Doing Due Diligence In Research

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Aug 12, 2011
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

For those who are pure researchers – how do you do due diligence when you are doing a research project? Research by definition is “the systematic investigation into, and study of materials, sources etc. in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.” Are we, as researchers, making sure we cross all our T’s and dot all our I’s when we are working on our searches?

Here’s a scenario that I’m sure everyone has encountered in their career: you come across the contact information of a potential candidate, copy/paste it into an email, and ship it off to the recruiter you are helping. The recruiter gets in touch with the potential candidate only to find out that he/she isn’t there at the company, or in a worst case scenario (which I personally have experienced) the person is deceased! What happened here?

The problem starts when as researchers we don’t cross-check our data. Taking one resource at its word is like only tasting one type of cabernet and declaring it the best overall, with absolutely no consideration of the other brands, blends, or vintages available. It is important to do due diligence in research and actually RE-search. Meaning – cross reference the information you have with other sources and make sure it’s up to date and accurate. The resource from which you got the original contact information might be a couple years old. That individual may have relocated or changed email addresses or no longer work at that company or, Heaven forbid, might have passed away since the information was published.

Be a good researcher and check your facts! Here are a couple of simple cross-checking suggestions to help you verify accuracy:

  • Use more than one search engine – they each index some different data so using only one will lead you to miss out on lots of information.
  • Check the company website for the person’s bio (if available).
  • See if the email address you have is still functioning — I like to use either or
  • Check social networks — often people will update a LinkedIn profile with new employment information or make a note on their Facebook page.
  • Validate the phone number using ZabaSearch, a White Pages reverse search, or this neat little tool shared by social engineer Kevin Mitnick called tnID — a sweet caller-id tool that will give you the name and estimated city and zip code of almost any mobile number. (Sorry, it only works for North American numbers.)  There are other tools available as well.
  • Note: those of you who are telephone sourcers may say that this is the ONLY way to go!

Just make sure that the information that you have is accurate, or you’ll end up wasting your time AND your recruiter’s time by providing them with incorrect information.

Will your information always be spot on? Nope – but you can at least say that you did your best to find the correct information. I honestly believe that we cannot call ourselves good researchers unless we are doing everything within our power to make sure that our information is correct. That means exploring ALL the possible avenues to fact-check and cross-reference our data. After all – our business depends on getting our facts straight and getting in touch with the right people. It makes sense to ensure that our research practices will assist us in making this happen as often as possible!

What are some of your favorite tools to use to help verify contact information? Share them in the comments below!

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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