LinkedIn Hack: Search Past the Present Pair

booleanstringsBoolean 5 Comments

Guest Post from Talent Sourcer Mike Santoro

Perhaps the most famous “pair” in recruiting and sourcing search strategy is finding candidates based on matching their “Current Job Title(s)” at “Current Company(s).” Let’s call this a “Pair of Aces.”

In this article, I’m going to show two new ways to search (on LinkedIn and via X-ray) for a NEW search combination pair:

“Past Job Title(s)” at “Past Company(s)”

I will discuss why and how this “old pair” is a powerful “new search tactic” that opens many possibilities for sourcing high-quality matching candidates for your hiring managers.

This post will teach you this new “hack.” I hope it will also inspire your creativity.

(Note, if you are wondering what is “new” about this method, it’s the “at.”  We can search for past job titles and past companies, but not for people who have a specific title at a particular company in the past.  This post shows you two ways to execute this:

1) Linkedin.Com Basic/LinkedIn Recruiter/Sales Nav/Recruiter Lite

2) Google X-ray

“For Love of Sourcing and Sourcers” –Mike Santoro ❤)

On any given weekday, you will find every Recruiter/Sourcer playing this time-tested “present pair” to win the hearts of hiring managers.  It goes something like this:

The Hiring Manager says to the Recruiter/Sourcer:

 “We need to hire an X. Please find me candidates currently working as an X and who currently works at one of our direct competitors.  Oh, and if that direct competitor happens to be a similar size company as ours, that would be even better.”

This example is oversimplified, as there are often nuances based on requirements, skills, and experiences.  But generally, a target list of job title variations and similar companies/industries is preferred in the candidate’s most recent work history.

Therefore, Recruiters and Sourcers often try to “build a hand” of Candidates with the following:

A Pair of Aces –

“Current Job Title(s)” at “Current Company(ies)”

“Current Job Title(s)” AND “Current Company(ies)”

Searching for a “Pair of Aces” is conveniently accessible with LinkedIn Search filters, but securing the interest from enough “Ace Pair” candidates is not always easy.  Therefore, recruiters naturally seek the next best option, find candidates with at least one ace “Current Job Title(s)” OR “Current Company(s)”.  These candidates have the desired job title but not the right company or industry experience.  Or, they work for the right kind of company or industry but in a different role.

The problem is such candidates are only a “half-match.” Rather than a more perfect match “Pair of Aces” we settle for playing “Ace High” candidate hands. We falsely limit our options. Then we often go to great lengths to persuade Hiring Managers that the “Ace high” (half-match) candidate is a “winning hand.” We make large bets on other skills and experiences and try to prove the candidates can be a fit. And while these bets pay off sometimes, more often the result is disappointed hiring managers and a more challenging hiring process. It’s our job to deliver to our company/client’s hiring managers the best candidates we can find that most closely align with the desired target profile.

I want to inspire you to consider alternative “next-best” hands that may be better to play than “Ace High.”

Like a “Pair of Kings!”

That is “Past Job Title(s) ” at “Past company(s)”

And what if that pair opened up the possibility of creating all kinds of other creative winning hand searches:

  • Two Pair
  • Three of A Kind
  • Straight
  • Full House
  • Straight Flush

More on these combinations later.

First, how to execute this Search Hack in 2 steps:

Step 1-

In the primary top general search bar of (or in the keywords search field in Linkedin Recruiter, Sales Navigator, or Recruiter Lite), insert this combination in double quotes:

“[Past Title] at [Past Company]”


“Software Engineer at Microsoft”

LinkedIn Recruiter:

Step 2 –

Remove -[Past Company] from the Company Search Filter (this will remove current employees and keep those who previously worked there).

LinkedIn Recruiter:

Your results are a “pair of Kings.” Former Software Engineers at Microsoft (almost exclusively).  Which may be better than only “Ace High.”

One Pair of Kings –


Former Software Engineers at Microsoft

But wait, there are now so many interesting new ways to search!

(note: there are many other powerful use cases.  These examples are to inspire you to see examples of what is possible.  i.e., build complex talent mapping lists or conduct competitive intelligence exercises)

Two Pairs –

(Current Job Title at Current Company) + (Past Job Title at Past Company)


Current Software Engineers or Developers at Amazon + Formerly a Software Engineer at Microsoft

Three-of-a-Kind –

(Past Job Title 1 at Past Company 1) OR (Past Job Title 1 at Past Company 2) OR (Past Job Title 1 at Past Company 3)


Formerly a Java Developer at Apple OR Google OR Meta

Straight –

(Current Job Title) + (Past Job Title 1 at Past Company) AND (Past Job Title 2 at Past Company)


Current Engineering Managers + Formerly a Software Engineer at Microsoft AND Formerly Software Engineer II at Microsoft

Full House –

(Current Job Title at Current Company) + (Past Job Title 1 at Past Company) OR (Past Job Title 2 at Past Company) OR (Past Job Title 3 at Past Company)

Current Software Engineers OR Developers at Google who were formerly a Software Engineer at Microsoft OR a Developer at Microsoft OR an SDE at Microsoft

Straight Flush –

(Current Company) + (Past Title 1 at Current Company) AND (Past Title 2 at Current Company) AND (Past Title 3 at Current Company)


Currently at Microsoft and has been an Engineer, Engineer II, and a Manager (all at Microsoft)

For using Linkedin Recruiter, Sales Navigator, or Recruiter lite, follow the same pattern as with basic.  The advantage is you will not have such strict limits on the size of your OR strings.

You can also do this search via Google X-Ray.  One advantage to using X-Ray is that you can use specific date ranges too at specific companies with specific titles:

  1. Past Company with Specific Date Range

i.e., worked at Amazon between 2014-2016 but does not currently work for Amazon “Amazon graphic” “amazon * * jan|feb|mar|apr|may|jun|jul|aug|sep|oct|nov|dec 2014..2016” -intitle:Amazon -inanchor:Amazon

  1. Past Company with Specific Date Range + Past Title @ Past Company during Specific Date Range

i.e., formerly worked at Amazon as an Area Manager between 2014-2016 and does not currently work for Amazon “Amazon graphic” “Area Manager amazon * * jan|feb|mar|apr|may|jun|jul|aug|sep|oct|nov|dec 2014..2016” -intitle:Amazon -inanchor:Amazon

  1. Current Job Title + Current Company + Past Company with Specific Date Range + Past Title with Specific Date Range @ Past Company

i.e., a Manager at Walmart who used to be an Area Manager at Amazon between 2014-2021 (inanchor:Walmart | intitle:Walmart) (inanchor:manager | intitle:manager) “amazon graphic” “Area Manager Amazon * * jan|feb|mar|apr|may|jun|jul|aug|sep|oct|nov|dec 2014..2021” -intitle:Amazon -inanchor:Amazon

Be creative and enjoy!



Comments 5

  1. Thanks, very interesting.
    Question, when execute this search: “[Past Title] at [Past Company]” with Search Hack in 2 steps in LinkedIn Recruiter:
    first step you put in keywords : “Software Engineer at Microsoft”

    then step 2 select the company ” Microsoft” .
    Should you not choose “past not current” instead of “current” to have the results for software engineers worked in the past at Microsoft?
    When I choose “current” in LinkedIn recruiter I also see people still working at Microsoft?
    Or am I doing something wrong?

    have a nice day!
    kind regards

    1. Hi Rutger,
      Thank you for the question. When using LinkedIn Recruiter in Step 2 i.e. enter the company Microsoft to the Company field, then select “current” for that field then hover over the word Microsoft and click on the “exclude” icon. This will turn the word Microsoft from Blue to Red which removes Microsoft from the search results.

      The advantage of using this approach vs. just selecting the “past” option is that you can still add other current companies that you might want to see. For Example, you can exclude Microsoft as a Current Company and simultaneously include Amazon, Meta, Nvidia, etc. In those cases, the results will show current employees at Amazon, Meta, Nvidia etc. that were formerly Software Engineers at Microsoft.

      You could also type Boolean into the company field and do something like:

      Amazon -Microsoft

      Results will be a little different but similar depending if you use the “pick list” company selector or Boolean. Try both ways in Recruiter. The key is keeping the phrase “Software Engineer at Microsoft” in the keywords section which maintains control over the Past Company + Past Title relationship pair.

      Thanks for the question,

      -Mike Santoro

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *