Finding someone’s contact information has been a favorite topic among sourcers and recruiters in the last few years, for a good reason.
On the one hand, communication on LinkedIn has become both expensive and cluttered; people read InMails less often than “plain” emails. Recruiters who used to rely on InMails solely now try to email when they can.
On the other hand, everyone’s daily communication is becoming more message-based – fewer people pick up the phone, preferring to check their email and texts while leaving voice messages unattended.
It will probably take some time until reaching out to potential candidates by text and other chat applications becomes ubiquitous. (Editor’s note: Get a head start on text-based recruiting with our guide here). As of now, email stands out as a universally accepted way of reaching out.
So, what’s the secret method for finding any email address?
I hope I will not disappoint you if I state that “one” such method doesn’t exist. However, armed with several tools, an open mind, and common sense, we are usually able to find anyone’s email address in a matter of minutes, and sometimes within seconds.
The information we most commonly begin with is the person’s first and last name, employer, and location. If the starting point is a LinkedIn profile, we additionally see the person’s job title, education, and other professional information.
The first quick step is to try is to search for the information we already know to uncover an associated email address.
An online profile may even list an address or have an attached document or a link to a portfolio website, which has the address we’re after. If we haven’t found an address upfront, the next step can be checking if search engines have captured one.
Googling for the first and last name plus any of:
- “gmail.com” (or some other free personal email extensions)
- Employer email domain (etc.)
…will often deliver the results you’re after.
No luck on Google? No worries
If an email address is not in Google’s search index, all is not lost. It just means that we need to turn to other tools to find the addresses we’re after, combining email finding and guessing tools with email verification.
Starting with email finding and guessing, here are some tools that stand out in our hands-on experience, and with good reviews from users.
- Prophet doesn’t just guess and verify addresses; it has a community of users who share and correct information.
- Hunter.io (formerly Email Hunter) collects email addresses from across the internet. Due to the large size of their database, they can construct email addresses that they haven’t indexed, with surprising accuracy.
- Lusha has not told us how they find email addresses – in fact, the company keeps a bit of mystery about their identity as well. However, our colleagues across countries have reported success using it. Lusha finds personal email addresses, which is an advantage for recruiters.
Most of the tools above are free with some monthly limits beore they start charging. It’s up to the individual recruiter to test several and find out what works best – various tools cover some locations and professions better than others.
In addition to email-finding tools (or instead of them), we can also begin by creating a list of guesses for emails. Here are some ideas to get you started and test:
- Many people create Gmail addresses based on their “social handle” such as their Twitter or Instagram username.
- When it comes to guessing a work email, there’s nearly always a set pattern which you can follow. Check a company’s website, or try this query on Google – “email ** company.com” – to see if someone else has done the hard work already.
- University graduates often keep an “alumni” email address.
GOT AN ADDRESS? VERIFY BEFORE YOU SEND
Several methods can verify a guessed email or find the correct email address out of a list of possible guesses.
Obviously, sending a “test” email to check an address is not good practice. But for some email domains, it is possible to “ask” the email server whether an email address exists, without sending an actual email. Email servers will or will not provide verification, depending on the ways system administrators set them up. A tool like Mailtester.com can verify whether an address exists (but realize that in some cases it won’t know the answer).
An alternative to verify if you’re on the right pathway is to leverage one of the major social networks. This approach is particularly useful in the case of people with common first and last names so that we don’t email the wrong people. The easiest two networks to use are Facebook and Google+. On either, when we paste an email address into the top search bar, we’ll see a profile that correlates with the address if it’s live.
To verify whether an email is connected to a LinkedIn profile, we can use the popular tool Rapportive. Based out of Gmail, once you install the Chrome plugin, open a new message, add your guess in the To field, and Rapportive will effectively cross-reference against LinkedIn, displaying a picture and/or some additional sites if confirmed.
Other sites give us an opportunity to look up a whole list of guesses in one go. While we should be careful not to send a friend or connection requests to people who may not be open to connecting, we can (for example) upload a list of emails to Facebook using its “Find Friends” function. (Ed: Learn more about this in our Facebook sourcing post).
On top of the above general methods, for some industries, we can locate online communities, association sites, and other professional “gatherings” that have discoverable email addresses. For example, those of us who “hunt” for Software Engineers, often use github.com to look up an email address.
To conclude, I’d like to warn that things move fast online in our industry when it comes to tools and techniques. This write-up provides advice today but may become obsolete tomorrow. The best way to stay on top of sourcing sites and tools? Set aside time to regularly research and explore new tools, and check what works best.