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What’s the best way to reach out to someone for the first time? These days, you could certainly try sending a direct message via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram, but as popular as those platforms are, not everyone has the habit of monitoring every one of those platforms every single day.

While I have had success getting responses to my own outreach via social media, I’ve had much better success with email. In spite of the proliferation of social media, messaging apps, and networking apps, email still remains one of the most effective, professional ways to reach out directly to prospective hiring managers, clients, employers, partners, or investors if you want to get a meaningful, productive response.

The question is, how exactly do you find someone’s email? If you’re lucky, the person might have a personal website where you can find their email on their contact page or have it published on a company website, but sometimes, it’s not as simple as just Googling their name. Here are four free tools that have worked well for me. Note, I’ve blurred out the actual emails here for the sake of the example people’s privacy.

Last updated Nov 2018.

1. Clearbit Connect

Clearbit Connect

Clearbit Connect is the tool I most often use first when I’m trying to find someone’s email addresses. They have both a Gmail and Outlook add-on. For example, if you want to use to Gmail add-on, follow these steps:

  1. Install the Clearbit Connect for Gmail Chrome extension
  2. Open Gmail in Chrome and click on the Clearbit Connect icon in the menu on the right.
  3. Click on Find emails
  4. Enter the Company name, then the person’s name. That’s it!

Clearbit-Gmail

If Clearbit has the person’s email in their database, which they get from a variety of sources, the person’s email will be shown. For example, here’s what showed up when I tried to find the email of Reid Hoffman, cofounder of LinkedIn:
Clearbit-Reid-Hoffman-Example

And just like that, you have someone’s email. Across all the tools I’ve used, Clearbit is the one where I’ve had the most success.

2. GetProspect

GetProspect Screenshot

GetProspect offers a simple Chrome extension that allows you to search for people’s emails using their name and domain. To use the tool, simple do the following:

  1. Open Google Chrome and Install the “Email Finder – Get Prospect” extension.
  2. After creating an account, visit the website where the person works (optional)
  3. Click on the Get Prospect extension button then enter the person’s name. For example, I went to the WeWork.com site to find someone there.

GetProspect.io Example

After you identify someone’s contact information, you can add it into custom lists and organise or export your contacts there, which is super handy.

GetProspect also gives you the option to go to someone’s LinkedIn profile and directly find their email there by clicking on the button “Get email” which appears after you install the GetProspect extension. See the example below, again using Reid Hoffman.

GetProspect LinkedIn Screenshot

3. RocketReach

RocketReachIf you sign up for a free account with RocketReach, you can sometimes get lucky in finding someone’s email. This works especially well if it’s someone who’s quite high profile, but I’ve also used it to find emails of everyday professionals.

Simply type in who you’re looking for, and RocketReach will give you a list of potential emails and the percentage success people have had using that email. For example, here’s what it looks like when I tried Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft:

RocketReach Satya Nadella example

I’ve had pretty good success with RocketReach, although I’ve found it to be less effective if you’re trying to find someone with a common name at a less well-known company because there are often so many results.

4. WHOIS Directory Data

WHOISIf you’re trying to reach out to someone who has a personal website, you can sometimes get lucky in finding their contact information embedded in their website’s WHOIS lookup information. I often use this approach to find the emails of independent business owners, solopreneurs, thought leaders, or writers.

Everyone who owns a website is required by law to share their contact details. This only works if they have NOT opted for contact detail privacy, although it seems more people are opting for privacy these days.

After trying many WHOIS lookup sites, I generally recommend my clients use the NameCheap WHOIS lookup tool. Namecheap is the same domain registrar I use for all my own websites. Here are all the steps to follow:

  1. Go to the WHOIS lookup tool. I use the NameCheap WHOiS lookup.
  2. Enter in the website address of the person you’re trying to contact.
    NameCheap WHOIS
  3. Scroll down to see the “Registrant’s Email” or “Admin Email.”
    Namecheap WHOIS Lookup Example

If you’re lucky, and the owner hasn’t opted for privacy, their email will just be sitting there. (I’ve blurred out the result here). I’ve found a lot of people’s contact details this way, but sometimes the email there is simply the domain registrar or other administrative contact.

These days, I don’t always have luck with this method because it seems more owners are opting for WHOIS contact privacy from their domain registrars to prevent people finding their emails this way.

If All Else Fails, Guess & Check

Normally, one of these four methods gets me the email I’m looking for, but it of course doesn’t work all the time, in which case, I take my best shot at sending a Facebook Direct Message, Tweet, LinkedIn inMail or invitation with a message, or even an Instagram direct message.

Sometimes, I simply search for my best guess at the person’s email via Google or Twitter Search to see if I get a lucky hit. While an infinite number of possibilities exist here, only a finite number of likely possibilities exist based on common conventions like:

  • First name: e.g., first[at]companyname.com
  • First Initial + Last Name: first[at]companyname.com
  • First Initial dot Last Name: f.last[at]companyname.com
  • First Name + Last Initial: firstl[at]companyname.com
  • First Name dot Last Initial: first.l[at]companyname.com
  • First Name + Last Name: firstlast[at]companyname.com
  • First Name dot Last Name: first.last[at]companyname.com

You could also replace the dots with hyphens. Or underscores.

I’d love to hear if one of these works for you or if you have other methods that have worked for you. Just leave a comment below. Good luck!

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About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu helps aspiring professionals relaunch their careers to do work that matters. As a keynote speaker, career & personal branding consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, his passion is helping people gain the clarity, confidence, and courage to pursue truly meaningful careers. Having gone through three major career changes himself, he now shares insights from building & relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals and business owners to build & relaunch their personal brands.

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