Verify Mobile Numbers Using Facebook


Mobile phone numbers and personal email addresses both uniquely identify people. If we can locate social profiles tied to a mobile number or email address, that would serve as verification of this data; we can also get additional information, helping us to decide whether to try to connect with the person regarding a job opening or a business deal.

Many sourcers know that if we have an email address, we can identify the individual’s profile on LinkedIn using Rapportive. We can also determine the person’s Google-Plus and Facebook profiles by just pasting the email address into the search bar:


Few people know that it’s also possible to identify a Facebook profile by entering a mobile phone number. As you can see from these screenshots, Facebook “understands” a variety of phone number formats.


(Note that this won’t work with landline phone numbers – those that don’t accept texting – because of the Facebook verification rules for an associated phone number).

For this verification to work, you must be logged into Facebook. For hackers out there, I’d recommend not to try to run long blocks of sequential numbers; Facebook would likely stop that activity pretty soon.

When we are logged out of Facebook, there’s still a way to find out if a phone number is registered with some account. Start by using the “Find your account” feature:


For a mobile number not on Facebook, we’ll be clearly notified: “No Search Results. Your search did not return any results. Please try again with other information.”

For a number that is registered, we would get something like this:


In some cases, Facebook will show the name and the image; in other, it will not.

(Feel free to use these “hacks”, but please don’t make people worry by triggering password reset requests, OK?)

Join me for a new webinar to learn everything about Sourcing on Facebook (and Twitter) – only one day left to register!

Where Is Semantic Search?


I was preparing a “Boolean for everyone” presentation and went over general concepts of searching in databases and search engines. This made me thinking – why is it that the strongest semantic search we are seeing is in Google (where it’s very hard to implement because of the volume of data and diversity of web pages) and not in databases (where the data is structured, and its size is so much smaller)? The most “advanced” interpretation databases do, is convert VP to “vice president”; none I know of would search for ‘software developer’ if we ask to search for ‘software engineer.’

Let’s take a look at a simple search for a professional. I will try to find Software Engineers who write in LISP. This language is pretty obscure and has its fans (with some of whom I had good luck to work in my previous career). People who write in JavaScript and took LISP in college are not the ones I want to find.

Searching semantically would mean that the system understands the searcher’s intent. Let’s compare a search on LinkedIn and X-Ray LinkedIn on Google.

(LinkedIn) Current title=software engineer; keywords=lisp

The top result (for me) is a profile that says: “Over 5+ experience in the areas of Software Development, Design & Analysis of GIS Applications and Customization of CAD applications using C#, VB.Net , ASP.NET, VB6, Visual Lisp, VBA, Object ARX .Net & C++ and Arc Objects.”

It’s the wrong result for many reasons. “Visual Lisp” is not LISP at all in the sense I had meant; it’s a variation of LISP used in AutoCAD, to “program” geometry (forms and shapes of objects to make). The person uses a ton of other programming languages. And, the job title “Software Engineer” is “present” only because he forgot to put the end date on the last job; he currently is a “GIS Analyst.”

The second result is a “shallow” profile that has LISP among the skills; however, the person lists a certification for “Java SE 6” and did mobile development until recently – this was likely not done in LISP. (A quick search shows she’s the only one at her company with LISP on the profile.) Wrong result.

Let’s switch to Google. X-Raying is tricky. We have less control over results since we can only use keywords; unlike LinkedIn or another database that has fields such as “job title”, Google deals with “just” pages.

(Google) software engineer lisp

The first profile belongs to a person who calls himself a “Code Gardener.” His profile not only has LISP, but also lists LISP “dialects” – it says: “Development in Common Lisp, Clojure, LFE (Lisp Flavoured Erlang), Scheme, and Shen.”  Very relevant!

The second result is all right; it also lists LISP and its dialects.

The third result is a profile of a big-time LISP fan and expert. He wrote in LISP at every one of his jobs and even “developed Lisp Machines.” Very relevant.

Further Google results also start showing synonyms found instead of the entered keywords, for example, it finds “software developer” (a synonym for “software engineer”).

How come databases (LinkedIn, many resume job boards, and people aggregators, as some examples) don’t automatically offer results that reflect some query understanding? (To be fair, has implemented some semantic search features; it has been a while since I tried that search.) “Understanding” queries – at least simple ones – should be doable, especially by systems like LinkedIn, that have tons of data, from which the system can “learn”. They have long lists of similar job titles, related skills, etc., plus they get data on search results relevance from tracking users’ behavior. I am not suggesting that a database would auto-transform an entered query to a very long Boolean OR string – but rather, just show me what I might like to see as results.

Slightly semantic search interpretation in a database search is also not as hard to implement as matching profiles to job descriptions (which many claim to do and nobody does well – understandably since it is very hard.)

I guess it’s a question to the tool developers (those who’d read the blog post). Let’s see what they have to say.

Built-In Introductions Are Broken – Create Your Own Instead


When we talk about getting the best response rate from potential candidates or clients, one of the important considerations is how the message (text, email, etc.) looks on their end.

A friendly way to reach someone, that LinkedIn has had as its Social Networking function for a long time, is to be introduced by a common connection. However, if you have been relying on LinkedIn Introductions – sorry to bring the bad news: they are broken (and have been broken at least for several months). There are several challenges, the worst being the way LinkedIn introductions arrive on the receiver’s end, that make the built-in introductions useless. Here are some details.

If we find someone using search and select “Get Introduced” from the drop-down menu:

introunfortunately we will be simply taken to the Inbox, so that is a dead-end. At least it’s clear that doesn’t work! (It’s a bug).

Then, if we go to someone’s profile, find the “How You Are Connected” part, that’s where we can request an introduction:


We no longer have a choice of the connection in common to introduce us (as it used to be before this User Interface redesign). These days, LinkedIn decides for us who that person should be. Still, even if I’d prefer to be introduced through another connection than the one offered, it seems to be an OK way to reach out.

Here is the most broken part. Did you know that this is how the request arrives on the introducing person’s end?


Which Michelle? – might ask Martin (I’ve looked at his and my connections in common, and there are four Michelles; I imagine, there are more Michelles that are his connections and not mine.) In case of an even more common name to be introduced to, this would be a mystery.

If you really want to use the intro feature, you can fix it and edit the message to sound like this:intro-email-corrected

(Make a note of it.)

Manual Introductions

Since this built-in “intro” functionality produces more confusion than help, you can take complete control over introductions, in the following way.

First, find all the common connections with the person to be introduced to (search for the person and click on the green link with the “shared connections”). Second, select a connection in common for the introduction and hand-create a better intro message than LinkedIn does. This method requires a bunch of mouse-clicks and typing but at least it has a better chance to work. An alternative is to pay for InMails, as the help page suggests.

To get a broad picture of ways to fix LinkedIn built-in functionality, sign up for our webinar Overcoming LinkedIn’s Limitations, which turned out to be very popular!

RankBrain and Us


Google’s search algorithm keeps changing all the time. Even search engine experts fall behind in understanding and interpreting how it works. Last Fall, Google told us that RankBrain is now one of the three most important factors for ranking search results. It was not until recently that we heard that the other two most important factors are familiar – they are “links” and “content”. Specialists think that, in addition, Google uses more than 200 other factors to decide what to display when we search.

RankBrain is an AI (Artificial Intelligence), machine learning algorithm. It plays an especially important role in responding to unique (mostly, long) search strings, which constitute about 15% of all the searches.

By now, we are familiar with these Google’s semantic search elements:

  • Auto-stemming (automatically searching for words with the same root, e.g. search for manager – find manage, manager, management)
  • Automatically searching for synonyms (e.g. search for developer – find developer, engineer, programmer)
  • Responding with Knowledge Graph objects and Direct Answers.

Rankbrain is a huge step forward in expanding semantic search capabilities beyond the above features:

  1. Google examines the whole query, trying to figure out the context, and respond accordingly. (As an example, compare results for salary apple packer and salary apple ceo.)
  2. Google learns what content users choose to explore and adds to its “understanding” of topics and terminology.

For those of us who perform advanced Google searches, it’s not that our jobs will be automated any time soon. I doubt that Google will ever be able to find matching candidates if we paste a job description into the search bar. But we need to be aware that Google tries to understand (and learn from) complex queries.

We may benefit from Google’s growing semantic search capacity – as an example while we explore industry-specific terminology.

On the other hand, because of the new semantic features, it’s becoming harder to control search results. Boolean operators and Google search options do help when we look for something we want to define precisely.

When you feel you need to control the results, keep in mind the following:

  1. Putting the quotation marks “” around a word will likely stop Google from bringing up synonyms.
  2. Any word used with an operator, such as inurl:, intitle:, intext:, will be used exactly as it is – Google will not show any variations or synonyms of the word in the results.
  3. When we exclude keywords using the minus -, Google removes the exact word after the minus (it will not remove any synonyms or variations).
  4. Searching Verbatim will stop any interpretation of the search string.

Additionally, avoid very long search strings, not to trigger unnecessary interpretation of what you want to find.

Get the recording on 300 Best Boolean Strings to hear how to best utilize both semantic and Boolean sides of Google search in your practice today and tomorrow, or purchase the Boolean Book that has syntax explanations and 300+ examples of search strings.

What Sourcers Can Learn Learn from Investigative Journalists

Searching the Internet is an important part of Talent Sourcing activities in Recruiting. So it is for some other professions, including, for example, Librarians, Private Investigators, and Investigative Journalists. We could learn from each other – I feel that we don’t do that enough.

I’d like to bring to my blog readers’ attention a few excellent resources shared by Investigative Journalists.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, once you start looking at the above resources, you will find a ton more!

Location, Location, Location



For all of us who are looking for professionals, finding those living in the right locations for the opportunity is critical. The expected time for someone to get into the office should be reasonable.


The commute time may depend on the distance, the roads, and available transportation. If we are looking in well-populated areas where driving is “too” popular (which is the case of the San Francisco Bay Area where I live – just take a look at the photo above), you might even need to take traffic patterns into the locations’ considerations.

It would be helpful to have the full support of professional and “social” systems to search for locations based on the average commute time to the office, but those search capabilities don’t exist anywhere, as far as I know. The ways to search we encounter are not ideal. They also vary widely (even more so than the Boolean syntax!). It’s important to know what is offered, to “map” our requirements to the available location searches on each site.

Here are some examples of what various sites provide, to compare.

LinkedIn – search by one of:

  1. Zip code and a radius (in the countries with zip codes, which is roughly 1/3 of the countries on LinkedIn – Ireland is not one of them, for example)
  2. Country
  3. A combination of named locations (for example “Greater Chicago Area” OR “San Francisco Bay Area”).

Those are workable options. But an annoying feature of LinkedIn’s location search is that it’s sending its users to another site to check the zip codes:


This lookup that we do manually would be pretty straightforward to implement for LinkedIn Engineers; somehow it’s never been a priority.

Github – the “location” field on user’s profiles is a string of characters. So, to find people at specific locations, we need to come up with as many possible ways users may have entered the field as we can (city names, area names, sometimes, abbreviated, etc.), and use those in searching. (Example).

That’s reasonable, given Github’s purpose as software code repository, not a site for recruiters to search; we need to remember how locations work when searching.

Zoominfo – search by one of:

  1. Boolean strings in the location field (e.g. Marcelle or Lyon)
  2. Region/State/Country – in several English-speaking countries
  3. Zip code and a choice of the radius – from the exact postal code to 200 miles.

Those options are convenient. Zoominfo’s search is also fast and immediate; there is no need to press “enter” or wait. Of course, the full search is only available to paid subscribers, but it’s possible to preview the results without logging in as well.

Here is an additional consideration regarding location search. Pretty much every site with profile search offers keyword search in addition to searching by other facets. Whether you will find people at the right locations by using those location names as keywords, depends on the site. (Interestingly, LinkedIn provided that for a while at the dawn of moving to the Galene algorithm, then stopped, as we can notice in this example).

Do you know how exactly the sites that you use – your ATS or CRM system, resume databases, social sites, people aggregators, etc. – search for locations?



Sourcing is Like Treasure Hunting


In anticipation of a large recruiting conference in Paris coming up in October 2016 – #rmsconf – the organizers sent me a list of questions, some of them quite challenging – such as “What is Sourcing?” and “Who is the best Sourcer?” This morning they published the interview, along with a translation into French, on the conference site. Check out other interviews on the site; Google translate does a pretty good job for those of us who don’t speak French (I don’t).

I thought I’d share the interview with my English-speaking blog readers. Note, the questions, in the square brackets [], have been translated from French.

[ Who are you ? How can you describe yourself ? ]

I try to be (among other things) a Master Sourcer, Brain Gain Recruiter, Boolean Strings Creator, LinkedIn Data Miner, Internet Researcher; I am Sourcing Certifications Founder (disclosure: I have quoted the 160-character bio on my Twitter profile @braingain).

[ What is your definition of Sourcing ? ]

Funny you should ask. The challenge answering this question is that, as soon as you define what Sourcing is, you will find many fellow Sourcers who question your definition. To avoid disagreements, we can give a nice short definition of Sourcing as “it’s what we do”.

At a closer look, definition disagreements are usually about the extent to which a Sourcer “should” engage with a potential candidate. Everyone agrees that searching online for professional information is what Sourcers do. In many cases, Sourcers can uncover professional information by combining online research with calling on the phone and using mobile apps; it’s all one process. But then, there’s the next, interactive, part of our jobs where we are trying to reach the promising professional, get more information by email (ideally, a CV), and get on the phone to pre-qualify him or her further. The challenge is that now it’s a mix between the research function (well done by researchers, “nerds”) and the sales function, where we start promoting the opportunity to the potential candidate (well done by extraverted, people-oriented recruiters). Some of it is “sourcing” and some of it is “sales” – often combined in one phone conversation.

[ How do you get this passion/expertise ? ]

Sourcing is fun and creative, it’s like treasure hunting. If I am working on a sourcing project, I usually procrastinate and leave other things behind, because I enjoy it so much. Every new search can bring in the results that can potentially convert into new careers for other people – as well as the discovery of research methods, tips, or tools for yourself and your colleagues. Most of the Sourcing methods I use (and teach) “show up” in hands-on research projects or answering our students’ questions. I have learned quite a few things from David Galley – I am lucky to be working with him!

Is Sourcing an art ? If yes, why ? ]

I think, Sourcing is part art and part science. The “art” part is gradually becoming more important because of the complexity and volume of information to dive into and because of increasingly smart – but not smart enough – tools. Say, tools can look for synonyms or even “understand” words in the context – but no tools can replace a Sourcer who is looking for matching candidates for a job opening. Creativity and intuition play a big part in Sourcing.

[ You have to find a Java J2EE Specialist. How do you do it ? ]

Here are some things I might do, after I have searched for active candidates on job boards and in our ATS. Look at relevant skills and note other tops skills (keywords), companies, and schools. Search for the skill on LinkedIn in the alumni search dialog, then, narrow down using other facets. Search on Indeed. Explore Google-Plus. Look at Meetup members. Search on Google – perhaps, for resume Images. Look for people who attended conferences. I could look for Java Developers on github; those would need to be researched further since not all Java people do J2EE. There are other terms closely related to J2EE that I could also search for. There are a few other things one could do…

[ Social professional networks, Talent pool, Google … what are your favorite tools ? Why ? ]

I have a list of some tools on my blog. The best approach is to combine various tools vs. using only Google or only LinkedIn, etc.

[ What is your secret tool ? ]

The mouse and keyboard.

[ What is for you the difference between a good and a bad Sourcing specialist ? ]

A good Sourcing Specialist thinks.

[ Who is the best Sourcing specialist for you ? ]

I have met many strong, talented Sourcers on Social Networks and at conferences (sometimes, in that order); I can’t name just one person. To name several excellent Sourcers, here are the winners of our latest Sourcing Contest.

[ How do you imagine the Sourcing evolution in 5 or 10 years ? ]

It’s hard to predict; however, I am pretty sure that humans will continue to play a big part in Sourcing – it won’t be automated any time soon.

[ Which advise can you give to someone who want to become a sourcing expert ? ]

A couple of things: 1) Look for the concepts behind tools and examples. 2) Always practice.

Thank you!


LinkedIn – “Known Issues”


For me and for many others, LinkedIn is “the” site for finding and connecting with professionals. LinkedIn has created an incredible shift in how we are searching for professionals for recruiting. I am not a fan of LinkedIn Customer Support, though. I have heard of significant improvements for Support but am not sure those improvements have happened. Here are some observations.

If you have submitted a report to LinkedIn Customer support, chances are, that you got this reply: “What you’ve encountered is a known issue and I’m very sorry for the inconvenience”. 

Here are some examples of these interactions:


There is rarely a follow-up from Support; some issues are fixed (as users discover, usually, on their own), some, stay for a while.

We do hope the support improves (and that the software quality control improves, too). In the meantime, here are some channels to discuss and become aware of the “known” issues:

The two issues that I have seen discussed on various channels recently are:

  1. Inability to see the contact info on the 1st level connections (sometimes resolved by refreshing, but not always).
  2. Changes (the functionality shrinking, but sometimes coming back for various users) in searching, sorting, and filtering of the Contacts.

I have also noticed an issue with introductions on LinkedIn; I will share in another post, soon.



LinkedIn Kills Its #CRM Features


Remember, when LinkedIn acquired this company:


… and integrated its functionality into the main product, we got this menu item – Contacts. I became a fan of it early on. The Contacts became the foundation of LinkedIn CRM (contact relationship management) features for everyone. The “Contacts” combined the first-level connections, imported address books,  and “saved” profiles.

Initially, we could search using many facets and see a nice graphical representation of the Contacts’ locations:


The pretty location graph didn’t stay for too long, but we enjoyed the rest of the Contacts’ functions for a while.

We could leave notes, visible only to us, on profiles; that helped to communicate with others more efficiently. We could edit the contact information (perhaps imported from an old address book) when it got outdated or when obtaining additional info or websites for the person. Records imported from address books were automatically cross-referenced with existing LinkedIn profiles. (This popular email-finding technique relied on auto-cross-referencing.)

Those were the days, my friend!

Much of this CRM functionality still exists in LinkedIn Recruiter. Most of it, however, is gone from personal LinkedIn accounts (no matter, paid or not). Want to hear the details?

We can no longer save contacts. We can edit “notes” and add tags – but only for those profiles that have made it to the Contacts list by February 25, 2016. Of course, most prospects in everyone’s business practice haven’t been “saved” – and can’t be “saved” or tagged any longer; there’s no place to add the notes either.

The import functions for other address books, such as Yahoo or MS Outlook are still there, but LinkedIn no longer tells us which imported contacts have profiles on LinkedIn. The Contact records still look like this for previously imported contacts (hi, Jim!), showing the sources for the contact.


But if you try to import an address book today from Yahoo or MS Outlook, you will just see a list of email addresses with no other information.

Most of the mentioned feature removals happened in the Contacts. To add to this, the recent LinkedIn messaging redesign has also affected smooth communication. For example, we no longer have the checkbox to not let multiple recipients see each other. This is what it used to be like:


That checkbox is gone – now messages sent to several people often proceed to a “spam” loop, where each person is asking to remove them from the conversation and each such message is delivered, again, to all.

Maybe LinkedIn has removed the existing CRM functions while preparing some new and brilliant CRM functionality for the members? Who knows?

In the meantime, we’ll take a look at some alternatives at one of the upcoming Productivity Tools webinars

Need to Find an Email Address? You Got New Options


For starters, Prophet is not new any longer, but has gained much-deserved popularity since it was introduced and is absolutely worth using.

In the past few months, I’ve noticed a myriad of other tools, all of which will try to find an email address, starting from a social profile or, in some cases, from the persons’ and company names. It’s up to everyone to test the tools – and I’d recommend using more than one in tough cases.

Email Hunter offered by collects visible professional email addresses everywhere – and is therefore in a good position to try and guess an address; it will tell us about the level of confidence in guessing. (Note, it’s a different tool from another Chrome Extension also called “email hunter” that collects addresses on the current page.) I have heard good things about it.

Charlie – I have not tried it long enough to share the email quality experience, but it also provides “social summaries” on profiles. Finding emails is its new feature.

The above two extensions nicely give each other screen space and it looks like this when viewing a LinkedIn profile (Hmm… I wonder what LinkedIn thinks about that.)


More tools:

FindThatLead, a.k.a. FTL is a tool made by a developers team in Spain. They launched their Chrome extension sometime ago and have now added a “dashboard”. They give us 10 searches for free.

LeadIQ is a nicely designed tool, oriented toward sales people, but very much applicable to sourcing and recruiting. It not only looks for emails, but also saves tables with data from the viewed profiles in Google docs. Check it out (25 free emails).

Datanyze Insider – similar to LeadIQ (with 10 free emails) it and also collects the data in a spreadsheet; this could be quite convenient for sourcing for those who don’t like working with data scrapers.

ContextScout – mentioning it here since I have seen a number of online discussions about it. However, I have not been impressed by their UI or by the quality of information in my tests – at least not so far. Additionally, it only provides a limited-time trial.

Well, there are others worth mentioning, but I think I’ll stop here for now. (An easy way to find more similar tools is to Google a few tool names.)

As a reminder, we now hold a regular 90-minute workshop on finding contact info (even in the cases where tools don’t know the answer). Check out the next session.