How To Find Contact Details, Part 1: Dispelling a Lie

Over the next few weeks I’ll be covering ways to find people’s contact details. There are a multitude of reasons why you might embark on such a task but for a sourcer (and likely a recruiter) — the three main reasons are:

1. To approach for a position
2. For referrals for a position
3. For general market intelligence – normally guised as one of the two above.

More realistically, it’s for a combination of the reasons above but for a savvy sourcer, it may include:

4. Connecting for potential future research projects.

Before we begin the series, I want to cover off the ethical side of things and a few other considerations.

 To Lie, Or Not To Lie

While I was growing up, I was always told that it is wrong to lie. As I got older, I realised that there were different types of lies – some of which were more socially acceptable, if not practically encouraged by society (white lies)!

When I speak with researchers and recruiters who utilise phone sourcing (especially pure phone sourcers) I notice that their perception of a lie is somewhat skewed to adjust with their sense of morality… Some draw the line at the use of rusing and others are open to, let’s say, having a more relaxed definition of their carefully chosen words.

Before I make any confessions, I believe I have a strong sense of morality (having spent a good portion of my undergraduate studying philosophy) and I certainly believe in conducting yourself in an ethical manner when in comes to business. But at the same time, I’ve always considered myself somewhat pragmatic…

Article Continues Below

With that in mind, there are no real right or wrong answers in this morally grey area of what constitutes to lying or not. But even if there was a definitive answer to that, who cares so long as nobody gets hurt right? Maybe. The litmus test I use when I find myself in a sticky situation is this question:

“Would I be comfortable re-telling this story to my grandma?”

I’ve heard other variations of this question including: “Would I be comfortable if this story was made public?” or “Would I be able to sleep soundly with the knowledge of my actions today?”

Either way, the rule of thumb is that if you’re presenting anyone with an opportunity, you certainly should not lie. This includes anyone you have to speak to in order to reach your prospective candidate. Why? Well ask yourself, what if your prospective candidate hears (and it almost invariably does) how you lied to her executive assistant just to get her on the phone? Do you think that may negatively influence her perception of your client – and you? The potential risks in damaging your client’s brand, not to mention your personal brand, far outweigh the benefits of getting in touch with your prospective candidate no matter how good a fit they are.

Thankfully next week we’ll get into the details of how to find people’s contact details and explore different way to get in touch with them.

Share your thoughts on what constitutes right or wrong in the comments below.

Ken Hew is the Director of Quest Research, a Passive Talent sourcing firm based in Sydney, Australia. Having had a life-long love affair with computers since he was eight, an innate sense of curiosity, and a strong interest in people, he has always had a natural affinity towards research and sourcing. Still an active sourcing practitioner, he takes a systems approach to conducting search and emphasizes the need to harness both Internet research and phone-based sourcing. Ken blogs at


7 Comments on “How To Find Contact Details, Part 1: Dispelling a Lie

  1. Very nicely done.  I completely agree that “ethical” sourcing should be considered the industry norm. It is unfortunate that some argue that only the results matter – it may take more effort or skill to be honest, but it is well worth the time and effort!

  2. Hmmm, I believe the only real morality in recruitment is whether you place the right candidate to the right job. Whether you make the match to truly support your client and your candidate and not only to support yourself (your commission, your bonus, your SLA or your time-to-fill).
    Every sourcing method or channel can be leveraged in a wrong way but the magical thing in phone sourcing is that – if you are good – you can keep the secret. You can play the whole role (if you wish you can lie…) but your cover story will never be discovered.
    Why Facebook data mining would be closer to morality? Or when a recruiter contacts best friends/colleagues with the same job?
    Nope, morality should sit within the drivers and everything else is a question of quality.

    1. Are you suggesting that the ends justify the means? By this logic: I can lie, cheat and steal information in order to help place the right candidate to the right job… My intent (driver) may be honourable but I have to disagree that this should be the only factor of what constitutes to what is right or wrong. I know my example is an exaggeration of how one would approach sourcing but I think it highlights the logical flaw of the notion that morality sits solely within the drivers.

      With your example of recruiters approaching a candidate’s own network for the same position I would say that if the information is freely available on the internet, then this will be fine. If you ask the candidate for referrals under the pretense of approaching them for another role but approach them for the same role then I would say that was morally wrong and would further bring disrepute to our industry.

  3. the question isn’t about getting caught.  Because you are good at lying still doesn’t make it right.  Is there another corporate profession that would get on a blog and suggest that lying and deceit is an acceptable part of their job?

  4. So many good points and interesting comments… but I would still disagree with you. I am unsure whether a general, industry-wide bad reputation could be received only for this particular reason (recruiters while doing phone sourcing are lying so they are all bad) or more received from the fact that recruiters are getting paid through candidates so they are too hungry of them. Maybe this reputation (if it is really that bad at all?) can be changed once recruiters start handling candidates as real clients and not as the found of their next week costs. I see more this critic stated in my world (am I sitting in the wrong part of the world?) combined with the critic of the lack of any real technical/professional knowledge.
    I think people rather tend to respect someone how can manage a correct phone sourcing exercise (so secret keeping, IS and no blaming at the end) than another one who is just sending out email templates without having any clue of the position. People do respect experts (very often regardless of their expertise) and yes, too many of them should lie at least once in their life to solve a situation or to move forward.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *