We all know it’s better to address a cover letter or pitch email to a specific person rather than just saying “Dear hiring manager.” And not just any person, but the right person—the person who could choose you for the job.
But even once you figure out who holds the power to hire for the position you seek, getting your note to land in his or her inbox is often easier said than done. Sure, some hiring managers post their email addresses in obvious places, making it easy to contact them. But others go out of their way to keep their contact information private with the hopes that they won’t hear from unsolicited job seekers (like, er, you).
Ironically, the people who are difficult to get in touch with might actually offer more opportunities: If it’s not easy to find their email addresses, fewer candidates are emailing them—and your email stands a better chance of getting read.
All it takes to get your foot in their inbox is a little sleuthing. (These tips, by the way, work whether you’re a job seeker, a freelancer trying to land clients, a blogger growing your network, or a startup aiming for news coverage.)
Start With Google
Obvious, right? But don’t just type the person’s name into Google. You can start with that, but if it doesn’t land you on his or her website or another digital home with an obvious way of getting in touch, take it a step further.
Let’s use Joe Schmo who works at Starbucks as an example. Try Googling:
“Joe Schmo email”
“Joe Schmo @gmail.com”
“Joe Schmo @Starbucks.com”
Most of us only use Google’s basic features, but you can also add words and symbols to target your search. If you wanted to limit your search to the Starbucks website, for example, try “Joe Schmo site:http://www.starbucks.com.”
Does the hiring manager have a Twitter handle? The best way to find out is via Google—searching for “Joe Schmo Twitter”—rather than using Twitter’s lackluster search tool.
Once you find someone’s profile, check out the link that’s listed feature in the URL field. Occasionally you’ll find a gem here: an About.me page or a personal website that doesn’t rank high in Google. Dig a little on that page, and you might find an email, too.
Still coming up empty-handed? Use your own Twitter account to @reply to the tweep and let him or her know why you want to get in touch. (Be specific and compelling—a random “Can you send me your email?” won’t get you far.) You might also follow the person, so he or she can send you a direct message—people are often more comfortable disclosing their email address via direct message than in their public feed.
Give LinkedIn a Shot
No luck yet? Try Googling “Joe Schmo LinkedIn.”
First, look at the hiring manager’s contact information on his or her profile; as with Twitter, there’s a chance you’ll find a website you haven’t noticed before, and if you follow that trail, you might find an email, too.
If you happen to be a member of a LinkedIn group this hiring manager is also a member of, you might be able to send him or her a message (depending on whether that person accepts messages from group members). This sounds far-fetched, but if you work in the same industry, there’s a chance you’ll have at least one group in common.
If that’s a dead end, consider sending this person an InMail (LinkedIn-speak for a message to someone you’re not connected to). You’ll have to pay to send InMail, either on a one-off basis or as part of an upgrade to LinkedIn’s premium version, but it can be worth it for people who are extra-tough to find.
And of course, look to see whether you and this person share any connections—you might be able to ask that common contact to introduce you. A warm introduction is always better than a cold one.
Find a Colleague
So, you’ve scoured Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn and still can’t find contact information for the person you want to reach. Know what’s second best? An email for one of his or her colleagues.
This is one of my absolute favorite hacks—look at the structure of that colleague’s email and apply it to the name of the person you want to reach. Say you found one of Joe Schmo’s colleagues, Mary King, and her email is email@example.com. Knowing that, you can easily guess what Joe Schmo’s email might be: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, sometimes your target’s email will deviate from a company’s email structure—Joe Schmo’s a pretty common name, so he might need to include his middle initial, for example. If you suspect that might be the case, find emails for several people at the company, compare them, and take an educated guess.
Then, send your pitch or cover letter to that email with your fingers crossed. If it doesn’t bounce back, you can bet you’ve found a way in.
Still in the dark? Well, sometimes you’ll go through all of these steps and still hit a dead end—but at least you know you did the best you could, right? When you do find an email you’ve been looking for and finally land an interview, it makes all the effort worth it.
What tactics or tools have you used to track down someone’s email address?
Photo of man on computer courtesy of Shutterstock.