As LinkedIn has been growing at an incredible pace, we’ve been actively using the platform ourselves to find great people to fill our open roles.  For example, we’ve been actively hiring developers with strong backgrounds in Java-based web development.  (See here for the open job listings at LinkedIn).

One of the most powerful things about the LinkedIn platform is its search capability, although it takes many people a while to discover the power of people search.  This seemed like a perfect opportunity to share some of the less obvious features of LinkedIn search, which when mastered can take your efforts to a whole new level.

The following tips are pretty technical.  However, I’m sharing them because I have found them immensely useful in the past few weeks, and hopefully some of you are interested in becoming power users of LinkedIn search.

So, using the example of a search for Java engineers for LinkedIn, here are five tips on how to search LinkedIn like a pro:

  1. Jump right into advanced search. One of the biggest advantages of the LinkedIn platform is that the data about people is in a structured format.  This means that you don’t have to combine everything into a generic keyword query – you can actually specify query terms for specific fields.  For example, if I’m looking for people who currently work at Oracle, I could just search for the keyword. Unfortunately, that will match everyone who has “Oracle” on their resume, either from a former job, or just to say that they know how to work with Oracle databases.Instead, using advanced search, you can specify “Oracle” in the field directly for positions, even specifying the “current position only” check box.  That will give you a tight search that only returns people who currently have Oracle in their current role.

    You can access advanced search by clicking the link next to the search bar on the header of the LinkedIn website.

    You can also find many of the advanced search tools just by clicking “Refine Search” on any LinkedIn search results page.

  2. The Magic of Boolean Search: OR. People use different words to describe similar concepts on their profiles.  For example, a Java engineer might have “Java” on their profile.  However, they might also have “J2EE” or “JSP”.  LinkedIn search supports the concept of OR, which means that you can have LinkedIn return people who have any one of those terms in their profiles.  (Please note, the “OR” has to be in capital letters)

    So, in our search for a Java engineer, we might do a search for:
    Java OR J2EE OR JSP

    This search will return people in your network who have any one of those terms in their profile.

  3. The Magic of Boolean Search: AND.  If you thought OR was fun, get ready for a real party when you add AND to the mix.  AND allows you to insist that a person have both terms in their profile.So, if you want someone who has both Java and Engineer in their profile, you would type:
    Java AND Engineer

    This becomes incredibly powerful when you combine it with OR.  For example, if I am looking for a good Java engineer, I might split each term into several possible words:

    (Java OR J2EE OR JSP) AND (Engineer OR Architect OR Lead)

    Note the use of parentheses to group the OR terms together, so the AND will apply correctly to any of the words in each group of terms.

  4. The Magic of Boolean Search: NOT. The last function in the Boolean search trio is NOT, and it is a tricky but powerful operator.  It can’t be used alone, but in conjunction with other terms it will exclude people from your search who have that term in their profile.So, for example, when I run the search above in my network, a lot of the engineers closest to me who fit that description are actually already at LinkedIn!  That’s no good for a recruiting search.  NOT is here to the rescue.  With the following search:(Java OR J2EE OR JSP) AND (Engineer OR Architect OR Lead) AND NOT LinkedIn

    You will get back every person who matches the original query, but without people who have LinkedIn on their profile.

  5. Leverage the sorting functions. By default, LinkedIn sorts your search results by keyword relevance.  In many cases, this is the best option, because it will prioritize results based on the keyword matches from your search.  However, LinkedIn does offer other options. For example, LinkedIn has the ability to sort search results by number of degrees from you, which is particularly useful if you are trying to find people closest to you in your network.>

    To use the sorts, just click “Refine Search” on the header of any search results page.

It may take a bit of practice at first, but it is amazing how quickly the above tips can really take the effectiveness of your searches to a whole new level.  It is very easy to do a quick search on LinkedIn, and then, using Refine Search, constantly optimize the results with the techniques here to get to a very rich and accurate set of profiles.

I hope these tips prove useful to you. I’ll be back again with more tips and tricks on how to make use of both existing and new features.