The job search process can leave even the most put-together professional feeling a little bit discombobulated. There’s a lot of information you need to keep track of during your job search, a lot of balls to keep in the air at once: To where have you applied? How far are you in each application process? When’s your next interview? With which company do you need to send a follow-up? And who are your contact people at each place you’ve applied?

The only way to keep your head on straight and your ducks in a row is to get organized—but how? There are plenty of tools and plenty of systems you can use to keep all pertinent job search information sorted out. What we recommend is something pretty basic and easy to use—a simple Excel spreadsheet. A single spreadsheet can be your guide through the entire job search process. We’ll explain how.

How to Keep Your Job Search Organized

Here are a few tips for the Excel approach:

  • We recommend that you start by simply creating a targeted jobs list. What are the companies you’d really like to work at? What are some companies that you think you’d really fit in with? Create entries for them on your Spreadsheet; then, as you discover different companies with openings, add them to that list—but only if you really want to work there. Avoid adding any and all open positions you see to your spreadsheet.
  • Once you’ve got a list of companies on your spreadsheet, fill it out with further information. Include these columns: Company, contact name, role, date applied, how you discovered the job, current status, and follow-up items.
  • Use the Follow-Up Items column to your advantage. If nothing else, it can provide you with a great way to send a personalized follow-up email. For instance, the person you interview with may tell you that June and July are the business’ busiest months. When June rolls around, you can send a quick e-mail like this: “Dear Whatshisname: It was a pleasure speaking with you a few weeks ago. I wanted to follow up with you, as you had mentioned that June was a busy time for you and I thought perhaps there would be some opportunities for me to play a role on your team.” This level of personalization can really impress employers.
  • You can also use your spreadsheet just to keep your morale high and your expectations aligned with reality. Have you truly applied for a hundred different jobs—or just a handful? Your spreadsheet holds the answer.

More than anything, though, it can provide you with a handy reference point—showing you where and when you need to follow-up, who your contact person is, and so on.