Jul 19

Resource Spotlight: ReferenceUSA

One of my favorite resources is a database called ReferenceUSA. I’ve been telling so many students about it during one-on-one consultations recently that I thought a blog post might come in handy.

ReferenceUSA is a database of companies and organizations. Students can use it to identify potential employers, and it’s particularly helpful when you are interested in a particular industry or field and have a particular geographic location of interest or necessity. Here’s what you can do:

  • Visit www.referenceusa.com (NOTE: You must be connected to the ND network or use off-campus proxy access like any other ND library database).
  • Click the “U.S. Businesses” link (see screenshot above), and then the “advanced search” tab.
  • On the left submenu that appears, under “Business Type” check “Keyword/SIC/NAICS.”
  • In the search bar that comes up, search for different keywords related to your interests, and select the related fields that pop up. You should be able to select as many different ones as you want, and some of them can get very specific/niche. Note: the “industries” are based on what the company does, not on what the job would be. You might have the opportunity to do communications-based work at a company that manufactures engines, for example. Think of the contexts you would enjoy writing about.
    • Advanced tip: start with a quick search and look up a company you know you’d want to work for. See how the database classifies them through the SIC or NAICS codes. Then use those codes rather than keywords for your advanced search.
  • After you’ve selected your industries, go back to the submenu on the left and expand “Geography.” Select the geography type that fits you best, and define your geographic search parameters. If you’re open to relocating anywhere in the country, don’t feel obligated to narrow it down geographically, I’m just offering it as a suggestion. You could also do a few different places, like all of Indiana, and part of Chicago.
  • If you want to preview how many results you will have, click the blue “update count” button first. That can tell you if you need to narrow or widen your search parameters.
  • You can also narrow the results by size of company (# of employees).
  • Once you’ve got your fields and locations, click the green “view results” button on the upper right.
  • On the results page, you can simply click the name of the company to learn more about that company. The database has a lot of information, but it’s not infallible. If you don’t see a website listed, for example, just google the company. Chances are they actually do have a website.
  • To download your results to excel, click the blue “download” button at the top of the results page. You can download up to 100 results at a time, and go back for the next 100 after each download. The only kind of downloading I have done is to excel, but you can do the others if you prefer.
  • If you find a company you like, look at their “industry profile.” You can use the SIC codes to look for similar companies in step #3 above in lieu of keywords.

Have you used ReferenceUSA yet? Any other great resources you have found? Share your stories in the comments below.