Search Is Broken on LinkedIn – NOT, AND

booleanstringsBoolean 9 Comments

What is going on here? The operator NOT did not exclude – even highlighted – the word “recruitment.” I started running into this phenomenon a few weeks ago, but the output seemed random: sometimes, NOT was acknowledged, sometimes, ignored. Then I saw weird results without the NOT, but the NOT “deficiencies” was easier to illustrate on social media.

My share of “what is going on here?” on Facebook got 2.5K+ views and reactions; on LinkedIn – 41K+ views and climbing! Most commenters complained about intermittently seeing this too. Some suggested changing the syntax – but neither extra parentheses, quotation marks, nor the minus instead of NOT help.

In the LinkedIn thread, we heard from a LinkedIn manager that the keyword search in (including the business accounts) is not “Boolean” and should be used to find people you know. The unhappy “news” flew around various Facebook groups. It sounded like something Recruiters expect of LinkedIn, to be pushed into higher-paid products.

But I believe that what we are experiencing with NOT is not intentional (which means there is a disconnect between some managers and developers at LinkedIn; we have observed it before.)

Here is an example to prove my point: David Galley has the keyword “blending” in the About section of his profile. Compare these searches:

There are no Boolean operators in these searches. They should be identical. Why is the first one not working? I think, it is a bug (or bugs). There are other examples and variations of keyword searches that look odd shared in the two LinkedIn and Facebook streams above.

There are additional “circumstantial” signs (I watch a lot of British TV!) that it is not that LinkedIn wants us all to buy LinkedIn Recruiter by intentionally restricting search on

  1. There is no “please upgrade” sign, just the wrong results
  2. There is nothing about it in the documentation
  3. This was such big news around FB because nobody has heard this, while there should be a promotion.
  4. You can see from the multiple comments that many have had a negative experience with search. Why would LinkedIn want this? They could have set the expectations.

So it seems to be an unintentional code change. The bad news is that, for now, we do not understand how exactly the search is broken. If we could guess the underlying mechanism, we could develop workarounds (as I have shared on this blog before). Before one of us figures it out (guesses are welcome! but it is not fixed by different syntax) or before it is magically fixed, expect your people search results to be imprecise.

P.S. I am only guessing and there is a chance I might be wrong, meaning that it is not bugs, and now searching in keywords on is heavily restricted on purpose. If so, it has been implemented in odd ways, either intentionally (built into the algorithm) or unintentionally (bugs), as seen from just these two examples above. And the help documentation claims that Boolean works.

Let’s hope for some sort of resolution.





Comments 9

  1. Related – this is a response from LinkedIn support when a boolean search would not work at all –

    “Thank you for the patience. The internal team has confirmed that they firstly found that you have exceeded the cap on operators within the boolean search. You are using 6 and the cap is 5. We have a limit of 5 Boolean operators per query, anything above that will qualify the request as invalid .

    Also, when looking at the original boolean the member may have wanted to write in this fashion – (“engineer” AND “installation” AND “DC Power”) OR (“PLC” OR “Drives” OR “UPS)
    I hope this helps! ”

    No. Not really, as the new search with only 5 operators resulted in a mixed bag.
    Google boolean search also seems to be broken.

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      Right. there is a search with three AND terms that is broken (see the post.)
      Search seems to be randomly missing words which it should have indexed, from About and job descriptions. The word order and quotes change results in odd ways. This is not going to any Boolean complexity. Example: David Galley open positions – zero results, David Galley “open positions” – one result. I can’t imagine such a weird UX behavior being intentional.

      What’s broken in Google?

  2. As users of the (expensive) LinkedIn Recruiter license with its possibility to do a deep search in the whole network with keywords, we are also shocked to see that the Boolean search does not work. Isn’t it a bit absurd that a product which boasts sophisticated algorithms to reach candidates, can’t even deal with simple boolean logic? And it looks like a bad joke if somebody just says “oh, you shouldn’t use more than 5 operators”? Where did that come from? Or why don’t you get a message when you try more operators?
    In my case, I typically use a query like “x AND y AND z AND (a OR b OR c)”. If I run this one, and then run three separate queries “x AND y AND z AND a”, “x AND y AND z AND b”, “x AND y AND z AND c”, the results are completely different. As with other issues, I will get back to my Account Manager at LinkedIn, but when you report matters like these, it seems like the monopolist reflex is simply to ignore them, which is quite sad. LinkedIn is a great network, but maybe it’s time for challengers in the market.

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      Thanks for your comment! I couldn’t agree more.
      “you shouldn’t use more than 5 operators”, in fact, comes from insufficient capacity – queries time out.

  3. Mine has worked all through June and July but stopped this morning. Same Boolean search yesterday was correctly returning just 1 or 2 job results but today it is returning dozens of jobs that don’t contains the specific word I am looking for. LinkedIn support have been no help at all so far.
    Search: AND Okta

  4. Boolean search STILL does not work. It has actually gotten worse. They include some jobs that don’t even have the word you want in the posting.

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