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

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.


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.


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.:


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!

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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