The 10 Habits of Expert LinkedIn Sourcers

September 24, 2014

You can probably do this in your sleep: run searches in LinkedIn Recruiter with your Boolean friends AND, OR, NOT, “_” and (_) and voila, you have hundreds of profiles at your fingertips. The issue is that when you look at your search results, using these basic techniques, you start getting a lot of prospects you may have seen or contacted before.

But being a great recruiter is about finding the best talent, not the easiest-to-find talent. It’s about being willing to do a little more advanced thinking to gain that competitive advantage. So to get you on your way, together with Glen Cathey (the Boolean Black Belt himself), we compiled 10 tactics for finding the less obvious candidates on LinkedIn:

1. Keep adapting your search.

There are infinite ways to express skills, responsibilities and experiences, so the best people may not use your search terms. Recognize that every search, no matter how good it is, will exclude relevant profiles.

Search career sites, LinkedIn Company and Career Pages, job descriptions and LinkedIn profiles to see how other companies and candidates describe comparable jobs. Get familiar with terms and acronyms, and plug them back into your original search. Scan results for alternate terms and keep modifying your search accordingly.

2. Exclude direct search terms.

Some people will forget to include or will consciously exclude a term, so discover profiles that imply skill proficiency.

For example, let’s say you need an experienced CPA. Exclude ‘CPA, C.P.A.’ in your search for ‘Accountant.’ Then use search facets to limit your search to accountants with 10+ of experience who work at say, the top 3 accounting firms. Odds are there aren’t many experienced accountants at PwC who aren’t certified.

3. Leverage Groups and term exclusion.

Search “All Groups” to target people in any group – you don’t have to be a member. Let’s say you’re looking for someone who knows JAVA. Exclude ‘JAVA’ in your search of JAVA-related Groups. Odds are you’ll find new relevant profiles – people are in the JAVA group for a reason.

4. Search for verbs rather than nouns.

It’s easier for someone to list jargon-y phrases such as “network design” than it is for them to claim they actively “designed a network.” Chances are verbs will yield fewer but higher-quality candidates.

5. Don’t ignore skeleton profiles.

Great people are often overlooked because they don’t have complete profiles. When you do find out more about the talent behind keyword-poor profiles, add notes and tags so you can find them again.

6. Identify your ‘perfect matches’ first.

Start by searching for profiles that meet every single desired and required skill. Then systematically drop one desired skill at a time and loosen your search incrementally.

7. Start with the end of the list.

Don’t just look at the top 50 profiles from your results. Flip them – fewer competitors will have reached out to that last candidate, so odds are she will be more likely to respond to your InMail.

8. Pull candidates out in bite-sized chunks.

Run a search and then use facets to isolate a portion of the results. For example, start by isolating only candidates from the top 5 companies. Then run the same search again, exclude the top 5, and select only companies 6-10.

9. Drill down on active candidates.

Keep in mind that 1/4th of LinkedIn members are actively looking for a job. Think about the ways to describe that, e.g., ‘transitioning,’ ‘looking for,’ and use those terms to refine your search.

10. Get to new members first.

LinkedIn adds a new member every two seconds. Access them as they join. Set a saved search from x days ago, and you’ll keep discovering fresh new members who meet your criteria.

The more you integrate these techniques into your sourcing strategy, the more unique your search results will be, and the faster you’ll be able to find the high-quality talent you need.


To hear Glen Cathey's sourcing wisdom in person, attend Talent Connect 2014 in San Francisco (Oct 20-22).

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