by Meridith Levinson

Would You Trade Your Contacts for Access to Free Job Search Tool?

Apr 16, 2010

A new job search tool from ZoomInfo is free in exchange for job seekers' business contacts.

Business information provider ZoomInfo launched a free tool designed to help job seekers conduct more proactive job searches and tap into the “hidden job market.” Dubbed FreshContacts, the service is a plug-in that gives job seekers access to ZoomInfo’s database of 45 million people and 5 million businesses. Job seekers who download the plug-in from can then use ZoomInfo’s database to find companies and individuals to target as part of job searches. (For more information on ZoomInfo, see The Two Websites Every Job Seeker Needs to Join.)

For example, you can find the names and contact information for potential hiring managers at specific employers you may be targeting, then send cover letters and resumes directly to those individuals. Or, if you want to work in a specific industry, you can get a list of all the companies that are in ZoomInfo’s database that fall into the target industry, then sort that list geographically. 

Theoretically at least, the service puts job seekers in a better position to find out about unadvertised job opportunities (aka the hidden job market) and helps them get in touch with hiring decision-makers.

Job seekers can also use ZoomInfo’s database to look for specific people—whether former colleagues with whom they’ve lost touch, or hiring managers with whom they have a job interview. Chip Terry, ZoomInfo’s vice president of enterprise products, says job seekers can even search for people based on hobbies or interests. 

Here’s the catch: Access to ZoomInfo’s database isn’t exactly free. While you don’t pay money for it, you get access to it—for two months only—in exchange for giving ZoomInfo information on contacts in your professional network. The plug-in that connects you to ZoomInfo’s database runs on your Microsoft Outlook program. While your computer is idle, says Terry, the plug-in pulls contacts from your Outlook database (names, titles, company names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers) that ZoomInfo then matches with information in its database.

Terry says ZoomInfo actually throws out the majority of the contacts the plug-in pulls from people’s Outlook. “If you have any contacts with a Hotmail, gmail or Yahoo e-mail, we automatically throw them out,” he says. “We only want business contacts in our database.”

Before publishing any of the information in its database that it obtains from job seekers’ Outlook systems, Terry says ZoomInfo runs a permission test. The company e-mails everyone on whom it obtains information and asks them if they want to opt-out of being included in the database or if they want to edit any of the information ZoomInfo obtained. ZoomInfo doesn’t disclose in the permission e-mail that it got its information from you, so your contacts won’t know that their data came from your Outlook database.

“We get many more people updating their information than opting out, though we get a reasonable number of opt-outs,” says Terry.

The FreshContacts plug-in launched officially in December, 2009. Since then, says Terry, job seekers have downloaded it 30,000 times.

So would you give out your network contacts in exchange for free access to ZoomInfo’s database? What concerns do you have?