How to sequence your job search and be at your best when interviewing for your dream job

Chances are, you already have a short list of dream companies where you would immediately accept an offer. Once you make up your mind that you’re reading to start the job search and you polish your resume, it’s tempting to fire off applications right away at your dream companies. This is not recommended, especially if it’s been awhile since you were last in the job market.

Rather, use the “Tier 1, Tier 2” strategy.

When you make a list of companies you want to go after, rate each one as Tier 1 or Tier 2. Tier 1 companies are your dream companies. Limit the number of companies in Tier 1 to 3-5. Tier 2 companies are places you’re interested in, but you need more information about the culture or find a particular role/team in order to get more excited about working there.

During the job search, apply to Tier 2 companies first. 

Start first at the bottom of your Tier 2 companies and apply to 2 or 3 places. This gives you an opportunity to both shake off some rust if you haven’t been in the job search for a while and get market feedback on your application.

If you’re not getting interviews at the bottom of your Tier 2 companies, that’s a market signal that something needs to change. It could be that your resume needs work or you need to find stronger referrals. If you’re stumbling in your interviews, it’s a signal you need to prepare and practice more.

This helps you get the ball rolling and build momentum. If you’re progressing through to the 2nd round of interviews and feel confident in your application, start applying to a few Tier 2 companies near the top of your list.

Again, listen to market feedback at this point. Once you’re progressing through to the 2nd round interviews and beyond regularly of your top Tier 2 companies, start applying to your Tier 1 companies.

This is the time when you’re really in the zone. You’ve made adjustments to your application, interview approach, and you’re really focused on the job search.

Like an Olympic athlete, following this approach helps you peak for your Tier 1 interviews.

Also, interviewing at multiple companies plays to your advantage. Recruiters will ask you if you’re interviewing at other companies. If you’re only interviewing at that one company, there’s no urgency on their end. There’s no threat that the company will lose out on you to a competitor.

Remember, the job market is first and foremost a market. The most leverage you’ll have on a company is if you have an offer from another company. Keep this in mind and play the market dynamics to your advantage!