The Source Books

Quite frankly, I'm amazed that not every job-seeker tries this approach, and distressed that even those who have found few ads to answer procrastinate in starting on a cold-turkey campaign. I suspect that it's because they assume beforehand that developing a list of potential employers will be a mammoth undertaking. Those who have developed a cold-turkey prospect list know otherwise. Don't get me wrong. Discovering the names of companies and people whom you could write to is a time-consuming proposition, but it's not really that difficult. Your reference librarian can help you find a number of directories of companies and officers. If you want to try it on your own, there are a number of source books I recommend since they can give you the names of most major U.S. companies in your field, and in some cases, can lead you to other source books providing specific names of individuals to whom you should write.

My preferred list includes:

1. Dun & Bradstreet's Million Dollar Directory

This enormous three volume set lists the names of most publicly held companies in the U.S., and provides names of key officers, total sales, number of employees, corporate headquarter addresses and Standard Industry Classification data (SIC codes) indicating the kinds of products and services which each company provides.

One of the best features of this set of directories is that it lists companies in three separate sections:

a. Alphabetically (this listing contains most of the information noted above) (the white pages).

b. Geographically (by state and by city within each state) providing you with a ready source of most publicly held companies in any locale, (the yellow pages) and

c. By SIC code, so that you can look up all companies in any particular field, (blue pages)

You'll find this directory in many better libraries but not in many local ones since Dun & Bradstreet rents annual volumes for about $500 a year!

2. Dun & Bradstreet's Billion Dollar Directory (Corporate Families).

One of the drawbacks of the Million Dollar Directory (above) is that it only provides names and the headquarter addresses of each listed company. If you are trying to locate information on a division of a major company, you won't find it listed. Here's where the Billion Dollar Directory comes in handy. It lists the divisions and subsidiaries of many of the largest conglomerates, and indexes can lead you to either the parent company or the divisions owned by this parent.

3. Dun & Bradstreet's Middle Market Directory.

This directory provides information similar to the Million Dollar Directory but for privately held companies. There are many more entries, but in many cases, for considerably smaller companies. It's valuable if you can secure a copy, but of less value than the other two directories to most job seekers.

4. Dun & Bradstreet's Directory of Corporate Executives.

This volume publishes brief biographies of senior management in the largest U.S. corporations. If you would report to a senior executive in such a company, it can be a valuable reference tool prior to taking an interview since you can learn the educational and business backgrounds of persons whom you would meet.

5. The Ward's Business Directory: Largest U.S. Companies.

Originally published as 51,000 largest U.S. corporations, this directory has several advantages over the Dun's volumes. First, it lists companies in size rank order by SIC code and geographically, and second, you can purchase the volume outright for less than $150. Its biggest disadvantage is that it only lists CEO's names for each company listed. Writing to the company president is ill advised unless you now report to a company president since so many people write to company CEO's and your letter is likely to end up in the circular file or forwarded to Personnel. So, if you use this source, phone the company and find out the names of people you're likely to report to. They're the ones who are most likely to be interested in hearing from you.

6. Standard & Poor's Register of Corporations, Directors and Executives.

This set of volumes is very much like Dun & Bradstreet's. (The pages in geographic and SIC code categories are printed on different color stock, and individual listings may occasionally seem less complete) The advantage of this set of directories is that because it is less costly, it is likely to be found in more libraries. As with Dun's, if you use S&P, you're likely to spend many hours in the library copying information, and cross referencing between alphabetical and SIC code volumes.

7. The Thomas Register of American Manufacturers.

This reference is larger, more detailed than any of those above, and not recommended as a quick reference. Its greatest value is that it includes catalogs and product descriptions for many firms which you may be pursuing. Thus, it's a super information source for learning more about products prior to your interviews.

8. Moody's Manuals (Public Utilities, Industrials, etc.)

These directories can be valuable for learning quickly about financial trends for each of the companies that you will interview with. It certainly can't hurt to be knowledgeable about sales and profit growth as background to your interview, although you may uncover similar (and perhaps more up-to-date information) by reading the company's annual reports or lOK's in a business library.

9. The Directory of Directories.

This volume can be one of the most important in your job search. It lists brief descriptions of over 30,000 directories published in the U.S. encompassing virtually every industry and functional discipline. Some of the directories are basic (e.g.: annual trade periodical guides to the top 100 companies in any field) to very comprehensive (e.g.: names and addresses of every company providing software support including names of officers, types of support provided, branch offices, etc.) As you might expect, the prices for such directories vary from a few dollars to thousands depending upon the size and the difficulty of securing information.

The Directory of Directories has both subject and alphabetical index and you can reference ten or twenty directories in your field within an hour. Each description includes the price, the address and phone of the publisher, and the frequency of publication. Our outplacement client companies provide directories at no cost to senior executives to eliminate the necessity of pouring over more general volumes in the public library. In my judgment, an investment of about $200 in directories may save you far more than that by reducing the time it takes you to find the companies you want to write to. If you plan to purchase your own directories, look up the Directory of Directories early in your job search since it will take you anywhere from three to six weeks to receive the directories which you purchase.

If your job search is local rather than national, there are several alternative sources for you in addition to those cited above. The chambers of commerce in most major cities maintain lists of local industries. Frequently these are available free. Some are sold at a nominal price. A call to your local chamber of commerce, or even a long distance call to the chamber of commerce where you'd like to relocate, should provide you with a good source of potential employers. A frequently overlooked source of company names and addresses is the local newspaper in the area in which you wish to work. Newspapers often publish annual industry reviews. If your local paper publishes such an issue, you'll find "Compliments of" ads placed by virtually all major firms in your area. Generally, extra copies of this special issue are available from the publisher for a dollar or two.

There's another overlooked source you should consider-the Yellow Pages. It may not sound like a very sophisticated list, but it's probably one of the most comprehensive in any locality. Since you're beating the bushes, there's no reason to pass it up if your search is local. Still another source of local company names that is often overlooked is a trusted friendly supplier who calls on you in your current position. If you have close ties with a supplier, and can speak to him in confidence, do so. He may have a sales-prospect list of companies in industries related to your own. If you compile a local list of companies you'd like to work for, call each. Ask the switchboard operator of the name of the person who holds the title you would report to. Address your letters directly to the executive you want to work for. Don't address them to "Office of the President" or "Personnel Director." If you really want to work at a company, you'll take the trouble to find out the name of the person who might hire you. He's the only one you want to meet.

As you can see from the variety of sources, if you're willing to make the effort, you can develop a lengthy list of companies you might well work for, companies to write directly to. It isn't that easy. You may feel it isn't worth the effort. You may decide to tackle this particular phase of your job search only after you've exhausted the opportunities you develop through executive recruiters and ads. That prerogative is yours. But don't lose momentum. If the number of interviews you have each week starts to dwindle, it's time to spend nights in the library securing names of companies that you can write to directly. While writing to companies, cold-turkey seems to be a long shot, it has worked for so many people it would be a mistake not to consider seriously this way to a better job.