OK, let's get this out of the way: LinkedIn isn't the most "fun" social network. You aren't going to see the newest memes in your feed, or adorable baby pictures, or live-tweeted dramas about airport security. This social sphere is more interested in learning and professional development than eye-catching listicles and quizzes.
But with more than 300 million users worldwide, it's the premier place for professionals to connect, find work and be found.
LinkedIn is a fantastic tool that many users only scratch the surface of utilizing. If you want to get the most out of LinkedIn—whether you're on a free or paid LinkedIn Premium plan—you need to take full advantage of its deep (but sometimes confusing) search capabilities. Once you’ve mastered these basic and advanced search methods, LinkedIn evolves into something more than a platform for hosting your resume and high-fiving each other on work anniversaries—it becomes one of the most robust user-powered social search engines out there.
Here's an in-depth breakdown of LinkedIn's search tools, what they do, and how you can use them to succeed.
Basic search is the function that you're likely most familiar with—and often, it does the job. Whether you're trying to find a co-worker or a company, you start off in that little search box in the site's header. And if you've ever used a search engine, you know where I'm going with this: type your search term into the box, and press enter to see results. Piece of cake.
The results you get are a mixed bag, though: If you search for
Apple, you’re going to see the company's LinkedIn page and job postings, Apple-related groups, connections who have something Apple-related in their work experience, and maybe a few folks with "Apple" in their name. It's a smorgasbord of results.
The basic search box works best if you're looking for someone or something unique, say my profile, for example—surprisingly, Stych isn't a very common last name. But if you're trying to track down a Joe Smith, or employees at Southwest Airlines whom one of your connections might know, or marketing professionals in the Seattle area who attended the University of Washington, you'll need to start using filters.
When you need to get more specific than a simple keyword or phrase, LinkedIn's filter options can help you whittle down the cascade of search results that basic search spits out. Granted, filters aren't LinkedIn's most powerful search function, but they're easy to get started with and move you much closer to your desired results.
There are seven main options that you can use to narrow your results: People, Jobs, Companies, Groups, Universities, Posts, or Inbox. Moreover, each option has helpful sub-filters—most free, some available only with a paid LinkedIn Premium account—that get even more granular. We'll describe each of the main filters in this section, but hold off on a dive into sub-filter description until the LinkedIn Advanced Search section.
Each of these seven sections will appear to the left of your basic search results (after you submit a search). It's also worth noting that you can also preemptively filter before submitting a search: just click the grey button with the "hamburger" icon to the left of the basic search box (see GIF above).
The people filter will show you LinkedIn user profiles with names, job descriptions, or other aspects related to your search keyword. So I could search
Matt and apply the people filter to find people named Matt in my network, or search for something like
marketing to see people on LinkedIn who hold a position with "marketing" in the title.
Filtering by jobs forces job listings to the top of your search queue. This way, you can tease out job opportunities based on keywords, company, and location. This is great if you’re trying to get a quick idea of what might be available in your industry or city, or to take a pulse on hiring trends, but if you’re looking to snag an opportunity you’ll want to target specific opportunities using LinkedIn's Advanced Jobs Search (which we’ll touch on later).
Much like Facebook fan pages, businesses can maintain company pages on LinkedIn. These pages let users follow along with recent updates and job postings, plus connect with some of the company’s current employees. Filtering your search by company is a great way to discover leaders in your industry, or to learn more about potential workplace targets. Even if you aren’t looking for a career change now, it's smart to follow the big players in your space and stay up on industry trends; searching out company pages is a great way to do that.
LinkedIn offers groups as a way for like-minded professionals to share advice and news about their industries—plus, they can be a great way to do a little networking and pick up on new opportunities. The groups search filter allows users to find LinkedIn groups to join based on keywords and discussions within those groups.
Much like company pages, university pages act as hubs for promoting a college and connecting its alumni. These pages offer more demographic information than company pages—like where alumni work, where they live, or what industry they’re in—and can act as a connecting point for older graduates and current students. The universities filter for basic search makes it easier to search out specific schools.
Lately, LinkedIn has tried to position itself as a publishing platform where users can create and share blog posts as a way of building their personal brand. The posts filter in basic search lets you search through those user-generated articles to see the recent chatter on a specific subject. For example, if I wanted to see what people have posted about Drupal in the past week, I could do a basic search for
Drupal, filter by posts, and sort by recency. This is also a great way to see who the expert voices on certain subjects are: the
authors sub-filter in the left navigation is sorted by post volume, so I could refine my search to see only posts from the top contributors.
Inbox isn't a filter as much as it's a separate search environment. Basically, the inbox search will let you search for messages within your own LinkedIn inbox based on name, subject, and message content. Unless you're fielding tons of LinkedIn messages and need to dig up an old thread, you probably won’t use this feature much.
Before digging into the next LinkedIn search option, it's worth taking a moment to explain LinkedIn's paid premium accounts. On top of giving users a spiffier looking profile, LinkedIn Premium gives users InMail—the ability to send messages to anyone, not just connections—additional search options and, depending on the plan, features to improve job hunting, recruiting, selling and professional networking. In fact, LinkedIn offers four plans, ranging from $29.99 per month to $119.95 per month, catering to those use cases.
Depending on the LinkedIn Premium plan you chose, you'll find:
Is a LinkedIn Premium account worth it for better search? We'll leave that up to you, but hopefully notations in this guide of whether or not a premium account is needed for a particular search filter will help you decide.
If you’re trying to be precise with your search terms, using boolean commands can help LinkedIn understand what you’re really looking for. These are similar to search operators that you might use with Google, and even though LinkedIn's options aren't as deep, they can be powerful when combined with filters.
Quotes - Wrapping any search term in quotation marks will search LinkedIn for that exact phrase. So if I searched for
"email marketing", I would get results that included that specific string, rather than results for marketing specialists with the word “email” somewhere in their bio.
AND - Using the
AND command, you can force LinkedIn to return results that include every term in the query. For example, I could search for
jellybeans AND marketing to find marketing professionals who also have an interest in jellybeans. Generally, LinkedIn's search will assume an AND when multiple search terms are entered, returning results for both terms, but this command can be useful for more complex searches.
OR - The
OR command tells LinkedIn that you only want results that include this keyword OR that keyword. Maybe your company has offices in New York and San Francisco, and you're looking for candidates who currently live in either city. Using
AND here doesn’t work—as far as I know, it's not possible to exist in two places simultaneously—so search for
marketing manager New York OR marketing manager San Francisco instead.
- - Placing the word
- (a dash) before a search term will tell LinkedIn to remove results containing that term from the returned items. So if I wanted to find people who work at Google, but not on the search product, I could search either
Google NOT search or
Google -search—this query would return results for people who work on Google+, Google Fiber, Google Analytics, and other Google projects.
Parentheses - Parentheses are only for complex searches where you’re combining multiple commands. They work just like they did in algebra class (you thought you left that in middle school, huh?): anything within the parentheses is resolved before the operations outside of the parentheses. So if you search for
"marketing manager" AND (Google OR Microsoft)," LinkedIn will return results that contain the exact phrase
marketing manager and either the word
Microsoft (but not both).
If you're on a job hunt or following specific markets, you’ll probably end up returning to the same searches over and over again. Instead of memorizing your keywords and going through the complex process of setting everything up, try LinkedIn's save search function, which is available only for people and jobs search.
Once you hit the search results page that you want to reference later—meaning, you have all of your filters, sorting, and keywords set up exactly as you want them to display—look in the top right-hand corner of the main content well beneath the menu bar; you should see a grey link that says "Save search".
When you click on the link, a pop-up box will appear that helps you set up alerts for your specific search. The saved searches dialogue box will tell you the type of search you conducted (people or jobs), prompt you to give your saved search a title, and asks you to choose how often you want email alerts about this search—"never", "weekly", or "monthly". After making your selections, click the green checkmark to the right of the "alert" drop down to save your search.
Below your new search, you will also see any existing saved searches. If you ever need to edit a saved search, just click on the pencil icon to the right of the search to reconfigure. Or, to delete the search altogether, just click the grey "x" next to the pencil.
Let’s say that I want to keep track of students and alumni from the journalism program at Drake University, my alma mater. I could set up a people search filtered by LinkedIn members who went to Drake University and are in my first or second connection circles (a sub-filter option), searching for the keyword
journalism. Then, I could use the weekly digest email to connect with new students and keep track of old classmates.
Try It Out Yourself
Alternatively, job seekers can set up saved searches tailored to listings in their area and within their expertise. If I'm hunting for a job as a community manager in Chicago, I would use the following process:
"community manager"(with the quotation marks added so I get the exact phrase; I don’t want a bunch of sales manager and project manager results)
Voila! Once I save the search, I have an easy-access list of the most recent job postings for community managers in Chicago.
To return to a saved search on LinkedIn, click the grey gear next to the "Save search" link, then choose "Saved searches".
LinkedIn’s basic search can be powerful once you incorporate filters, but if you want to do some deep dives into the job market for potential prospects for your job opening, you’ll need to tap into LinkedIn's Advanced Search functionalities.
The main advantage to Advanced Search is that it lets you search for specific terms in specific fields, rather than using a single field for all of your keywords and filtering from there. For example, instead of searching
Joe Smith, Drake University I can put
Joe in a first name field,
Smith in a last name field, and
Drake University in a school field.
Advanced Search is made up of LinkedIn’s two core results: people and jobs. Advanced People Search gives you more flexibility to sniff out people based on where they live, where they used to work, and their interests. Advanced Jobs Search, on the other hand, lets you narrow down the results by things like job functions and experience level.
When you want to drill deeper and find connections and job candidates that might be buried under less-helpful results, LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search adds a huge amount of flexibility to their search-and-filter system.
There are two ways to access Advanced People Search: Either click on the grey "Advanced" link to the right of the search box from any page, or click on the grey "Advanced" link in the left navigation on a search results page. You should see a fold-out menu of fields that are designed to get you narrowly targeted results.
Here’s a breakdown of each of the fields and when you might want to use them:
The Keywords field works just like the basic search box: type a keyword, and LinkedIn will return results for profiles that contain that word or phrase. Since the phrase can appear anywhere in the user’s profile—current title, summary, experience, interests, etc.—you should only use this for general ideas, like
These are pretty straightforward: just plug in the first and last name of the person you’re looking for. This can be useful if you're hunting down someone with a common name.
The Title field lets users search based on a member's job title. When you start typing in the Title field, a dropdown will appear beneath the text box with options based on whether or not you're searching for a current or previous title—your choices are "current or past", "current", "past", and "past not current". Also note that you don’t need to search for an exact title. If I’m looking for someone with management experience in his or her current position, for example, I can just search
manager, which will return results for marketing manager, development manager, site support manager, and beyond.
There are a few sections where you can search by companies in Advanced People Search: in the left-hand column using the Company field, and by clicking on either the Current Company link or the Past Company link in the center column. All three sections have their specific use cases.
The Company field in the left column lets you search for a single company, and filter based on whether or not that's the user's current workplace.
Employing the Current Company and Past Company links, though, you can search using multiple companies at once. To add a new company to your search, just click on either of the links, click "+ Add", and start typing the company name (LinkedIn should show you some suggestions). This allows you to search out users with experience at specific companies and in particular environments.
Try It Out Yourself
Let's say I'm looking for a new hire with an impressive pedigree at big-business internet companies who are interested in the social space; specifically, I’m looking for professionals who left Google or Amazon to work at Facebook. Here's the process I would use:
Amazonunder Past Company
Now, you have a list of folks who have all the experiences of working at big-ticket tech companies, who pursued new opportunities in the social web.
Like the Company field, you can search by school in a couple of different ways: either using the School field in the left column of the Advanced People Search box, or by clicking on the School link in the center column. Also like searching for companies, the school link in the center column allows you to add multiple colleges and universities.
Try It Out Yourself
Say I have a entry-level newsletter marketing position to fill in Iowa, and I want to interview recent or soon-to-be college grads in the area. I could use this method to find candidates:
University of Iowa,
Drake University, and
Iowa State Universityto my school search section in the center column
Seniority Levelto the mix—for a position like this, check the boxes for
Students & Internsand
School search is also a helpful way to find fellow alums from your alma mater who work in your industry or live nearby—use it as a foundation to set up a LinkedIn group, or launch a networking event.
If you need to search by Location, LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search provides two options: location based on country and postal code in the left column, or location based on multiple general areas in the center column. Using the left column option, you can search nearby a specific area, while the center column option focuses on cities and their surrounding areas. Or, if you want results from all over, change the location dropdown in the left column to "Anywhere".
The Relationship options in the center column allow you to limit your searches to "1st Connections", "2nd Connections", "3rd + Everyone Else" or "Group Members" (people in the same LinkedIn groups as you).
There are a bunch of reasons why you would want to filter by relationship. Maybe you want to see which of your immediate connections has experience with WordPress and could give you some advice on a new theme. Or, you could try filtering by 2nd connections to identify people in your industry that a co-worker could introduce you to. But just a reminder: you won’t be able to see much on a 3rd-level connection's profile unless you have a LinkedIn Premium account.
Try It Out Yourself
Let’s say you have an opening at your Minneapolis-based company for a senior-level developer—specifically someone with solid Java experience, a background in social networking API integrations, and roots in the Midwest (the job can be done remotely, but you want them nearby for monthly meetings). Since the best recommendations come from grateful customers and coworkers, you can leverage the relationship option to find a premier candidate.
greater Chicago area,
greater Minneapolis-St. Paul Area,
Des Moines, Iowa area, and
Madison, Wisconsin area.
information technology and services.
years of experienceoption to 3-5 years (since this is a senior position).
Now you have a tailored list of Midwestern developers whom your current connections can give you some background on. From here, you could ask your network for an introduction to a prospective candidate.
In Advanced People Search, LinkedIn provides a set of 147 common industries that you might want to search. From accounting to writing and editing, you can check the box next to any term to narrow your results based on the industry that the user identifies him or herself with.
LinkedIn is a global social network, and if you're hiring globally, you’ll want to target folks who can talk business in multiple tongues. This search option is as straightforward as it sounds: just check the boxes next to the languages that you’re looking for, and LinkedIn will return results for people who list a proficiency in that language in their profile.
This one isn't too robust, but for companies with a focus on community service and non-profits looking for some extra help, Advanced People Search provides the option to filter by nonprofit opportunities that interest them: either "Board Service" or "Skilled Volunteering".
The Groups section makes it simple to search only among the members of one of your groups. If you want to find relevant groups to join, check out the Groups section in the basic search overview above.
The Years of Experience option lets you search by how long candidates and colleagues have been in the biz—from greenhorns to seasoned pros. Since it's a premium feature, searching by experience level is probably best-suited for hiring managers or firms who are tracking down candidates who fit specific job requirements.
The Function option relates to the role that the user plays at his or her job—whether it's administrative, business development, or marketing. This filter can help you taper a search to specific teams at a company.
Seniority Level takes job title slugs like CEO, senior, or intern and makes them searchable. Using this filter, you can limit your search to people who hold leadership roles, or to professionals who are just getting their feet wet. Combine Seniority Level with Function to get specific job-description results.
Don't worry, the Interested In section isn't a laundry list of a person's favorite off-hours activities—it's actually a way to gauge what kinds of opportunities a user might be pursuing. This tool will help you find candidates who want to talk to hiring managers, business owners looking for contractors, and experts willing to lend some advice.
Another straightforward one: The Company Size filter lets you pare down results based on the number of employees at a user's current company. You can search for anything from 1-10 employees all the way up to 10,000+.
If you’re only interested in elite talent from the world’s top companies, give the Fortune filter a shot. This will show you profiles for employees who work at the prestigious companies of the Fortune 1000—you can look at just the top 50, the full 1000, or segments in between.
It might not seem like much on the surface, but the When Joined option in advanced people search can be powerful when combined with LinkedIn’s aforementioned saved searches. Simply, this feature filters your search based on how long a user has been on LinkedIn.
So say you want to keep track of new students joining you degree program at your old university: just set up your keyword and school search parameters, then add a When Joined restriction of 6-14 days ago. If you set up a weekly email alert for that search, you can connect with and keep track of up-and-comers in your field. You can use the same strategy to track newcomers to your company, or new users in your city.
If you’re looking for a new job, or you just want to see what kinds of opportunities there are in your market, LinkedIn’s Advanced Jobs Search can help you pinpoint attractive opportunities within your skill set.
Rather than limiting you to a few keywords and presupposed filters like basic search does, the advanced version of jobs search lets users set specific parameters for their hunt like postal codes, industry, and experience level.
Just like the Keywords field in Advanced People Search, you should use this option to generally touch on your career interests and skills. LinkedIn searches for these keywords within posted job descriptions, and returns the most relevant results.
This is kind of like people search, too, but instead of searching for people who work at a specific company, you’re searching for jobs at a specific company. You can use the Company field in the left column if you only want to target one workplace, but the more efficient option would be to add any company that interests you to the company section in the center column—click on the company link, click "+ add", and start type the name of the company that you’re interested in. Using this section you can add as many companies as you want to your search.
Try It Out Yourself
Pretend you're a web designer looking for a new challenge. You have family in Chicago and New York, and most of your experience is in UX and interaction. You're searching for an opportunity to work with a fast-paced, forward-thinking team that takes risks and will help you absorb a ton of knowledge over the next few years—let's say Google or Twitter. You could use Advanced Jobs Search and the company options to identify ideal opportunities.
New Yorkto the Location section in the center column
If there aren’t any jobs immediately available, I'd suggest searching in other markets to make sure you're using the same keywords that a hiring company would (e.g. maybe most postings use "UX design" rather than "user experience designer"). If the pool is just a little dry in your area right now, set up a saved search alert to learn about new opportunities right away.
If you’re hunting for a specific title, type it in here. However, remember that not every organization has the same title structure, and that you could be limiting your options by choosing the wrong phrases.
Advanced Jobs Search shares the same options as advanced people search: you can either look near a specific ZIP code, or in a bunch of different cities and their surrounding areas. Which option you used depends on what you're looking for: If you're rooted in the community or your significant other wants to stay at his or her job, use the ZIP code option; if you're looking for the biggest and best opportunity in a big metropolitan area, use the location link in the center column to search around your target cities.
Relationship might be the most useful option in Advanced Jobs Search: it shows you whether or not you have connections at the company that posted the job. Try filtering by 1st connections initially, and if that doesn’t yield the desired results, filter by 2nd connections and ask someone in your network for an introduction.
Date Posted can be critical for your job search, too: it allows you to focus your job search based on how recently the hiring company posted the request for resumes. If you're looking for opportunities daily, try setting up a saved search that shows jobs posted within the last day—that way, you can pounce on new opportunities, and get out in front of the competition.
The Job Function options can help you narrow your search to positions within your skill range—whether that's analysis, writing, or manufacturing know-how. Although the Industry options share many of the same terms with the Job Function section, they're a little different: Industry shows you companies in a specific field, while Job Function defines your role at that company.
Think of it this way: If you're interested in the hospitality business, and your background is in law, choose "Hospitality" as your Industry and "Legal" as your Job Function. In other words, lawyers don't need to search for law firms.
If you want to land a job, you need to target opportunities that you’re qualified for. Using the Experience Level options, you can sort search results based on the years of experience required for your application to be considered, all the way from intern to executive.
Salary is advanced job search’s only premium option, and it lets you take aim at your salary requirements without the awkward conversation that comes after a couple of interviews. The salary info is based on data from PayScale.com, which uses data about the location, experience level, and title of the job and estimates the salary based on market trends.
Hiring the right person is crucial to the success of any business, and peer references are the best source of info for separating superstar candidates from fluffed-up resumes. LinkedIn’s Reference Search, a feature available to paying LinkedIn Premium users, is a niche tool, but an extremely useful one: it allows you to find people who worked at a certain company during a set period of time.
To get started, head to any search page and click the grey gear in the upper right-hand corner of the page. In the dropdown menu you should see a link for "Reference Search". Click on it, and you'll see fields for Company Name, Candidate, and Years (from xxxx to xxxx).
After submitting your search, you should see a page of results that includes all of the regular profile information (name, current location, current position, current industry, connection level) along with three new sections: the person's position at the company that you searched for and when they held that position, the number of recommendations that the person has, and the number of connections that the person has.
The main use for this tool—as the name implies—is finding extra references for a candidate who you're thinking about hiring. Try searching for people who were also working at a company that your candidate has listed on his or her resume (during the years listed on the resume), and reaching out to those people via InMail, another premium feature to take advantage of with this process.
Try It Out Yourself
For example, if you have a job candidate that says he worked at Disney as a frontend developer from 2008 to 2010, you could use Reference Search to find ex-coworkers who can vouch for his skills and work ethic. I would simply:
Disneyinto the Company field
2008in the first Years field, and
2010in the second field
There are definitely some limitations to reference search—it can't filter by things like Job Title or Function after searching, so that might make it kind of tough to find someone in the online media department at Disney who knew my candidate—but it's a good place to start your research.
Whether you're looking for a career change, searching for the final piece of your ideal team, or working to create new relationships with like-minded professionals, LinkedIn's search capabilities provide a powerful way to connect with any industry. Once you’ve mastered search, LinkedIn will become the secret weapon in your arsenal for anything from finding talent to creating new and lasting relationships.
But learning how to make the most of LinkedIn isn't over. Check out the following resources to boost your effectiveness on utilizing LinkedIn:
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