Sourcing Opportunities

Applying to a job may be a very structured process or it could be quite informal depending on how you source the opportunity. It’s a good idea to have one or two versions of your resume ready to go so you can move on job leads as soon as they come your way. Many job openings never get posted online, so it’s important to have a current resume you can quickly send to a contact who tells you she knows of an opportunity that hasn’t been publicized.

A valuable first step in the process of sourcing opportunities is creating a target list. The concept of a target list is simple—it’s a list of companies that you potentially would be interested in working for—but its value to the efficiency of your search cannot be overstated.

Your target list streamlines and guides your research and networking efforts. Without one, your job search will be unfocused and ineffective. After all, how can you get where you want to go if you don’t have a destination in mind?

The number of companies you include on your list will vary based on things like your target industry, your geographic focus, the stage of your job search, and how much time you can dedicate to your search. Your target list is a living document—you will make additions, deletions, and edits based on your research and on conversations you have with people in the field.

There are specific research tools you can use to develop your target list, and as you do so, keep three things in mind:

  • It’s easiest to create a target list when you have an industry and geographic focus, but it’s very hard to make a list based on function alone. For example, you’d likely struggle to develop a target list of companies if you know you want to work in general management but you don’t have industry preferences and you don’t care where geographically you’d be doing the work. It would not be difficult, though, to develop a target list if you know you want to work in biotechnology in Denver.
  • Don’t forget to consider competitors of some of your target companies. For example, if you’d be interested in working for Nike, you could also add adidas, Columbia Sportswear, and PUMA to your list.
  • Think about the people you know and where they work. This is especially useful if they like working for their employers. If a company is a good cultural fit for someone you know and like, it may be worth more exploring to see if it would be a good cultural fit for you, too.

Once you have a target list in place, utilize it to source opportunities using some or all of the following methods:


Your first step almost always should be checking your network to see if you have first- or second-degree connections at your target companies. The vast majority of new jobs are sourced through the power of networking, so it’s important to develop relationships with people who can recommend you for job opportunities within their company.

If you don’t know anyone in a target company or know someone who could introduce you to someone at a target company, you’ll want to introduce yourself to a “warm” contact there. A warm contact is someone with whom you already have common ground—a fellow Booth graduate, for example. The LinkedIn alumni tool and the Booth Community Directory can be quite helpful for identifying warm contacts—especially when used together—but you should also leverage the research tools available to you through the Career Resource Center.

Your first ask of a new contact should not be if he knows of any job openings or if he can connect you to someone in a specific department. Immediately asking someone you don’t know for a favor will likely result in him ignoring your email. Instead, work to build rapport with him by asking for and conducting an informational interview. Once you’ve established a relationship, he will be far more likely to help you with your job search.

You should also weave your target list into your networking conversations so people know more specifically how they can help you. The following examples show how to be explicit in your asks for assistance.

Less effective: “If you can think of anyone who might be able to help in my search, please let me know.”
More effective: “I’m interested in working at LinkedIn. Do you know anyone there I could chat with to learn more about their experience with the company?”

Less effective: “I don’t have a specific job in mind that I want, but I think I could add value to a company in a general management role. Any ideas?”
More effective: “I’d like to lead a product development team at a large tech company on the West Coast. Do you know anyone at Google or Microsoft?”

Review the Best Practices in Networking handout to get more insight around leveraging your network.


Global Talent Solutions (GTS) is Chicago Booth’s online resource for job postings and company contact research. GTS is also your entry point to the Chicago Booth Resume Database for Alumni and Part-Time Students (RAPS). RAPS connects Chicago Booth alumni and current students with top companies and executive search firms throughout the world.

Search through the Job Postings tab in GTS for positions that could have been posted by your target companies. There may be open roles of interest when you search, but don’t be discouraged if the only postings you see from one of your target companies have already expired. Past job postings are a great way to conduct role research that can help you identify specific functions you may find interesting at your target companies.

Within GTS, you can set up email alerts to be notified when jobs that fit your career interests—function, industry, level, location, etc.—are posted in the system. Read more about searching and applying for job postings to learn how to receive emails from GTS.

You can also activate your profile in and upload your resume to RAPS so recruiters who use our database can find you. More than 100 companies view the database each year, and the Career Services Employer Relations team regularly provides resume referrals using RAPS for companies who prefer not to search the database themselves.


Companies are increasingly using LinkedIn and other social media to recruit talent. Make sure that you have a complete LinkedIn profile that includes:

  • A professional headshot
  • A descriptive headline
  • A public profile link that is readable and can be added to your email signature
  • A summary statement that outlines the value that you bring to employers, positions you for where you want to go in your career, and features key words that will help you show up in recruiters’ searches
  • Brief summaries that highlight transferrable skills for each position you’ve listed
  • A listing of your skills and expertise

Recruiters will look for candidates using keyword searches, so fill your profile with words that will increase your chances of being included in their search results. Read through job descriptions of positions similar to what you seek and identify the skills, experience, and attributes that you should use in your profile.

Though you can use LinkedIn passively by having a strong profile and hoping recruiters notice you, you can also take a more active approach. Use the Booth Alumni page on LinkedIn to find Booth students and alumni who work at your target companies, then reach out to them to ask for informational interviews. This is a great way to learn more about a company’s culture and to develop relationships with people who may be able to help you in your search. Also utilize LinkedIn’s job board, which suggests roles you may be interested in and lets you search for openings by company, industry, function, experience level, and location. Follow your target companies so you can learn more about their business and culture and see what jobs they’ve posted.

To further leverage LinkedIn in your job search, take full advantage of its social features. Join and participate in skill-based and industry-focused LinkedIn groups—recruiters pay attention to who is active and knowledgeable in groups that relate to the industries they focus on. Post content on your feed that is relevant to your target field, and be sure to respond to anyone who comments on it. Similarly, comment on interesting content that others in your target field post. Of course, be thoughtful and intentional about what you post since it can be difficult—and sometimes impossible—to truly delete something once you’ve put it online. Being active on LinkedIn is a fairly easy way to increase your visibility and build your network.

It’s a good idea to assess how your target industry/function uses social media and tailor your approach as appropriate. For example, if you’re targeting a role in digital marketing, you absolutely want to have a strong LinkedIn presence. Scan the environment for how people who work in your target use LinkedIn.

LinkedIn’s blog has a lot of really useful information that can help you optimize your profile and approach, and review the Enhancing Your LinkedIn Profile handout for more tips on creating a compelling profile.

Search firms

Search firms work for the organizations that are their clients, not for job candidates who are searching for positions. They work to find candidates who would be a perfect match for a given position and company, so you’re unlikely to be attractive to a search firm if you’re trying to make a significant career change in industry and/or function.

Two main types of search firms

Retained executive search firms Contingency search firms
Usually hired to fill more senior positions Usually focus on lower- and mid-level positions
The only firm a company uses to fill a given position; positions are seldom advertised Can be one of many firms competing to fill a given position; also competing against a company’s internal HR department and applicants who approach the company directly
Paid by the company regardless of how long it takes to fill the job; fee is usually a percentage of the role’s compensation or is fixed in advance Paid only if/when they refer the candidate who ultimately gets hired for the job; fee is usually a percentage of the role’s compensation
Work closely with a company to understand its needs and preferred methodology for finding a perfect match Often don’t have in-depth contact with a company; may spend relatively little time researching a role before approaching or recommending candidates
May employ significant screening interviews, assessment tools, and background checks to identify and eventually recommend 3–10 high-potential candidates Work quickly to find more candidates for a position to increase the odds of making a placement
Focus is on the quality of the candidate Focus is on the speed of placement

You may be contacted by a recruiter at a search firm who thinks you might be a good fit for a role she’s trying to fill. She could have found your information in any number of places—LinkedIn, GTS, industry associations you belong to, a referral from someone else, etc.—and it’s usually wise to hear her out even if it’s in the industry or function you’re trying to move away from. At the very least, her insight could help you get a feel for new job opportunities and compensation levels in the field.

Alternatively, you may want to take the initiative to reach out to a recruiter directly. If you choose to engage one or more recruiters as a part of your job-search strategy, be selective. The more recruiters you approach, the more relationships you have to juggle on top of those that you’re building through your other networking. Identify a recruiter who focuses on your target industry or functional areas and introduce yourself so you get on his radar. Be upfront about the types of roles you’re targeting, your salary expectations, your geographic preferences, and any work-authorization considerations you may have. Remember, though, that the recruiter doesn’t work for you; he gets paid by the company at which he places a candidate, so he isn’t likely to facilitate networking opportunities unless he believes you’re a perfect fit for a given job.

The website Bullhorn Reach brings recruiters and job seekers together by industry and location. To search for jobs, select the Looking for a Job? link in the lower left-hand corner.

Executive search firms will frequently post jobs in GTS. To see those roles when searching through the GTS job postings, select Yes in the Search Firm category. This not only will show you the jobs that have been posted by search firms, but by extension will also provide you with a list of search firms that recruit for jobs that prefer or require an MBA. If you are interested in working with an executive recruiter as a part of your overall job-search strategy, this is a good way to identify firms you could reach out to. One of the best ways to learn about recruiters is by talking with people in your network, though, so be sure to ask people you know about their experiences with recruiters.

The Career Resource Center has books you can check out to learn more about working with executive recruiters, and you can also visit our Research FAQ page for more resources.

Other places to look