Beware of the Smart LinkedIn Recruiter Search Syntax Change

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If you use LinkedIn Recruiter (LIR) and have upgraded to the long-awaited new User Interface and Search – have you noticed that previously working searches no longer produce the expected results? The idea behind the redesign was to provide suggestions – for example, for job titles. It’s a good idea and should be of help, but…

Let me outline what has happened around the switch to the new UI.

LinkedIn has changed the search syntax – in LinkedIn Recruiter only. To illustrate how, let’s take a look at a search from a personal account (any, premium or not):

linkedin search - 1


The keywords are combined by default. The AND operator is assumed by default, as we expect it to be, as it works by now in most search systems, including Google, resume databases, and people aggregators. This is how search has worked in LinkedIn and LIR until recently. But it no longer works like that.

Here is what it looks like in LIR, when I enter the same search parameters (the window on the left):


Why did the same search get fewer results? The reason is, LIR doesn’t assume AND any longer. Instead, it surrounds your keywords with the quotation marks by default. (That is, unless you insert a Boolean search operator – AND, OR, or NOT). LIR runs a different search than it did before the redesign. Compare the search in the left and right windows, and you’ll see.

To get the results for (just) the keywords combined, now you would need to enter AND explicitly:


Bottom line:

AND is no longer optional in LIR; the quotation marks are added by default around keywords – UNLESS you use any Boolean operators (AND, OR, or NOT).

Are you aware of the change? Do you find this confusing? Please comment below.

Here are some of the consequences:

Your saved searches may be broken. Your search history, too, will have entries that may or may not work as before. The link “View the results in recruiter” when you search from a personal account will take you to the same results as in personal; but if you start editing a field and exit without changing, the results will be off.


Super-Connectors Are Blocked

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I would be glad if some of the positive predictions outlined in Martin’s post on the Microsoft-LinkedIn deal came true. But I doubt LinkedIn will change in any significant ways anytime soon. (I’d welcome some changes if you ask me.)

Looking back, we should be grateful to LinkedIn for its multiple innovations and new terminology in professional online activities. An interesting “unofficial” notion that didn’t exist before LinkedIn is “open networkers”, or LIONs, meaning, LinkedIn members who accept all invitations.

There has long been a controversy on the subject of accepting invitations. Non-LIONs think it’s best to connect only with the people they know. (It’s everyone’s choice, of course. To me, it raises the question of needing a global business network to keep in touch with people you know. 🙂 I’d think that an address book can do fine). LIONs, on the other hand, accepted all invites and grew their networks.

By the way, logically, it is thanks to LIONs that all LinkedIn members have larger networks.

LinkedIn advised against connecting with the people you do not know; but then, it didn’t prevent open networking from happening, allowing large personal networks. (Even some LinkedIn employees have connections whom they don’t know personally, based just on the numbers of connections.) The first complications happened when LIONs reached 30K connections. For years, at that mark, “accept” invitation button got broken; the button would show it worked, but nothing happened.

However, the “invite” button continued to function for the super-connectors even after the 30K barrier. Some super-connectors invited back the members who invited them (I did that); some, just gave up and connected with others only occasionally.

Well, here’s the news: all super-connectors with the largest networks (30K and up) are done connecting. Their “invite” functionality has stopped functioning as well. It shows that it works, but it doesn’t. If you invite them, expect nothing – they are not able to connect with you. Note that it’s not possible to identify whether someone whom you invite is in that “blocked” category. So if your LinkedIn invitation is not accepted, don’t take it personally.

Was stopping super-connectors from growing their networks further an intentional change on LinkedIn’s behalf? It’s hard to say. Maybe it was a side effect of changing some other software code.

Since that block happened a few weeks ago, I have received a few hundred invitations. I’d like to keep in touch with new connections, but I no longer have a way to do so on LinkedIn. So, I’m have set up a page on this blog to “connect” with those who would like to, keep in touch, and share sourcing content. Maybe, even connect on LinkedIn if the number limitations change! In the meantime, please feel free to subscribe to my blog.

What will the LinkedIn acquisition mean for sourcers? – by @MrMartinLee

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Author: Martin Lee 

The corporate tech chess game took an interesting and for most of us an unexpected turn yesterday as Microsoft bought LinkedIn in the biggest move yet. If you haven’t reviewed Microsoft’s conference call (or at least the slides), there are many answers to be found.


(image credit)

As sourcers, my partners and my first reactions were excitement. What will Microsoft bring to enhance how we find potential candidates? How will they integrate their technology into the platform? What else will they develop? How will the other big tech companies react?

Initially, we think you’ll see no significant differences as the deal undergoes regulatory approval, and LinkedIn finds its place within Microsoft. However, we predict there will be some exciting new integrations available by early 2017.

Here are some of our other predictions (just don’t hold us to them!):

Outlook is the most commonly used business email platform, giving LinkedIn an enormous opportunity to increase its user base. You’ll soon see the “Social Connector” features added back to Outlook, and possibly other platforms as well (one-click lookup from Skype, anyone?).

Speaking of Skype, LinkedIn already supports linking your WeChat account, and it would just make sense to add Skype to the list as well. Given LinkedIn’s pivot from email-style Messages to a chat-like interface, could Skype replace InMails and Messages entirely? We’re not sure, but we certainly hope so.

We may even see the end of “Premium” for regular LinkedIn accounts, with a purchase of Microsoft Office being all your need to gain full access to LinkedIn’s features. Eliminating the lowest subscriber tier would make sense from Microsoft’s perspective: the revenues are not significant, it would increase engagement with the platform, and of course, sell more Office seats as well.

Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM suite supports many powerful features for sales and marketing teams (enterprise and SMBs alike). It seems as though integration with Microsoft’s HCM offerings may be slow; Microsoft’s Satya Nadella indicated that the Dynamics team does not have the final say there. However, integrations between Dynamics and LinkedIn Recruiter could be a huge boost for companies (unwilling to lock their data into LinkedIn’s platforms) can finally use a single solution to manage their candidate engagement efforts.

Of course, there are many other opportunities for complementary integrations between the companies’ offerings: Slideshare could become the public face of Microsoft OneDrive. With the ability to easily upload, share, and quickly publish your slide decks, documents, and spreadsheets, they might compete with Google Docs. LinkedIn’s Lynda and Microsoft’s Yammer could provide a much-improved learning management and team collaboration platform.

With all of this additional data about users’ activities beyond the LinkedIn platform, LinkedIn could also provide improved search results based on behaviour. LinkedIn already “weights” search results based on our connections, shares, likes, and Messages. Now they could improve their search results with many new signals they haven’t had access to before. Interesting that they filed a patent only a few months ago based on this very idea (hat tip to Andy Headworth).

Finally, an anti-prediction. We do not think Microsoft will “block” Google from LinkedIn in favour of Bing. While Bing may be able to provide richer “knowledge graph” highlights at some point in time (we certainly hope so), Google remains the dominant player in search and search advertising. LinkedIn will continue to be X-Rayable for the foreseeable future, just like all of Microsoft’s other public web assets.

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The Best Way To Fight Inappropriate Content Is Not Engage

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Maybe Facebook is the next LinkedIn – at least, with LinkedIn Groups showing less engagement after the global group functionality change this year, we see raising interest in professional discussions in Facebook Groups. (Join our new group if you haven’t – Boolean Strings on Facebook.) Unfortunately, LinkedIn has duplicated some Facebook functionality and tweaked algorithms in a not-so-helpful manner if LinkedIn wants to stay on as a professional network.

Have you seen uninteresting and inappropriate images and posts dominating your LinkedIn stream? Here is why it happens. LinkedIn’s algorithm strongly favors posts and shares that get high engagement. Sure enough, if someone sees an inappropriate photo in their stream, they are tempted to say so in the comments. However, every comment adds strength to the share, so the most useless shares stay afloat! (There is also a Facebook Un-professional LinkedIn group where people share “that” type of content among other things – LinkedIn provides plenty lately).

The same is also true about LinkedIn publishing system’s algorithm. If a post gets some comments as soon as it’s posted, great, the post will continue to be shown to people in the author’s network, as long as the comments keep coming in. If there’s no “engagement” upfront, the post is left largely unnoticed. Previously LinkedIn notified everyone the author’s network about a new post – that is no longer happening. This switch in the algorithm puts the pressure to share posts and engage others on the author vs. LinkedIn – unless, of course, the author is a LinkedIn-appointed Influencer.

Take a note of it.



A Stellar Addition to Our Team!

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Photo: David Galley, me, and Martin Lee – from Oscar Mager’s Sourcing Summit Europe – 2015 album.

I am very happy to announce that my good friend and colleague Martin Lee is joining us full time as Head Instructor at Sourcing Certification and  Partner, EMEA & APAC at Brain Gain Recruiting.

Martin and I met at the second #trulondon event (very un-conference style) back in 2010, have stayed in touch, met at conferences (including all of Sourcing Summits in Europe) and training events, and collaborated since.


Martin is highly regarded as a sourcing thought leader in Europe. He has almost 20 years direct sourcing experience working with some of the world’s largest companies providing them with rare and difficult to find skills. He has trained inhouse and agency recruiters and advises global organizations on direct sourcing techniques with considerable experience in mapping target companies, competitor analysis and data mining. He sources globally with significant experience across EMEA & APAC with hands on experience of the differences in culture, tools and methods.

Before joining us at Brain Gain and Sourcing Certification Martin was VP, Head of Sourcing & Research EMEA & APAC at Kelly Services where he oversaw all sourcing and candidate engagement strategies. He understands the differences in recruiting across different countries and remains a hands on sourcer whilst consulting with Brain Gains customers on best practices. (I know the various country-based teams at Kelly will miss him!)

Welcome, Martin!


P.S. If you are an agency recruiter, check out our first upcoming joint webinar with Martin (just posted on our sourcing training site): How to Find Clients and Vacancies for Your Recruiting Agency.


The Boolean Basics – Webinar

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(Drawing by Sourcing Certification Staff Artist Peter Friedman.)

For EVERYONE who searches for qualified professionals as part of their job (You!):

If the last class you took on Boolean searching was over a year ago or if you have never taken one, consider taking to webinar on the Boolean search (now available as a recording).

Did you know that:

– You shouldn’t use ‘AND’ when searching on Google?

– Google automatically includes variations of all keywords – and may “decide” to drop some keywords as well, unless you “tell” it not to?

– By excluding “jobs” in Googling you may also miss some resumes?

– LinkedIn has four different syntax rules for the same search box, depending on what you are looking for?

Knowing the correct search syntax and the unwritten rules on how various sites interpret your search strings is critical to finding the right results fast.

In 2016, we are seeing more professional data available in search and some shifts happening in how Boolean search works on various sites – let’s make sure we stay on top of all changes! Due to the introduction of #RankBrain, the best Boolean Strings are different from what they used to be.  It’s time to update your strings. Long OR statements are inefficient and produce fewer results. Using “Boolean Builders” are going to decrease your performance – it’s best to craft your searches “by hand”.

Sign up for the webinar to learn and stay on top of the best ways to search –

As always, we provide all the materials for you to keep, including a Boolean Tip Sheet, and one month of support.

Facebook Hacking (Searching for Job Titles and Employers by IDs)

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Due to the main professional social network not meeting our expectations on several fronts, there’s a growing interest in sourcing on Facebook. As many people are already aware, the Graph search is “officially” gone but still exists in the back-end. @TheBalazs has two great posts on using Graph search:

Most of these techniques continue to work, though some ways to figure out Facebook IDs are gone.

Here is a write-up on how to search on Facebook for employees of a company and for people with a given job title. Be warned though, that Facebook search is far from being precise, meaning:

  1. Depending on the search, Facebook may decide to include synonyms, and we don’t have a “verbatim” option to stop it from doing that.
  2. Facebook won’t return “all” results on most searches; we will likely get representative results. (Of course, that is true for Google searches as well).

Facebook Graph searches exist in two formats: 1) searching by strings and 2) searching by Facebook IDs. For job titles and company names you can, quite often, use both ways to search, and will often (but not always) get different results. In some cases (but not always) searching by IDs is more precise, meaning that there’s less interpretation compared to searching by strings.

The formats for searching by strings and IDs look like this:

Note, also, that some job titles and companies have more than one ID to choose from, and we’ll get different results for different IDs. (Try searching for Quality Control as a job title, for example, and you’ll see). On the other hand, some job titles won’t have IDs; for example, there is no ID for a Sourcer – in those cases searching by string is the only option.

Shane McCuscker’s popular Facebook search tool constructs “searching by string” queries.

Search is Back! by Michael Morgenstern provides a mix between searching by strings and by IDs. Michael’s tool has a good-sized database of company, title, and school IDs in the back-end, but it doesn’t provide many existing IDs (providing “any” ID is probably an impossible task anyway).

If you want to search by IDs yourself and need to find them for that purpose, here is how to do that. Pages on Facebook fall into two categories. The first kind has the ID as part of the URL – those pages are usually auto-created by Facebook (sometimes copying the content from Wikipedia). Examples:

The second type is “man-made” pages that don’t have the ID as part of the page; examples:

When you are looking for an ID to use, there are two steps: finding the page and finding the ID.

To find the page representing a title or company, you can just search in the FB search box and narrow to “pages”. Or, you can search in the Pages Directory. Or, you can search this way: (replace keywords with your terms).

If the resulting page URL contains the ID, you are done!

If it doesn’t, you can look the ID up in the HTML source code (search for page_id=). Or, you can use any tool that provides Facebook IDs based on URLs (they usually say they find “your” ID, but they do work for any page).

Once you have the ID, replace the number 4 in this URL by the ID to find people with given titles or working at a given company:


Have fun!

For a deep dive into Sourcing on Facebook, check out the upcoming Webinar on Social Sourcing on May 11th, with optional hands-on practice on the 12th. As always, we provide a month of support to help everyone practice.


How To Find Unemployed on LinkedIn

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Not everyone who has lost their job and is looking would openly put this information on their LinkedIn profile, but people many do. Here are some ways to search for LinkedIn members who have said that they are unemployed.

Searching for people with no present job is not possible with any LinkedIn account. We can try to find those people by X-Raying. Those members, who do have a current job, have the word present on the profiles; the current job dates look like this:  – Present (4 years 5 months). Here is the X-Ray string, that excludes employed people: OR -pub.dir -present <add keywords>

Searching this way, we’ll miss the profiles of people who are not working but have the word present in a different profile section. (If you were wondering, there are about two million profiles containing the keyword present; that is about 0.5% of all members). We’ll also miss public profiles, for which users have adjusted the settings not to show their jobs. But the majority of profiles with no present job will be visible to Google. Here’s an example search: OR -pub.dir -present recruiter sourcer “greater new york”

If we are searching for profiles in a different language, we would need to adjust the search accordingly; for example, X-Raying for profiles in Russia would look like this: OR -pub.dir -“настоящее время”

However, the majority of unemployed people are “employed” in LinkedIn’s “speak” (and do have the word present on public profiles): they choose to put the word unemployed or its variations either as their current company name or current title. (LinkedIn doesn’t offer an “unemployed” status. It does have a special type of account for people who are looking for work but it doesn’t have a search function to find them. Not very helpful…)

Due to those members’ entering an employer’s name that means they don’t have an employer, LinkedIn has lots of “companies” with the name including unemployed; there are other “companies” with names like “looking for a new opportunity”, etc.

So here are some searches for unemployed people on LinkedIn:

Of course, we can also search for “open to new opportunities” and the like in the keyword field.

Note that we won’t be able to search for company = “not currently employed” (or anything containing the word not, even if it’s NOT capitalized). We can’t search for phrases that include short words that LinkedIn search ignores. Similarly, we can’t search for company=”in transition”. Another “company” or job title to search for would be available, but be prepared to also see everyone who is “not available” in the results – there’s no way to exclude not.

If LinkedIn starts allowing to search for those who are looking for new opportunities – at least for those who are paying for the “job seeker” account – I’ll update the post!

Verify Mobile Numbers Using Facebook

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Mobile phone numbers and personal email addresses both uniquely identify people. If we can locate social profiles tied to a mobile number or email address, that would serve as verification of this data; we can also get additional information, helping us to decide whether to try to connect with the person regarding a job opening or a business deal.

Many sourcers know that if we have an email address, we can identify the individual’s profile on LinkedIn using Rapportive. We can also determine the person’s Google-Plus and Facebook profiles by just pasting the email address into the search bar:


Few people know that it’s also possible to identify a Facebook profile by entering a mobile phone number. As you can see from these screenshots, Facebook “understands” a variety of phone number formats.


(Note that this won’t work with landline phone numbers – those that don’t accept texting – because of the Facebook verification rules for an associated phone number).

For this verification to work, you must be logged into Facebook. For hackers out there, I’d recommend not to try to run long blocks of sequential numbers; Facebook would likely stop that activity pretty soon.

When we are logged out of Facebook, there’s still a way to find out if a phone number is registered with some account. Start by using the “Find your account” feature:


For a mobile number not on Facebook, we’ll be clearly notified: “No Search Results. Your search did not return any results. Please try again with other information.”

For a number that is registered, we would get something like this:


In some cases, Facebook will show the name and the image; in other, it will not.

(Feel free to use these “hacks”, but please don’t make people worry by triggering password reset requests, OK?)

Join me for a new webinar to learn everything about Sourcing on Facebook (and Twitter) – only one day left to register!

Where Is Semantic Search?

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I was preparing a “Boolean for everyone” presentation and went over general concepts of searching in databases and search engines. This made me thinking – why is it that the strongest semantic search we are seeing is in Google (where it’s very hard to implement because of the volume of data and diversity of web pages) and not in databases (where the data is structured, and its size is so much smaller)? The most “advanced” interpretation databases do, is convert VP to “vice president”; none I know of would search for ‘software developer’ if we ask to search for ‘software engineer.’

Let’s take a look at a simple search for a professional. I will try to find Software Engineers who write in LISP. This language is pretty obscure and has its fans (with some of whom I had good luck to work in my previous career). People who write in JavaScript and took LISP in college are not the ones I want to find.

Searching semantically would mean that the system understands the searcher’s intent. Let’s compare a search on LinkedIn and X-Ray LinkedIn on Google.

(LinkedIn) Current title=software engineer; keywords=lisp

The top result (for me) is a profile that says: “Over 5+ experience in the areas of Software Development, Design & Analysis of GIS Applications and Customization of CAD applications using C#, VB.Net , ASP.NET, VB6, Visual Lisp, VBA, Object ARX .Net & C++ and Arc Objects.”

It’s the wrong result for many reasons. “Visual Lisp” is not LISP at all in the sense I had meant; it’s a variation of LISP used in AutoCAD, to “program” geometry (forms and shapes of objects to make). The person uses a ton of other programming languages. And, the job title “Software Engineer” is “present” only because he forgot to put the end date on the last job; he currently is a “GIS Analyst.”

The second result is a “shallow” profile that has LISP among the skills; however, the person lists a certification for “Java SE 6” and did mobile development until recently – this was likely not done in LISP. (A quick search shows she’s the only one at her company with LISP on the profile.) Wrong result.

Let’s switch to Google. X-Raying is tricky. We have less control over results since we can only use keywords; unlike LinkedIn or another database that has fields such as “job title”, Google deals with “just” pages.

(Google) software engineer lisp

The first profile belongs to a person who calls himself a “Code Gardener.” His profile not only has LISP, but also lists LISP “dialects” – it says: “Development in Common Lisp, Clojure, LFE (Lisp Flavoured Erlang), Scheme, and Shen.”  Very relevant!

The second result is all right; it also lists LISP and its dialects.

The third result is a profile of a big-time LISP fan and expert. He wrote in LISP at every one of his jobs and even “developed Lisp Machines.” Very relevant.

Further Google results also start showing synonyms found instead of the entered keywords, for example, it finds “software developer” (a synonym for “software engineer”).

How come databases (LinkedIn, many resume job boards, and people aggregators, as some examples) don’t automatically offer results that reflect some query understanding? (To be fair, has implemented some semantic search features; it has been a while since I tried that search.) “Understanding” queries – at least simple ones – should be doable, especially by systems like LinkedIn, that have tons of data, from which the system can “learn”. They have long lists of similar job titles, related skills, etc., plus they get data on search results relevance from tracking users’ behavior. I am not suggesting that a database would auto-transform an entered query to a very long Boolean OR string – but rather, just show me what I might like to see as results.

Slightly semantic search interpretation in a database search is also not as hard to implement as matching profiles to job descriptions (which many claim to do and nobody does well – understandably since it is very hard.)

I guess it’s a question to the tool developers (those who’d read the blog post). Let’s see what they have to say.