Create a Company 'Wish List'

Answering 11 simple questions will help job hunters identify the types of firms they want to work at, says Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison.

Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry. He is the author of Advance: The Ultimate How-To Guide for Your Career and Lose the Resume, Land the Job. For more information, see

To get a job, you need a plan.

Instead of starting a random search, you need to be systematic. In other words, to find your next opportunity, you’ll need to target where you want to work.

Once you’re set on the geography of where you want to work and live, the next step is to identify organizations you’d like to work for. Remember, you’re thinking like a “buyer,” so consider what would be your ideal employer.

To help you determine where you’d feel most comfortable, here are some questions to ponder that can help you gain insight into the type of company that would be the best fit for you.

  • What size organization suits you best? Do you prefer small, medium, or large firms?
  • How would you describe the pace where you feel most at home? Fast-paced, collaborative, casual, corporate, etc.?
  • What do you want to wear to work? For some people, casual rules. For others, the idea of hoodies or yoga pants is unappealing. How people dress reveals volumes about company culture and how well you’d fit in. For example, I know someone with a doctorate in computer science who would be very valuable to a Silicon Valley start-up or one of the large, well-established technology firms. But when he thought about going to work, he pictured himself in a suit and tie. Not surprisingly, he found the right fit for himself in an investment bank.
  • What do you like to read? Imagine you’re in a reception area with a rack full of magazines. Are you more likely to choose The Economist or The Onion?
  • Is working remotely non-negotiable for you? Virtual workers account for an increasing amount of the workforce these days. Is that a perk you can’t pass up?
  • Do you prefer a sound studio for a library? How would you feel about walking into an office where you can hear a pin drop, or where you can hear music playing and multiple conversations going on at once?
  • How formal an environment do you prefer? Do you want reserved parking spots, offices with names on the doors, and specific scheduled times to meet with people?
  • Do you like company picnics and holiday parties? Do you like an environment in which people know each other’s families?
  • Do you like the idea of daily communal lunches? You understand, of course, that this perk may come with the expectation that you’ll spend long hours at your desk.
  •  What does your ideal workplace look like at seven in the morning? Seven at night? Ask yourself: how full is the parking lot during the off-hours?
  • Are you open to frequent business travel? You need to know how much is too much—or maybe you’re the type who looks forward to the next flight.

As you contemplate these questions, your answers will give you insights into the kind of environment and the type of company where you’d feel most comfortable.

Most important: be honest with yourself! Don’t judge your responses. If you do, you might be tempted to answer in the way you think you should—not what’s really right for you. Any lack of authenticity with yourself can lead you to pursue companies where you won’t be a good fit.

Your goal is to come up with a “company wish list” that identifies the ideal opportunities for you—so you can go out there and pursue them.