Monday, August 10, 2009

Looking for Potential Employers: Can Reference U.S.A. Help?

OK, I have to admit that I am late in deciding that ReferenceUSA database is a good resource for our patrons. I've tried to like it for quite a while, but I just found the interface too confusing for beginning (and sometimes, advanced) users.

All is better now!

As of July 14th, RefUSA updated their interface, and the result is a much more usable resource. By using the Custom search option, I was able to generate "real" data. Not overly complicated data, instead; lists of people, phone numbers, and addresses that could really help my patrons explore business close to their homes.

I had tried to do this many times before with the Illinois workNet Potential Employer tool (For more information about Illinois workNet, click here). It uses the North American Industry Classification System codes to pointpoint specific types of employers. The data is provided by InfoUSA (which is the larger umbrella group of ReferenceUSA) After attempting to assist many patrons with this type of search, I've noticed two big concerns when using Illinois worknet:

  • The Illinois workNet Potential Employer tool offers no keyword searching. For a patron who is beginning to be comfortable using the internet, keyword searching is representative of her comfort zone. Having to choose extremely BROAD categories from the NAICS makes many patrons feel like they just don't "get it." Figuring out which initial category to begin with can also be very "hit or miss." What category does someone choose if he wants a job working in a warehouse? Hint, it's actually under "Transportation, Distribution and Logistics," but trying to figure that by one's self can be a bit intimidating.

  • The other concern is that the result set is too large to be helpful. One of the problems is that one can only limit the search radius to 10 miles or more. Not helpful. This is especially an issue if someone is using public transit. Try searching for a potential teaching job with this radius--even if I limit it to "Primary School Teacher" and only "Religious Organizations," I still get a result set of 3317 schools--without any additional limiting tools.

So, back to ReferenceUSA What makes this such a great resource is that it has the two things that the Illinois Worknet Potential Employer lack--keyword searching, and great geographical refine options. For the beginning user, I would suggest sticking to using the Keyword/SIC/NAICS option + a geographical refine by City, State. Once the user types in the keyword, the search engine then offers various options to limit it even more. After the options have been chosen and the geographical refine is complete, the user only needs to click the "View Results" button to get a list of real data. Wow. It works. (But only for those of you who have access to the database through your library system).

I'm going to have to try this in real life today, and I'll update if needed. I think, however, that ReferenceUSA just proved their worth. So far, nice work.


This worked out really well for a patron today. The only issue was that the results set cannot be emailed to him--it must be downloaded. Unfortunately, the downloads were not available in pdf format, so this makes things a little bit more restrictive.

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