Luscious Fruit: The Competitive Intelligence That Hangs in a Company’s Telephone Tree

“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful.” ~ Alan Alda

What kinds of things can you learn in a company’s telephone directory?

If you have a company you admire (Hey! I’d hire just about anyone from there!) it might profit you immensely to spend some time (especially now — what else have you to do?) doing some voice mail mining by tediously calling through each number of a company’s internal dial system.

Recently I wrote an article here on ERE called “ Direct-Dial Directories: How to Research Staff via Phone Numbers” that has become one of the most e-mailed articles on the site.

In it I describe the technique of “farming” a company’s telephone directory — an activity that can be performed on just about every major company in America from the comfort of your own desk and telephone. Toward the end of the article I mention a few things that a directory reveals, these being only a smidgen of the type of information that can be extrapolated from a company’s telephone directory. Following are some other “tidbits” of valuable information that a directory might yield.

Employees who seem anxious to be “reached”: Every once in a while you’ll come across a directory where, it seems, nearly every employee offers up a cell phone to the listener. You have to ask yourself why this is. Is this company policy that the company is encouraging their employees to “stay available” for calls from the outside? What’s it saying? Recently I did a thousand names for a sales drive out of a provider of energy services, and there was a plethora of people offering their cell phones to the caller.

I checked the company’s ”Estimated Fiscal Earnings per Share” for 2009 and it was listed as “very high” and “high” for 2010. I wonder if there’s a connection between what appears to be a pretty high level of employee engagement, at least from the outside, and the financial forecast. Hmmm … I wonder if that company is paying the cell phones bills of those they seem to have on 24/7 “call”?

Employees who sound “engaged”: I have a running disagreement with the Recruiting Animal about being able to “hear” engagement. He says I’m nuts; I insist it’s so. I am at present doing the phone tree of a global medication delivery and specialty pharmaceutical company, and there is very little information offered (beyond the owner’s name) on the individual voice mails at the company, and the messages seem curt and rather official; as in “I’ll call you back when I have the time (if ever…).”

Checking the financials, I see the company has dropped from an astounding P/E ratio of near 60 in late 2007 to a P/E ratio of 12 today. Hmmm … I wonder what happened. That’s a big drop in today’s strong pharma/biotech space, crash or no crash.

Building upon this I am of the opinion that you can many times “hear” the overall health/wellness/attitude of a company by the expression (or non-expression) on the employees’ voice mails, which are the company’s outward facing (vocal) image. One or two calls aren’t going to reveal this but a few hundred certainly will!

keep reading…


By Maureen Sharib, reprinted with the permission of Electronic Recruiting Exchange
 BlackDog Recruiting Software Inc.
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