Can’t Find People? Try Name-Generation Firms To Solve Your Sourcing Problems

Any recruiter worth his or her salt knows that there are three essential elements to recruiting: 1) sourcing or finding names, 2) assessment, and 3) selling the candidate. Most corporate recruiters are weakest at the first stage, which is finding the names and contact information of the ideal candidate (the working professional that has the same job title as your open requisition). Fortunately, there is an easy solution to this candidate identification problem that, for some reason, 75% of the corporate recruiters and 98% of the managers I have worked with have never heard of. It’s puzzling to me that they don’t utilize it, because this solution to finding and targeting candidates is quick, relatively inexpensive, and essentially ends the candidate identification problem. The solution goes by a variety of names including:

  • Names research
  • Name identification
  • Unbundled search

Whatever you call it, name identification research is simply the most underutilized sourcing tool in corporate recruiting. The reason that name research is so valuable is that most corporate recruiters are weak at sourcing or finding candidates. In contrast, corporate recruiters are pretty good at assessing and selling candidates once they have their name, number, and bio. It’s not surprising that most corporate recruiters stumble when it comes to identifying names because of their high req loads and the fact that they recruit for positions in many different disciplines. It’s obviously hard to keep up with “who’s working where” when you have limited time and multiple disciplines to cover. Fortunately, employing a names research firm can provide corporate recruiters and managers with all the names they need. It’s A Miracle! Think of it. You can call a name research firm like RW Sterns and tell them that you need the names, phone numbers, email addresses and a brief bio of all the people that hold a key position title at each of your major competitors, and in a couple of days you’ll have it. The names provided will all be employed people (the so-called passive candidate) and they will only be from firms that you have expressed an interest in. Once provided with this information, all the corporate recruiter or manager must now do is to contact them, begin building a relationship and make your sales pitch. Even though most corporate recruiters have never used name generation, the tool is commonly used by third-party recruiters and executive search firms. They realize that finding names is a unique and specialized talent that, while essential, is a completely different skill from assessing and selling candidates. Many of these third-party recruiters realize that their strength is in building relationships and selling candidates, so they don’t hesitate to focus on those important element of recruiting. In fact, many corporate recruiters are surprised when I inform them that it’s not uncommon for third-party recruiters in a specialty area to buy the names of the people that they provide as candidates. Managers frequently think that these third-party recruiters have a huge database of people in a certain profession. While a few do, most, when they are given a recruiting assignment from a client firm, just call their research firm and buy the names. Some large third-party recruiters have their own internal name researchers, but the concept is the same. If you excel at building relationships and convincing candidates, focus on that and let someone else that specializes in finding the names do the sourcing for you. Costs I find the cost of unbundled research to be quite reasonable and the quality of services provided to be extremely high. In most cases, if the name is unusable there is no charge. Incidentally, if you compare the cost of names research and the results it provides to the most common sourcing approach, newspaper ads, there is no comparison. Newspaper ads get you active candidates, people that don’t currently possess the job title you are currently recruiting for, a large percentage of unemployed candidates, or candidates from firms that you might care little about. In contrast, names research guarantees you get only what you specify. The need for expensive executive searches can also be reduced if you don’t really need the whole range of services offered by executive search firms. If they are given the names and contact information, many senior managers can make the calls necessary to get these top candidates in for an interview. Ethics I know you’re probably thinking about the various tricks that these names researchers use to identify these individuals and to get their contact information. My response is, get over it. They don’t break laws in order to get the names and that’s all you need to know. Incidentally, it’s important to realize that you are offering these candidates a better job and opportunity, so you aren’t misusing their names in any way. Identifying Names Research Firms Kennedy Information (a recruiting publisher) publishes a directory with a complete list of all search firms, and it highlights the ones that do names-only research (also know as unbundled research). Although I don’t endorse firms, here are the names of some firms that can get you started.:

Article Continues Below

Conclusion The first step in shifting to a model that relies heavily on names research as a primary sourcing tool is admitting upfront that your recruiters don’t have the time, interest, or skills to do cold calling and all of the necessary things required to gather names. It’s a common weakness in the corporate world but fortunately, it’s not a deadly one. By utilizing names research firms to supplement the names you get from the other most effective sourcing tools (your website, conference recruiting, and referral programs) you can essentially solve your sourcing problem. Then, corporate recruiters and managers can focus on what they do best, which is convincing the identified people to apply, assessing them and selling them on your offer. The thought of eliminating this tremendous roadblock to recruiting success should make even the most cynical corporate director of recruiting smile. Try it, you’ll love it!

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.