The Art of Finding Anyone’s Email Addresses

by Jason -- May 22, 2013

find-email-addresses

Since taking on my current sales/business development role, one of the skills I’ve gained is the ability to find almost anyone’s email address. It’s an odd skill, but I’ve found it to be useful time and time again. There’s a system to how I do it, and in the following post, I’ll share the system.

Update (5/29): Due to the popularity of this post, I’ve decided to build a Gmail tool that automates this process. More information is at the end of the post.

The difficult part about this post is that it would be best to use real examples, but for hopefully obvious reasons I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’ll create a fake person that’s based on a real person.

The Tools I Use

  1. Rapportive.com - This tool integrates directly into Gmail. It looks at who you’re emailing or who you’re receiving email from and pulls up their social media profiles (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc…). It’s a great way to see the face of the person you’re emailing and their latest tweets/updates to give the contact some context.
  2. MailTester.com - This is a web-based tool that does a technical search to see if an email address exists. It’s not 100%, but is very helpful.
  3. Connect.Data.com (Previously Jigsaw) – Connect is a crowdsourced directory of people. Their amazing database contains millions of people’s email addresses and phone numbers. It’s being constantly updated by its members and has an impressive number of people in it. Because you need to earn points or buy points to download contact information, this is typically my last resort.

The Process

Let’s hypothetically say I’m working on finding a contact within the Education Technology space. McGraw-Hill is one of the larger companies in this space and I’d like to start a conversation with the appropriate person.

1. Find the contact

Scouring LinkedIn and possibly the company website is how I would find a contact. I try not to spend too much time in finding the “perfect person”, and instead try to find someone that makes reasonable sense. If they’re the wrong person, there’s a good chance they’ll pass me to the right person. For this example, let’s say I find Raymond Stuoper, who is the Senior Director of Technology Partnerships (real title, fake person).

2. Start guessing email addresses & use Rapportive to check

Rapportive integrates directly into Gmail and not only gives you social media information about people who email you, but it also tells you social media information about people you’re emailing. You can type in any email address and Rapportive will look for social media accounts associated with that address. If it finds one, you know the email address is correct.

I start by trying the most common iterations of an email address: rapportive-testing

  1. raymond.stuoper@mcgraw-hill.com (first.last@company)
  2. rstuoper@mcgraw-hill.com (firstinitial+last@company)
  3. r.stuoper@mcgraw-hill.com (firstinitial.last@company)
  4. raymondstuoper@mcgraw-hill.com (first+last@company)
  5. raymonds@mcgraw-hill.com (first+lastinitial@company)
  6. raymond@mcgraw-hill.com (first@company)
  7. stuoper@mcgraw-hill.com (last@company)

If Rapportive doesn’t find any social media accounts associated with an email address it will look like the above. This doesn’t necessarily mean the email address is wrong, but it’s generally a good indication.

The result: None of these worked.

Example of Rapportive successfully finding social media accounts tied to an email address:

rapportive-success

3. Start guessing email addresses & check with MailTester

MailTester is a web-based tool designed to test whether an email address exists or not. It’s a bit slower than Rapportive, so I typically would only test the top 3 or 4 iterations.

mailtester-testing MailTester will show green if the email address exists. Example:

Mailtester-success

The result: None of these worked.

4. Use connect.data.com (previously Jigsaw)

Connect is a crowd-sourced directory of people. If someone is listed, by buying their contact information for 5 points, you’ll receive their email address and phone number.

The process I typically use is to first look for the exact person and if not found, find someone else in their company so I can learn how the company structures their email addresses. For this particular one:

  1. Raymond Stuoper isn’t in the database (he doesn’t exist).
  2. Search for McGraw-Hill, order by most recently updated, and then look for someone with a title that sounds like they could be a good lead.
    Note: You could choose anyone, as you’re primarily doing this to find out the semantics of their company email addresses. But I like to choose someone who could be a secondary contact, in case the contact I’m searching for doesn’t work out.

    Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 7.00.19 AM

  3. Buy the contact
    connect-1
    After purchasing, you’ll receive all of their information:Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 8.53.13 AM
  4. Through connect.data.com I discovered that the email semantics is “firstname_lastname@mcgraw-hill.com”. Our fake candidate’s email address is thus most likely “raymond_stupoer@mcgraw-hill.com”. We can try that with Rapportive and successfully see their social media information pop-up:
    rapportive-success

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Do you have your own tricks to finding email addresses? Are there even better tools out there to help with this process? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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Email Finder Gmail Tool

Going through this entire process is a pain. After verifying that so many people feel the same way I’ve decided to build a Gmail plugin tool that will do this automatically. If you’re interested in being one of the first users of the tool, add your email address:



Be awesome and help us share:


11 Responses to “The Art of Finding Anyone’s Email Addresses”

  1. Jason, very cool.

    I have an in-depth blog on Rapportive at http://go.DanielOdio.com/rapportive and other hacker efficiency tips at http://go.DanielOdio.com/instrument

    You might also like this BigDripper tool I’m beta testing: http://go.DanielOdio.com/BigDripper

  2. Nice one! Not everyone necessarily works at a big company, but there are other ways of making contact…

    - Anyone with a blog – typically their contact form can be effective.
    - Facebook and LinkedIn – their privacy settings dictate whether you’re allowed to make contact, but it’s still worth checking.
    - Anyone owning a website – there’s always Whois!

  3. You can use this in Google to find email address formats”

    “emai * * companyname.com”

    Use quotes & replace ‘companyname’ with the actual company you want to use.

    You will see the email patterns for the company in the results – then you can use Mailtester as you indicated.

  4. Awesome — great advice!

  5. Thanks for the links Daniel — I spent a good amount of time checking out the various tools you recommend, awesome stuff!

  6. Yeah, good call. Blogs, Facebook & LinkedIn is definitely something I’ve used. I never thought about Whois, but that’s great advice. Thanks Chris!

  7. Sorry – there is a typo in my above comment; s/b:

    “email * * companyname.com”

  8. Hi,

    You can do *@company name to see how most names appear, from there you can find out the email format.

  9. Great advice — thanks for leaving a comment!

  10. Actually, if you search with Bing the email address do tend to show up. Google doesn’t search for the @ in your search, making it far less likely to show email address.
    Just search for “@companyname.com” with Bing and it will give boatloads of hits.

  11. [...] article titled The Art of Finding Anyone’s Email Address on Life After Cubes direct all would be spammers to several helpful tools. Three sites mentioned [...]

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