is a great way to add more organizations within the same field to your list. If you see organizations you do not recognize, add them to your list. At this point, do not research them as this would take you away from the task.

    Dream Employer Exercise  – 10 minutes or 10 organizations, whichever comes 2nd

    Start with your dream employers and look up related organizations. Remember to add organizations that are both known and unknown to you. The unknown organizations can be researched at a later time.

    Dream Employer Search Resources

    You can search related organizations using:

    • Collection of diversity data from companies of all sizes and across industries who have joined the movement to make their diversity data open. All the data shared is either self-reported by companies or pulled directly from public diversity reports
    • Google Finance
    • LinkedIn
    • Crunchbase (free version) 
    • A list of organizations that have sponsored in the past. Why is this information about past sponsorship helpful? Well, if an organization sponsored in the past they are likely to do so in the future. The key word is likely, and this does not mean they will sponsor. This strategy works well for large, multinational companies, but is harder with smaller companies. Small employers may not have sponsored last year because no one was qualified, so unless a small organization explicitly states they do not sponsor, do not rule out small organizations using this approach.

    Demonstration of Google Finance (transcript)

    -Alumni (or Affinity) Employers Approach

    In this approach you will use alumni working at an organization of interest and doing something you are interested in to add organizations to your list. Use websites, such as LinkedIn or the Duke Alumni Directory to search through the organizations employing Duke Engineering Master’s graduates. At this time, you do not need to write down the name or contact information, simply add the organization to the L column. 

    Alumni/Advocates Exercise  – 10 minutes or 10 organizations, whichever comes 2nd

    Utilize alumni databases, from Duke, your undergraduate institution, from any past employers, LinkedIn or the EMP First Destination Outcomes to add organizations to your target list. Once again, add organizations you might not know if you align with the field and role. 

    Alumni/Advocates Search Resources

    Demonstration of the LinkedIn Alumni search (transcript)  Within LinkedIn there are also groups that you can join to connect with Duke Alumni, such as the Duke University Alumni Network. 

    Demonstration of the Duke Alumni Directory (transcript)

    Advice: If you don’t remember if you already added an organization to your list or not, that is okay. Go ahead and add it so you do not leave off any, when you sort your list you will be able to delete any duplicates.   

    -Posting Search Approach

    The posting search approach allows you to find additional organizations through a job search engine, like In a search engine you input the “what” and/or “where”. The “what” could be a job title or your Duke degree title. The “where” could be a city, state, or zip code, or it could be left blank if you are not constrained by location. After entering the information, quickly scan the results and take note of the organizations of interest to you, either in a role, field, or both! 

    Once again, don’t limit yourself and add all organizations you find – you can research them later! Be careful here not to get lost in researching organizations or clicking on outside websites. The goal of this task is to find new organizations to add to your target list efficiently. This approach does limit you to the organizations that are hiring at the time that you complete the search, but can be done at multiple points during your search. 

    Posting Search Approach Exercise  –  10 minutes or 10 organizations, whichever comes 2nd

    Use job posting searches to add organizations to your list. While it will be tempting, do not click on the jobs postings, but use this approach to find organizations to add to your Target List.

    Posting Search Resources

    Websites such as, Google Jobs, and are useful resources. is recommended by Steve Dalton as the one search engine to use during the posting search approach.

    Demonstration on searching on (transcript)

    -Trending or Open to Sponsorship Employers Approach

    In the trending employers approach you will use articles about trends in the field to add organizations to your list. Using a search engine, such as Google or Baidu, search the field or role of interest to you along with the word “trends”. Scan the articles for names of organizations to add to your list.

    *If you are an international student and you require sponsorship, use or to search for employers that have sponsored international students in the past. 

    This approach will allow you to gain knowledge about roles and/or fields of interest to you, while also learning about new organizations. The knowledge you learn will be beneficial to other aspects of the search, as employers want informed and credible employees. This approach will introduce you to smaller employers, so add organizations even if they do not recognize their name.  

    -Trending or Open to Sponsorship Employers Approach Exercise  –  10 minutes or 10 organizations, whichever comes 2nd

    Use the trend following approach to add organizations to your list. Make sure to scan the articles to learn about new organizations efficiently and effectively.

    Trending Employers Search Resources

    Demonstration on following trends and setting up alerts in Google (transcript)

    Now you have successfully completed the list or L column of your Target List.

    Remember, this is not a finalized list! It is a starting point or first version for your Target List. This list will change over time as your research continues and organizations are added, removed, and re-prioritized. 

    • Completing Columns A-M-P

      Your target list includes the columns: List, Alumni/Advocate, Motivation, and Posting. You have completed the first column in the spreadsheet or the L (list of organizations) column, now let’s work on the A (alumni/advocates), M (motivation), and P (posting) columns. While it may seem repetitive, you will now revisit alumni/advocate, motivation, and posting to fill out your target list in a new and different way.

      Just a quick reminder, about the columns we will now focus on: 

      • A= Do alumni/advocates work for the organization?
      • M = What is your motivation level to work for this organization?
      • P = Is the organization currently hiring? Are there job postings?
    • Columns as Proxies, as defined by the 2-Hour Job Search

      Steve Dalton states that all of the columns are proxies for other pieces of information in the search process. A proxy is a measure used to represent the value of something. The columns are proxy for: 

      • Alumni/Advocate = likelihood of finding a sympathetic contact at that employer
      • Motivation = willingness to do the work necessary for the job
      • Posting = urgency
    • Completing the Columns

      -Alumni/Advocate Column

      Go through your list, one by one, and search in the Duke Alumni Directory, LinkedIn or use the Alumni Employment Visualization to see if the organization has previously hired Duke alumni. If you are using the visualization remember it only has information regarding MEMP and MEng alumni since 2011, MS since 2016 and their first employer after graduation. So the visualization should be used in conjunction with or the Duke Alumni Directory. If you find one or more alums that work or have worked at the organization, put a Y for yes in the column. If you do not find any alums, put an N for no. In this context, “alumni” is a convenient placeholder for the larger question, “who might I know at this organization” and “who is willing to advocate for me”. If you searching in LinkedIn and find a first connection who works at the organization, this would put a Y in the column. Remember to think about all of your past educational and work experiences as sources of Y in the alumni column. 

      At this point, you do not need the contact information of the alum or alums, just a Y or N. Remember, you do not need perfect information but just “good enough” information, to make the best use of your time. Efficiency is key!

      Alumni/Advocate Exercise  – 10 minutes for all 40 organizations

      Complete the A column of your target list. You do not need the contact information of the alum, just a Y or N.

      -Motivation Column

      Motivation is essential to you completing a project, such as a job/internship search. In the motivation column of the target list you will use a numerical scale to rate your motivation for working at each organization. Once again, you want to use your time wisely so go with your initial gut feeling and do not complete any outside or additional research. A rating of 3 denotes your dream employer, 3 is a 2nd tier employer, 1 is for an employer you don’t care for and 0 is for a company you don’t know enough about. It is ok to have 0s on your list. You can set aside time on another day to go back and research these as a separate task. If you choose to do this research later, you can sort your list to feature the “0s” and spend a bit of time learning more about them in order to enter a true motivation ranking.

      Remember you should not do any additional research, but just go through and assign a motivation number based on how you feel about the organization at that moment. 

      Motivation Exercise  –  5 minutes for all 40 organizations

      Complete the motivation column of your target list.

      -Posting Column

      The column for postings will be populated with information on the quantity and quality of postings from your target organizations. Use a job search engine website, such as to see if they have open positions. In The 2-Hour Job Search this section is ranked on a numerical scale of 1 to 3. If you are curious about this method, feel free to investigate further on your own. For your purposes, we encourage you to approach this section with a Y or N. You would use a Y for yes in the column if you find any full-time postings for the organization and no if you do not find any full-time postings.

      Remember, the key is to search efficiently and effectively – don’t get lost reading the job descriptions or researching organizations. 

      Search Tip: If your organization has two names, use quotations around the full name while searching. 

      Posting Exercise – 15 minutes for all 40 organizations

      Complete the posting column of your target list. Use your time valuably and fight your desire to click and further research any postings you find.

      Now you have successfully completed ta version of your Target List. Curious what to do now, check out the resource on How to Use Your Target List