Into The Unknown – Researching An Unfamiliar Industry

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Jan 14, 2020

During my interview for the company where I have now been employed for nine years, I was given a search to find engineers who had experience with analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits. The only thing I remember is panicking and asking a friend of mine, who is an engineer, “what the heck is analog?” “Where would I find engineers?” “What is a circuit?” My friend graciously helped me navigate LinkedIn, an unfamiliar territory, and find a few engineers that could be potential fits for the assignment I was given. I must have been in the ballpark because I was hired to research for the company.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “research” as “careful or diligent search,” “studious inquiry or examination” and “the collecting of information about a particular subject.” If you’ve been in the recruiting industry for some time, you may have had many occasion where you had to research a particular topic.

When reviewing a search request, I identify what items I need to research that I am not familiar with. Things I may need to research could be keywords relating to the job descriptions, the company and its competitors that are hiring, and the location of where the position is located.

Below are a few of my favorite go-to sources when I need to research the unknown.


One time, I was working on a search for a “T-cell expert” in the bio-pharmaceutical industry and for those that know me, I do not have a scientific background nor had I ever heard of the term until I needed to search for a candidate. Is this a new battery for my remote? Ugh! What was I to do?

I used a simple Boolean search in Google to find out what I could about T-cells. Wikipedia, my favorite go-to for just about anything – returned back a definition and a bonus – it gave me a list of the various types of T-cells. Talk about impressing your friends with your newly found knowledge!

Industry Websites

Trade associations related to your particular industry of expertise are great for gathering data during research. You can find thousands of trade industries, and Wikipedia has a list of industry trade groups in the United States that are a great starting point.

You may have a need for a “pyrotechnic expert” for that new baseball field that is going to be opening in your community. One of the associations on the Wikipedia list is the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) and the organization’s website is linked within the results. I was able to find a bit of history about the association, members (aka companies who may have pyrotechnic experts) and more.

Have a search for an accounting professional? Performing a Boolean search for “accounting terminology” returns a great resource as the first result – New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA) website with over 1000 accounting and finance terms.

I personally have called into various associations and organizations to gather more information regarding their particular industry, and many have even emailed me data, which helps me research industries that I source for.

D&B Hoovers

I like to use D&B Hoover’s site, as it gives me some insites into industry and company profiles. They offer a free trial and paid services. I used the free search bar when I was trying to find water & ice manufacturing industry details, such as related industries, company descriptions (with major companies listed), data about the competitive landscape and more.


When I want to find terminology relating to a particular search I am working on, I use a simple Boolean string “<industry type> terminology.” For example, “manufacturing terminology” yielded me two sites. The Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (AMNPO) has a great manufacturing glossary where you can use the quick filter options to search the glossary by any given keyword related to manufacturing, and FedTech is another great option for manufacturing terminology.

Need to find IT related terminology? Connet Inc. has a dictionary of over 1000 acronyms and abbreviations related to information technology (IT) terminology.


Leaping into the abyss of the unknown during a search can be intimidating but it doesn’t have to be with these easy steps. Don’t be afraid to talk to those familiar with the industry you are working, as they can be a great source of knowledge.

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