How Many Names?

I get asked quite often, “How many names do I need to order to make this work?” The answer is deceptively simple: “Usually 30 to 50 names will effect ONE immediate hire,” I warn.

It’s a big “usually” because it depends on the veracity of the names sourced, of course; but it also depends on the skill level of the recruiter. I can only bring you the names; what you do with them is entirely up to you.

In most fields, though, 30 to 50 names of the truly passive candidate (the one insulated between the walls of a company doing the work you need him to do for you) will result in a hire if you are an average skilled recruiter. I know I have my detractors in this space, and to give them due credit, I acquiesce that there are some fields where this general rule of thumb doesn’t work.

It doesn’t usually work in pharma or bio or in defense; it is challenged in sourcing out of the “Final Four.” It may be a little on the high side for positions in call centers or inside sales.

But for the most part, 30 to 50 names can do it, and the formula works amazingly well. Following is an up-to-date assessment of what I believe it takes these days to accomplish ONE immediate hire out of telephone-sourced names.

Keep in mind, this does not speak to how many Internet-sourced names you need to accomplish the same thing. I have seen estimates from esteemed Internet sourcers who place these numbers at about twice the numbers of telephone-sourced names.

How Many Names Do I Need For One Immediate Hire?

  • Outside Sales Reps: 20 – 40
  • Inside Sales Reps: 20 – 30
  • Sales Managers: 30 – 50
  • Construction Supervisors: 40
  • Marketing Managers: 30
  • Group Marketing Managers: 50
  • Sales Engineers: 50+ (Note: Rare skill set ? these people with sales and technical expertise facing customers in one package!)
  • Engineering (Software): 30 – 40
  • Engineering (Hardware): 40 -100 (Note: really depends on skillsets/level of technology you’re seeking- Radar? Forget it! Order 200 and cross your fingers.)
  • Engineering (Mechanical): 50
  • Engineering (Chemical): 75
  • Engineering (Civil): 40
  • Research & Development (Pharma): 75 – 150
  • High Yield Research Analysts (Fin’l): 50
  • Disability Examiner: 30
  • C Levels: 50 ? 100 (Note: Depends on the C (CEO, COO, CIO, CSO, CFO, etc.)
  • Call Center workers: 20
  • Financial Analysts: 30 – 50 (Note: Depends on market vertical.)
  • Commercial Underwriters: 25 (Note: Dropping because of the current mortgage meltdown.)
  • Consultants Big (Final) 4: 50+ (Note: Depends on industry vertical.)
  • Business Development Managers: 30-50
  • Patent Attorney: 50 – 100
  • Commercial Loan Officers: 20 – 30
  • Defense: Seems like 1000? (Note: One of the toughest sectors because of the current political climate.)

These numbers come from what my customers report back to me, my own experience in the sourcing process, the size of my average jobs, and my intuition. Nothing scientific, mind you.

The industry is also very important. In general, the hotter the industry, the more people you’re going to need. Location is important. You’re going to need less people upfront if you’re not going to have to move them. If you do have to move them, be prepared to see your names need estimate numbers double, maybe even triple depending on the desirability of the location. Warm climates attract more people than cold, so if your job location is cold, you’ll probably need more if you have to move them in. It’s a common-sense thing. You have that, right?

Remember, these “telephone-sourced names” are coming out of specific companies that you choose. It is a given here that you know what companies contain the types of employees you covet most. I tell my customers that choosing an appropriate target list is half the battle of any search.

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I remind you, and I can’t stress this enough, these estimates are entirely predicated on what industry you’re working in. The more highly paid the individual, the more implanted (stock-optioned) he/she is in the company, the brainier the candidate needs to be?all these things impact your sourcing needs.

If I had to pick a number, I tell people 50 names, nine times out of 10, if worked properly, should produce a hire. The “if worked” caveat is important. Make sure the names you source get called! It’s amazing to me that some names just seem to fade away because the recruiter never gets around to calling! I can’t understand this thinking, so I’m at a loss to explain it.

To work the metrics into this, very simply, to hire not-so-easy-to-find Business Development Managers at a per-name rate of $42 per name for 50 names:

*For $2100, an HR department can put 50 on-target real-life summaries of individuals into their stream of savings for their future hiring needs. These 50 names will, in all likelihood:

  • Produce 1-3 immediate Business Development Managers.
  • Produce 2-4 more Business Development Managers over the next six months.
  • Produce 4-8 Business Development Managers over the entire first year.
  • Produce 6-10 Business Development Managers over two years.

Remember, you’re pipelining these folks, staying in touch with them, and most important, cultivating them effectively. This is the real challenge in most staffing organizations that experience high turnover.

For $2,100 original, raw cost? What CFO wouldn’t do back flips over that?

*These returns are predicated on a harder-than-usual position to fill.

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!


5 Comments on “How Many Names?

  1. Maureen,
    I do agree with you, but those 50 have to actually be spoken with, voice to voice, and within a reasonable time for the search. This means that I have to start with about 200 in pharma, leave up to 3 voice mails, send at least one email and call at different times.

    What are other peoples numbers?


  2. A huge variable to the question of ‘how many names?’ is the question of whether or not relocation is a factor. If relocation is a factor, plan on getting alot more names. The real estate market is making professionals risk averse to relocation and making that type of assignment exponentially more difficult, even if the opportunity is a career progression with significant cash upside. One of my client’s has an employee that has been with them for a year and still hasn’t sold their (2nd) home in Michigan.

  3. I truly believe that is depends on a few variable such as the position, the company and the industry. There are many positions that require 100 or 200 names. Yes, a straight forward search can be done with maybe 50 names, but I caution anyone not to put a number behind a request until you fully understand the job description, the company, the opportunity, location and the size of the universe of potential candidates etc. Continuing? for some positions, there may be a limited number of professionals who can actually do the job and may come from only 5-10 companies. Well then, 15-30 names may produce a hire. But if you are looking for a consultant/tax & audit position, etc, the number of names needed to produce a hire is increased drastically. So next time you are asked the question, how many names do you think I need to obtain to get a hire? Ask a few questions back….what is the title, what companies or industries do you wish to have the candidate come from, location, salary, skill set, musts vs. needs and wants. Really qualify the question. There really is never a wrong answer! But a knowledgeable answer will show that you are a true expert!!!

  4. Good analysis Maureen. Very few times we get to hear exact stats than generic theory.

    Two points: –

    Firstly, you mention that for rare skills like sales engineers you have to source more candidates. Isn’t that bit ironical as you would relatively get lesser people for rare skills? As this skill is rare – your total audience will be niche and very limited. Would you be able to find 50 sales engineers in the same time as of 30 marketing managers?

    This also means that recruiter has to put extra efforts to treat every candidate elite and make sure his percentage of conversion should be better than vanilla (generic) skill.

  5. Hi Sarang!

    When I say you have to source “more” it’s usually a function of their willingness/ability to move.

    In the case of the sales egineers I mentioned (let’s not forget these estimates are more than three years old – the economy has shifted dramatically from the good old “heady” days of yore – what I was referring to was that a sales engineer is really combining two skillsets – a good one usually has to not only understand the technical aspects and be able to implement them but also must be able to interact/interface with the customer in a pleasing manner and not all techies are capable of this latter.

    Because their skillset combination is pretty rare it’s likely they’re going to be rather cossetted – maybe not so much these days – and harder to move.

    NO, I can assure you – it would take me far longer to find 50 sales engrs over 30 marketing managers. Not only are they likely to be more cossetted than other types of employees they’re also likely to be more closeted. Time estimate to find: 3-4 times as long (phone sourcing).

    I hope I answered your questions.

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