AJO Blog

Primary tabs

How to Leverage the Library & Internet For Your Job Search Research


September 20th, 2018

- Updated on

October 5, 2018 - 10:39am

The Best Online Resources for Job Seekers Series - Part Five

In the fifth post in our six-part series on the best online resources for job seekers, we explore the best resources for researching careers, industries, companies, and individuals. We build on the resources we introduced in earlier posts in this series and explain why the Internet and your local library are your friends when it comes to career transition and job search research. For all posts in this series, we recommend you start with The Best Online Resources for Job Seekers - Introduction. 
Career transition is all about research. I often tell my clients that navigating transitions is not just a matter of finding another job. It’s a matter of getting all your questions answered.
  • Which employer should I choose?
  • Is this the right manager for me?
  • Is this the right position and list of responsibilities?
  • What is the company culture?
  • What industries am I best suited to - and most interested in?
  • What keywords are most commonly applied to my field?
  • What recruiters are out there, and which are the best ones for me?
  • How much should I expect to be paid?
For some, it’s as simple a question as: what should I do?

The bottom line: much of your future happiness, well-being, and the well-being of your family depend upon the information you gather, the analysis you perform, and the decisions you make as a result.

There is no disputing that effective research can be a beneficial activity for job seekers. Most experts agree on this basic premise, but what does ‘research’ actually mean?
  • What kind of research are we talking about?
  • What resources are the best? Where are they?
  • How do you research occupations, their outlook, requirements, and salaries?
  • How about researching new locations and communities whether across town or across the country?
  • What's the best way to learn about a potential employer or a new industry?
  • And how much does research cost?
In this installment, we will attempt to answer these questions and more. In response to the first question, this post is organized into four research questions, as referenced in the "Research Roadmap" shown below. This includes gaining clarity on WHAT you want to do; WHERE (target location(s) of interest); FOR WHOM (which companies and industries would be good targets); and for HOW MUCH.
In addition to identifying the best free online resources for career and job search listed here, we'll also share how you can tap into premium fee-based research tools - for free. 
Best free career research resources for job seekers

occupational research to decide what career path to followWhat To Do: Occupational Research

What if you don't know what you want to do? Whether you are just starting out in the working world or looking at making a mid-career transition to a new field, resources are out there that can help you make informed choices.
Whether trying to find your first career, considering shifting to a new career, or just researching your current career, O*NET is a fantastic resource. Produced by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET (also known as the Occupational Information Network) can be a great place to start, regardless of your situation. It is presented as a tool for exploring the world of work – in particular for job seekers, workforce development, HR professionals and researchers. 
While there are many aspects of O*NET, the “Occupation Quick Search” function is particularly useful. Simply enter a title or occupation you are interested in, and you will be presented with a variety of helpful information, including a sampling of different titles that are used for that job, basic functions and responsibilities, associated technology, knowledge and expertise, skills, abilities, and activities. While it is certainly helpful in evaluating which titles and jobs are a good fit, O*NET career descriptions are also a great source of keywords for constructing resumes.
Another great resource for researching what you want to do, My Next Move is a streamlined version of O*NET offering an interactive way to learn more about career options. The site has tasks, skills, salary information, and more for over 900 different careers. You can find careers through keyword search; by browsing industries that employ different types of workers.
One of the real benefits of My Next Move is the option to take the O*NET Interest Profiler, a careers interest assessment consisting of 60 questions. Based on John Holland's organization of human personality into six types (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional), the value of taking this 5-10 minutes assessment is the option to browse careers by your top interests
MyNextMove - O*NET Interest Profiler Results
You can also hop back to O*NET and pull up careers based one, two or three of your top scoring interests as shown below. (Enter your top interests using the drop menu fields on the yellow bar.)
O*NET Careers by RIASEC Codes

Among the many job seekers resources offered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you might also want to check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). While the OOH has information regarding functions and activities, it also offers information on education, training, compensation, similar jobs, job outlook, and additional sources of information for 325 occupational profiles, covering about 4 out of 5 jobs in the economy.
Fatest growing jobs - Occupational Outlook Handbook
Finally, I saved the best to last. The aptly named CareerOneStop provides assessments, career profiles and videos, industry research, education, training, certification, and license finder tools, to name a few of the comprehensive resources accessible from one site. It makes our list because it is so helpfully organized by audience, whether you are entry-level, young adult, career changer, veteran, military to civilian career transitioner, or a worker with a disability or criminal record. The site includes job search advice and job listings too. Amazing sums it up!

Where to pursue a career - researching locationsWhere: Researching Locations

Are you considering relocating, or is a potential employer asking you to consider a new location for your family? Here are some sites to investigate communities, including real estate and schools:
  • Best Places - Information on average commute time, cost of living, schools, crime rates, climate, house prices, and more.
  • Homefair - Designed primarily for those who are relocating, the site offers a range of tools to evaluate a new location from city reports, school reports, cost of living, and a moving cost calculator.
  • Wikipedia - Enter a location of interest in the search box to learn about the history, climate, demographics, sports, government, education, transportation, and more. 
  • Zillow - Research Real Estate and Rental Overviews by Metro Area, to learn more about home prices or rents in a location of interest.
  • Trulia - Explore Real Estate Guides to learn about sales statistics, home sale price trends, and local information in the United States by popular real estate markets.
  • Greatschools.org - Information on K-12 schools, including ratings, school resources, student outcomes, and reviews.

How to research companies and industriesFor Whom: Researching the Organization

One of the things smart interviewers will look for is whether you’ve done your homework; in particular, whether you know something about the employer. They want to know that you care and that you’ve taken the time to find about their most recent acquisition, exciting new product release, or a recent reorganization. In that context, there is nothing wrong with viewing a hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile, or even inviting him/her to connect before an interview. 
Being a good researcher is a very useful skill for a successful job transition, and the following are some examples of sites to explore employers.

History, Products/Services & News

Management Team & Culture

  • Google
  • Company  website
  • LinkedIn Company Page
  • Buzzfile - Search for major employers by name, state or by major. Example Profile: Wyndham Worldwide. It's worth registering (free).  
See advice below on Employee Review Sites

Premium Fee-Based Resources $

  • Mergent Intellect - Pull lists of companies by industry code, location, revenue, company size, etc. from a list of over 245 million companies worldwide. Mergent can also help you identify the top ten industries that employ your occupation, identify employers in those industries, and find jobs with those employers.
  • D&B Hoovers - Provides a one‐stop shop for information about companies, executives, industries, and current events related to business. You can also create target company lists.
  • ReferenceUSA - Offers in-depth market research for small businesses, entrepreneurs and job seekers. Search businesses by name, location, industry, and size; search consumers by location, estimated income, interests and shopping habits.
  • Proquest - Articles from hundreds of newspapers and news feeds from around the world.
  • GuideStar - Current nonprofit data on more than 2.5 million organizations, including authoritative data from several IRS sources.

The Public Library - Your Gateway to Fee-Based Research Tools

You may be wondering: “How do I get access to the paid databases” listed above?
How do you get answers to these and other questions:
  • Who are the top companies in a particular market niche or location?
  • Who’s coming up and who used to be dominant but is now declining? Why?
  • Which companies are expanding, merging or being acquired?
  • What are some of the hot new technological breakthroughs you’re interested in, and which companies are leveraging them?
The surprising answer is: your local public library. Many libraries offer access to computers and online resources not just in the library, but also remotely using your library card, password or pin to log in. This type of research can be a very effective way to build an informed target employers list and to research those employers in-depth.
I spoke with several business and career research professionals at the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), and what I found out was surprising to me. BPL’s main branch offers an extensive Business & Career Center where job seekers can use computers and access the many databases BPL provides – including Mergent Intellect and D&B Hoovers. They also offer one-on-one resume and career coaching at set times during the week, to help job seekers with resumes and interview preparation. Group workshops are also available on a regular basis, as well as internet sessions. Brooklyn Public Library's card is free for anyone that lives, works, pays property taxes, or attends school in New York State and you can apply online for a library card.

Most cities have libraries with premium research tools and many of these resources are available to (and accessible online by) residents anywhere in the state.

For example:
To get started exploring your public libraries:
  1. Google "libraries in [your state's largest city]" to start looking for resources available online to residents throughout your State.
  2. Google libraries in [your town] to find a library near you. Pay a visit and ask the librarian about resources for business research and any career services that may also be offered.

Employee Review Sites

As much as Glassdoor has become synonymous with anonymous company reviews and salary information, it is best to approach the information with caution. Here are a few guidelines to follow when looking up companies on Glassdoor and other employee review sites (listed in the table above)
  1. Where there’s negative smoke, there’s probably fire. If you see detailed descriptions of toxic management, nepotism, harassment, bullying, etc., that should be considered a “red flag” and something to be concerned about. Personally, I think negative reviews tend to carry more weight, but I have no evidence to support that.
  2. Some employers actively monitor negative reviews, and will even post positive reviews to counteract or push negative reviews off of the landing page. When you see positive reviews that are long on exclamation points and short on detail, followed by particularly detailed but critical ones, that’s a sure sign that HR is posting their own reviews to keep bad reviews from getting out. 
  3. Companies that are desperate ‘ask’ new employers to write positive reviews as part of orientation. Keep an eye out for reviewers that have worked at the company less than a year. 
  4. Watch for ‘sponsored’ company sites that feature promotional videos or articles about the CEO. That means the company is paying to put content on their page. 

How to research salariesFor How Much: Salary Research

We covered this in some detail in Part Four: How To Succeed at Interviews and Salary Negotiationso while recognizing the possibility of overlap, here is the list of worthwhile sites to conduct salary research:
  • Salary.com
  • Payscale.com
  • Paysa.com
  • Glassdoor - In addition to viewing salary ranges under a company profile, you can also receive a custom salary estimate based on your title, company, location, and experience. Check out Glassdoor's Local Pay Reports for the U.S. and/or major metro areas too.
  • LinkedIn Salary - Obtain job salary insights after submitting your own salary information. LinkedIn Salary allows you to see salary insights for specific job titles along with the different factors that impact pay scales, such as location, years of experience, industry, company size, and education level.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook
  • O*NET Online
  • Salary by State - Where Can You Really Earn the Most? Use this great tool to compare salaries once you factor in the cost of living
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics OES Maps - 4,800 unique maps showing employment, wages, and location quotients for 800 occupations by state or area. Employment maps show employment levels for the occupation in each state or area. Wage maps show mean wages for the occupation in each area. Location quotients are a measure of the relative importance of an occupation in an area, and maps show the share of an occupation's employment in an area relative to the U.S. average.


I think it’s important to recognize that while research is all about the facts and figures, it’s also about being creative and intuitive. It’s like a treasure hunt or a good detective novel. Every situation is different, and every individual puts their own stamp on the process – which leads to their unique result. I hope this brief look into the vast resources available for online research helps you in your search.
Now stay tuned for our final installment on this series, where I will attempt to tie it all together.

AJO Career Coach - Mike BallardMike Ballard is an AJO Career Coach & Trainer with 10 years experience providing career transition consulting services to 1,900+ professionals in transition, including C-Level executives, program and project managers, sales managers & account reps, IT, software developers, technicians, engineers, insurance & administrators. Mike specializes in helping job seekers understand hiring technologies and developing effective career marketing strategies to find the right job and employer.