Can you X-Ray for profiles on LinkedIn, XING, Facebook, Instagram, Github, Stackoverflow, Meetup, Behance, Quora, Slack, Discord, Snapchat, VK, Slideshare, CrunchBase, etc.? There is a simple way to find out.
Public profiles uniformly have members’ names in the page titles. Pick a common name like Jim Smith or Mary Jones, use it with the intitle: operator and combine with site:<site.com>. If you see profiles in the results, X-Ray is on. That’s it!
Additionally, you can examine the resulting profile pages for common structure such as URLs, titles, and standard wording and derive a precise X-Ray template. Keep in mind that sites shift – URLs, page titles, and common wording change, and previously X-Rayable sites may become private.
I have just finished a project sourcing iOS Developers across Europe who got top grades at school. It turns out, LinkedIn Recruiter (LIR) does not search in the grades! I couldn’t search by “first class”, “distinction”, “honours”, 2:1, etc. Reporting the issue resulted in Support predictably asking me whether I cleaned the cookies and use an outdated browser. A Message from our Relationship Manager reads: “I’ve hit a bit of a roadblock with our previous request to get you in front of an engineer, our executive team denied the request.”
Before that, I searched for employees of Non-Profits and encountered FAANG (big tech) current companies.
We cannot stay away from LinkedIn – the largest professional database with self-entered information. Of the ways to search, LinkedIn Recruiter (LIR), albeit unintuitive, has the best set of search filers – 39 of them! However, if you only search within LIR, you are missing results.
LinkedIn Recruiter will not search in:
Accomplishments like Honors and Awards, Certifications, Patents, and Publications
Seniority (for example, it treats Executive Assistant to CEOs at the C-level)
Years of study are not tied to schools. Also, there is no way to find members who have completed a degree. Searching by a profile is useless. “Hide previously viewed” is flawed.
I am calling it “Dysfunctional Search.”
People with LIR subscriptions feel that they have the most powerful search – and they are right. But:
You need to understand its underlying algorithms
You can accomplish quite a few things by additionally using your personal LinkedIn account and X-Ray.
When you search with LIR, it is critical to understand how it exactly works. As an example, there is a big difference between searching by selections and Boolean (guess which type finds more 😉 ).
If you want to be productive, competitive, and less frustrated, join me for a 90-min presentation on LIR this Thursday – “LinkedIn Recruiter Mastery”. Get control of the powerful tool by searching in Boolean and applying the Hidden Operators; get your subscription money worth. This information is not in Help, and Support does not know about it. I hope to “see” you there!
If you missed the class, you can get a recording at the same link.
We are lucky that Google keeps supporting its 21 advanced search operators even though most of its users never use the operators (and those who do rarely click on ads).
As it is getting harder to search, particularly for requirements such as Diversity with no search filters provided by Social Networks, scraping and automation are becoming must-have skills for Sourcers. So is advanced Google search, especially X-Ray (the site: operator), for the same reasons – wider data distribution, more outdated (and fake) data, and absence of search filters that are requested. You can also scrape X-Ray results and filter them out in Excel or use them for data cross-referencing (another post).
Yet another reason to master X-Ray was the recent unfortunate change to LinkedIn search. Clearly, based on Facebook posts, those who knew X-Ray felt “safe”. You could not even search for a title like “Developer” – with X-Ray, you can. I am glad to report that they have fixed the weirdness. But there are still multiple ways to X-Ray LinkedIn for values unavailable on LinkedIn or Recruiter:
“True” current company and job title
Email addresses such as “gmail.com”
Memberships in organizations
Accented characters and emojis
X-Ray results include profiles out of your network.
The operator site: as well as “X-Ray” as a way to call it among recruiters, is not new. But you can no longer survive with “Boolean strings tip sheets” (behind the thinking of the organization that came up with the “X-Ray” term) because the number of sights to X-Ray is expanding, and sites change fast. Your stored search template will break, and more often as time goes.
An essential Sourcer’s skill is, for a site, to identify:
What can be X-Rayed?
What are the specific elements for the pages of interest such as:
Keywords in the URLs
Keywords in the page titles
Standard wording on a page
Ways to search for specific data (such as location)
Ways to push specific words (such as email addresses) into snippets?
With that knowledge, you can start constructing search strings for the day. X-Ray knowledge is one of the six skill categories we test.
Join us for a brand-new class Advanced X-Ray Searching on October 6th and become an X-Ray Tiger overnight! As always, the slides, recording, and a month of support are included. Seating is limited.
[Edited] Phew! They have fixed it. It might have happened due to me filing an issue – once my message was communicated to Developers, the behavior went away in a few hours. Interacting with @LinkedInHelp is not for the faint of heart – they asked me whether I know about Boolean search and sent me to read the help article, said that “if many users require the change, we will consider it” (they tweeted it but then deleted the tweet), and the infamous “have you cleaned your cookies?”. It took a couple of dozen messages before they sent it to the development team. Oh well.
LinkedIn.com people search just got more unintuitive and inconvenient. Last week, Jan Bernhartshared on our Facebook group that when you put keywords in the Title field, LinkedIn will find past titles as well.
Here are the changes:
1) Put keywords in the Title, find titles past and present.
For example, you search for Title=developer and find VPs who used to be Developers a long time ago. (How is this helpful?)
However, searching for a selected company finds fewer results than in the Company field (if it searched for the current company). Also, we can no longer search for the current company, including the word “bank,” for example.
I think that Talent Sourcing will become more technical. We will have to use scraping and automation to stay productive and competitive. (This is not advice on scraping or automating work on any site in legal terms, of course.)
I anticipate the increased necessity for scraping due to:
1) Growing demand to source for diversity combined with the limitations of “officially” available search filters (notably, on LinkedIn).
Sourcing for Diversity can be challenging since few systems provide “diversity” search filters. We try our best, searching in different ways.
Scraping allows you to be more inclusive because you can search wide(r) and filter results in Excel. You will not need to review each result, only those narrowed by filtering. Results may contain good profiles that you – or others – won’t find with narrow(er) searches or limiting filters.
Any sourcing requiring a “non-existent” filter (not only “diversity”) would benefit from scraping as well. A couple of my recent projects had this challenge:
Software Engineers who work for a non-profit (a non-profit is hiring)
Business Development Manager in AZ who is Hispanic/Latino (another non-profit, aiming to connect with that community).
2) Professional data being distributed across sites and updated at different times (e.g., Github and LinkedIn)
People aggregators such as AmazingHiring, Entelo, HiringSolved, Hiretual, and others, get professional data in one place and offer some diversity search filters. However, aggregators present two challenges:
Data gets outdated fast (it is too expensive to keep updating all of it)
Coverage of industries and locations is uneven.
In the end, aggregators can serve as sources but not as a sourcing solution for most projects.
helps in a competitive market (at least) in two areas:
Candidate outreach and follow-ups until they respond
The good news is that you can use “visual” scraping and automation tools that do not require writing code. There is some getting used to UI/UX and understanding each tool’s capacity, but anyone can learn.
How do you find data for scraping? By mastering advanced Google searches and, in particular, X-Ray. You will be finding sites to scrape as well as tweaking X-Ray strings to present scrapable results.
I would be glad to hear what you think – please comment.
As an example, you can Google for Hispanic/Latino names such as María, Lucía, Mía, Sofía, Áxel, Bastián, Sebastián, Benjamín, Nicolás, Tomás, Julián, Jerónimo, Ángel, Álvaro, Álex, and Máximo.
Note that names with accented characters may include multiple countries and languages; spelling variants of Maria include Mária (Hungarian, Slovakian), María (Greek, Icelandic, Spanish), [[Máire]] and Muire (Irish), Marya and Marija (transliterated from Cyrillic). I.e., María may find Greek and Icelandic people in addition to Hispanics. But searching for the accented variations of a name always will add diversity to your searches.
Join us in September for the Diversity Sourcing Training and Certification for Recruiters and Teams #CDSP – https://sourcingcertification.com/diversitycertification. Our August session, as well as the previous sessions since last October, was sold out. The August attendees are going through the exams this week.
An August session participant writes: “I’m working on completing the CDSP program, which has SO much valuable content, by the way!! Anyway, I work on the Diversity Sourcing team at Microsoft and I was wondering if it’s ok to share some of these tips at a high level with my teammates? (I wouldn’t share the actual slides)” (We said “yes”).
The Program‘s advantage is that it is interactive, and participants have to practice to pass the exam. But if you are short on time, we have a recording.
It has eventually become such a mismatch in terminology. Most people in our industry refer to search strings on Google as “Boolean Strings”. However, the term “Boolean”, meaning AND, OR, and NOT, no longer applies to Google search best practices, and less so every day. Practical Google search strings do not use ORs and rarely use the minus –.
This similarly-styled string (submitted yesterday to our NING site as a “favorite”) is also full of syntax errors – and finds no results:
I started this blog in 2008 and “Boolean” was different back then. Should I feel sad? We search about 40% of the time and our clients like the results, but the last time any of us used a single OR on Google was years ago. We now use the term “Boolean Strings” meaning “advanced search.”
Do not take me wrong, Google is the best search engine! Using advanced operators, especially, X-Ray (site:), is a must for any Sourcer, Researcher, or OSINT practitioner. Note that Google no longer documents all the operators, most likely because a minority of us uses them. Its search currently shows the list on my blog as a “featured snippet”; I do my best to keep the page up-to-date. Dan Russell’s document is another source you can trust (he works at Google!) Many other sites – even search engine-oriented publications – list the wrong operators and copy from each other, unfortunately. It is your responsibility to apply an inquisitive mind and stay in the loop.
If you continue with ORs, especially long OR strings on Google, your results will be mediocre. Why? When Google sees ORs, it stops bringing up relevant terms. Instead of trying to take control, it is more practical to trust Google’s interpretations. As a popular (but not popular enough!) example,
If you search for “software engineer” OR developer, Google will do exactly what you asked
If you search for software engineer, you will find Coders, Programmers, etc. – results you would miss if you use OR.
Since Google has learned to interpret long quieries, ORs have become even less productive. The semantic component in Google search is AI-based, meaning that it improves all the time, making results relevant – unless you “turn it off” with ORs and NOTs.
I was asked yesterday if Boolean searching works in an X-Ray search on Google.
A timely post by expert sourcer Irina Shamaeva in her Facebook group flagged up how many recruiters are still using Boolean Strings in their Google Searches when better results will come from more simple searches.
Google uses Semantic Search and coined the phrase “things not strings” as far back as 2012.
Since then their search has evolved to include NLP, machine learning, and BERT (super-advanced tech that interprets search in a more conversational way).
The old idea behind long ORs was that a clever search will “cover it all”. It puts “the” “Boolean String” as the goal. Indeed, a one-click solution sounds attractive! (We continue to get requests for “the” string for someone’s job requisition, sometimes as a matter of urgency.) The goal is results, not a string.
It is best to keep Google search simple 95% of the time – and search (anywhere) an iterative process. Every string leads to a new one and uncovers information to take into account. If someone “builds” a “string”, runs it on Google, gets the results, and stops, they are using the best search engine not in its best way. It is difficult and unnecessary (like eating soup with toothpicks. )
As a practical example, when you write senior OR sr OR snr OR principal engineer OR developer OR lead OR coder on Google – that is 16 separate searches with no interpretation, results are somehow mixed up – not what you want. Just software engineer is better!