Finding Personal Email Addresses on the Internet, Part WHOIS

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Sep 13, 2013

Earlier this week, we shared a few resources to find business email addresses online. In part 2 of the series, Amybeth Hale shares a technique to find personal email addresses online. 

As a sourcer or a recruiter, one of the best ways to differentiate yourself these days when reaching out to prospects is knowing the best places to reach them. Personal contact information – a home or mobile phone number or a personal email address – are methods of contact most recruiters think they don’t have time to hunt down or simply don’t know how to find. Reaching people where other recruiters can’t – or won’t – will set you apart, and at the very least give you an opportunity to tell a cool story about how you were able to stalk, er, track down their contact information.

There are plenty of tools available that allow you to send in-system messages to prospects, but because of the high level of adoption of these tools, many prospects are starting to shy away from using them, or will simply ignore messages from recruiters. The cool thing is that you can still use these tools in conjunction with others to help you find a more personal method of contact.

As an example, let’s take a look at using WHOIS to find personal contact information.

What is WHOIS?

WHOIS is a query and response protocol that is widely used for querying databases that store the registered users or assignees of an Internet resource, such as a domain name, an IP address block, or an autonomous system, but is also used for a wider range of other information. In plain English, it’s the way you can find contact information listed with a domain registration. When you register a domain, you must provide contact information with that registration, so domain name registrars and web hosting providers such as GoDaddy, NetworkSolutions, 1&1, and so forth have it on file.

What this means to you as a sourcer is that there is contact information available for individuals with personal domains!

Show me how this works

Example: let’s say you’re looking for a .NET developer. Inevitably, you’re going to try a web search and find lots of personal websites, many of which may have a resume or CV page, or an email address buried somewhere. But often, you’ll also come across the elusive individual, like Patrick:

Patrick’s email icon takes you to a contact form rather than opening up a new email or showing you his address. Bummer! Where the majority of recruiters would try to reach Patrick via one of his social links also listed, this is where WHOIS becomes your differentiator. For example purposes, let’s use Network Solutions’ WHOIS search tool:

Enter in the domain name, and check out the results (I’ve blacked out the really personal information, like the phone number and home address…)

Now, not only do you have a personal email address, but you’ve also got a phone number and a physical address for extra creep-factor points. And this whole process should take you approximately 30 seconds or less to complete!

This doesn’t work every single time, of course, because most registrars give customers the option – at an additional cost – to mask their contact information from prowling eyes like ours. Take the site for example:

She masked her info so that she could not be contacted via her domain registration information. In cases like these, you can always turn to a mailto: search with the domain name to see if the individual has shared their email address on the web somewhere.

Simple precautions

Of course, with any publicly shared information such as this, it’s good to keep privacy in mind. In fact, there is verbiage right in the WHOIS search results warning against improper use of contact info:

The data in the BlueHost.Com WHOIS database is provided to you by BlueHost.Com for information purposes only, that is, to assist you in obtaining information about or related to a domain name registration record. BlueHost.Com makes this information available “as is,” and does not guarantee its accuracy.  By submitting a WHOIS query, you  agree that you will use this data only for lawful purposes and that, under no circumstances will you use this data to: (1) allow, enable, or otherwise support the transmission of mass unsolicited, commercial advertising or solicitations via direct mail, electronic mail, or by telephone; or (2) enable high volume, automated, electronic processes that apply to BlueHost.Com (or its systems). The compilation, repackaging, dissemination or other use of this data is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of BlueHost.Com. BlueHost.Com reserves the right to modify these terms at any time.  By submitting this query, you agree to abide by these terms.

Be careful of how you choose to use this information, and always be forthright when contacting people and disclosing how you discovered them. I find that people are quite often impressed once they hear the story of how you tracked them down – it tells them that you really wanted to communicate.

Good luck and Happy Sourcing!

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