Finding Names The Easy Way – Cards In A Bowl

When 97%of the people in an area are working, the only way to get new talent for your firm is to ?poach/ steal? them from another firm. Now if this makes you nervous? get over it! With a 3% unemployment rate the best talent will be gainfully employed. Your job as a recruiter is to capture the names of the best at the firms that you have identified as having the top talent. Rookie recruiters and managers often ask the question ?How do I find the names and contact information of people that work at another firm? There are a variety of ways, some of questionable legality (getting organizational charts and telephone directories) and others that are just flat out clever. My favorite one to highlight is a tool that recruiters call ?cards in a bowl.? The Cards in a Bowl Trick

Almost any company facility of any size has a restaurant or bar ?across the street? that everyone at an office goes to for lunch or a drink after work. You can identify the place easily by just asking people in the parking lot at lunch or after work ?where is the favorite place that ‘engineers’ (fill in your targeted job title) hang out at?” Drink places are superior to eating-only places because it is easier to ?accidentally? meet and talk with strangers at drinking places than it is at eating only establishments. The next step is to visit the restaurant and make sure it is populated with your targeted company?s employees. You can generally usually spot the people by their company ID badge. If you find a good population, you then approach the owner and ask to start a ?free lunch drawing? (or to sponsor one that they already offer). The deal is that you sponsor (pay for) the free lunch giveaways in return for access to the business cards the customers put in the ?bowl? by the cash register. At the end of the week/ month you collect the cards and now you have the names, titles and contact information for many of the employees of your targeted firm. These cards often represent the most successful and higher level employees that can afford to eat out at lunch. Additional Points


  • Use a closed top bowl or others will steal the cards
  • By becoming a ?regular? at the restaurant/ bar you can build relationships with the badged employees and use the ?what is it like to work there??, ?who is the person running that project?? or ?I hear the place has problems?? questions to help identify key issues and people.
  • By being in the restaurant when they physically pick up the certificate you can put a face to the name for later follow up ?schmoozing. After you randomly select a card for the prize, nothing (other than ethics) stops you from awarding ?extra prizes? to the particular ?cards? you want to meet.
  • If you are nervous about being identified as the bowl sponsor you can hire a market research firm to do it for you (and the restaurant owner) under the need to get a demographic profile of our customers.
  • The same technique works at conferences and trade shows. People are suckers for give aways. Filling out an information sheet for a contest is a variation of the name capturing concept. You can also use the attendee?s list from the conference for names and titles as well as the brochure to identify speakers (who are inevitably also top talent). Be aware that conference / trade show attendees have the second highest proportion of job seekers of any event (after job shows). FYI speakers at conferences that ?forget? to bring copies of their presentation often do that in order to capture business cards (on the premise that they will send you the follow up material).
  • Using the bowl at a nearby luxury dealership or realtor (or just asking the salespeople to collect the cards of potential high priced buyers) will also capture the names of well off/ successful employees.
  • The all too common (but offensive) send a ?sick child an e-mail? ploy you often find in your e-mail in box is sometimes just a misguided ploy to capture e-mail names and titles.
  • The hangout does not have to be across the street. It can be any popular ?hang out? for a particular profession if you wish to draw business cards from a wide variety of firms.

The Next Step

After capturing the names and titles the next step is to sort them into high priority categories and look for opportunities to ?accidentally? meet and strike up a conversation with them. This approach, although time consuming, has a superior success rate to the more common ?cold calling? follow up after getting the card. Next week THE NAME ?CAPTURER?S? TOOLKIT ? Finding the names of the best in any field.

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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