How To Find Contact Details, Part 3: The Unconventional Methods

So you’ve identified a potential candidate – you can see that they have the requisite skillset, experience, and have the right technologies under their belt. The problem is you just can’t get in touch with them through the “usual avenues” – what next?

Well here are some of the more unconventional approaches to finding people’s contact details and getting in touch with them.

Social Media

You can go to every individual social networking site that you can think of and search their database or your can shortcut the whole process by using something like to scrape their online profile (including which social networks they use) or if you know their pseudonym, you can use a name checking website like namechk.

Blogs and personal webpages work well too. Even if you don’t have their contact detail, you can fill out their contact form without being coy about why you want to speak with them or you can simply send an email to admin@[their personal website].com.

Why it’s frowned upon:

To be honest, I don’t tend to use Facebook or MySpace to contact candidates. It just blurs the line between work and personal space, but if I’m really stuck I will create a new profile for this purpose. The reason why I tend to err on the side of caution is that I think about why I sign up to these social sites. Am I there to connect with my friends and family and to unwind? Or to be seen and approached for opportunities (while having my latest troll profile pic up)?

When to use:

If I had to use the social networking approach, I find that it works best with more junior candidates as they are more likely to be receptive to this type of interaction. Imagine being “hit up” on FB for a job opportunity vs. having to take an awkward headhunt call in an open office plan. Did I mention it would be awkward?

A special note on Twitter: I’ve personally never had any real success in finding and contacting someone about an opportunity through this medium. Not reliably anyway. Either way, it’s just another medium so if you’re not already on it – go ahead and make an account. You can still view people’s profile and tweets (if they didn’t block it) and just “make connections” when you need to. I’d love to hear from you if you have experienced something different!

Email Archives

Here are a few websites I’ve used in the past:

This is by no means a complete list but these are definitely resources I’ve had success with for CCIE certified IT professionals… *hint hint*

The idea behind these sites is a way for user groups, communities, forums or even companies to have a permanent record of their correspondences – usually email chains. For a sourcer, this is gold!

It’s simple enough to use: just plug in a search – this could be an email address (one you’ve found or one you fabricated)  or whatever information you might have, e.g. “john smith” cisco “project engineer” or their CCIE number! You might just get lucky.

Why it’s frowned upon:

It’s not really. You don’t have to specify how you got their contact details.

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When to use:

When you’re finding it difficult to find someone’s contact details.

Telephone Directory –

Yes, we’re going old school here. Search for people’s residential phone number as if you were an old friend or someone who genuinely wants to find their home number. Why do people even use this these days apart from stalking? I can see why we had them back in the day but in this day and age, seriously…

Why it’s frowned upon:

Just remember all the bad experiences you’ve ever had with after-hours telemarketers calling you up about a survey or new product when you’re right in the middle of dinner,  trying to watch TV, putting your kids to bed (or being tucked into bed if you’re as young as me), etc. Want to know why this is frowned upon? That’s why! It’s intrusive and some might consider it down right rude. Yes you’re not a telemarketer but you’re still trying to “sell” them something right?

When to use:

If you absolutely have to use this trump card (I would ruse my way through a gatekeeper before using this – and that’s huge coming from me) — and I’ve only used this technique once or twice —  I would only call during work hours. The reason I do this is that:

  1. I can reach them on their day off; or
  2. I can leave a message explicitly stating the nature of my call; or
  3. I can get their mobile number or other contact details through their answering machine; or
  4. I can get their spouse/family member/house mate and ask for my prospective candidate’s mobile number.

People tend to be helpful when you’re trying to help their spouse/family member/house mate better their career. A word of warning – I highly advocate NOT abusing this method, but it’s helpful to know if you’re in a pinch.

Generally speaking I don’t generally use these methods with the exception of the email archives as it’s just a tool. If I absolutely must, I always put myself in the candidate’s shoes and try, try, try to be as objective as possible about receiving an unsolicited call or message about a new job opportunity. You may think it’s flattering to be approached for a role, but imagine if you had twenty calls a week in the office from yet another recruiter with an “amazing opportunity.” You’d hate for this to encroach on your personal life too, right?

Have some more devious ways for finding contact details? Share them below or let’s discuss more about the ethics behind these approaches.

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


1 Comment on “How To Find Contact Details, Part 3: The Unconventional Methods

  1. Ken,

    I do believe there is so much talk about sourcing techniques that we sometimes forget it is only a part of the process. A brilliant, fun and ever evolving part BUT how we present ourselves and the opportunity after successfully finding someone is indeed an art in itself.

    There are numerous other techniques I know of, some best kept in the memory vault but here’s a few more:-

    Creating a Facebook or Google advert – targeted at 1 person !
    Using sites like Facebook to see who their friends or family are and getting their mobile number this way.
    An individual and personalised Tweet. i.e. find their Twitter name and openly message them (this has worked for me). Best tactic here is to ask for their help i.e. do you know anyone.
    Finding an event they are attending and turning up ! LinkedIn’s events now makes this easy or you can of course xray event site’s to see attendees.
    Sounds simple but a plain Google search. I once found a guy’s mobile number as he listed it on the Boating Club’s website he was Chairman of.

    And here’s my favourite. Perhaps we have forgotten about this method of communication …………
    WRITE them a letter.

    Going back to putting yourself in a candidates shoes lets imagine how many emails, messages, Tweets, whatever that we get. How many hand written letters do you get and would you open it? Most would and they’ll also appreciate the fact that they don’t have to have a coded telephone conversation at work.

    Thanks for the articles Ken, really enjoyed them.

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