LinkedIn Keywords Boolean Search Is Compromised

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Some of us, when starting a new search, go to LinkedIn, type a few terms – including, perhaps, a title and some skills – into the Keywords field in people search and try to assess the volume of potential candidates. However, if you do so, your answers may be flawed.

The LinkedIn Boolean Search Help article tells us, “If your search has two or more terms, you’ll automatically see results that include all of them.” However, this is not true in an exceeding number of keyword searches. You need to be aware of that, not to miss matching search results.

Here is what happens. If your keywords contain terms sounding like:

  • First and Last Names
  • Company Names
  • Job Titles (especially, titles with two or more words, following each other in the Keywords field, e.g. Java Developer)

Then – you will not “automatically see results that include all of the terms”. Instead, one or both of these things happen:

#1. Your search is automatically restricted to the respective profile fields – Name, Company, or Title.

For example, a search for James Smith misses some profiles that have both words, James AND Smith. (I have narrowed down the example search by a few parameters, to make the differences obvious).

#2. Your search is expanded to “synonyms”. For example, a search for “James” may find people called “Jim” or “Jamie”.

This sort of interpretation of first and last names has been there for a long time (and perhaps makes sense). What we are increasingly seeing at this time is Job Title-sounding words interpretation, that affects search results.

Here is what, for example, a (narrowed-down) search for Java Developer looks like*

– that does not include many profiles that have both keywords Java AND Developer:

* Note that your account may get different results from these searches.

When we search for the keywords Java Developer:

#1 – LinkedIn looks for people with the current or past (!) job titles including the words Java and Developer

#2 – LinkedIn includes some people with similar past or present job titles – for example, Java Engineer.

That’s it – LinkedIn will not include, for example, someone who is a Developer and has a skill Java unless they match #1 or #2 above.

The automatic interpretation of the search terms is not expected and not helpful. It’s best to avoid it.

You do not have to necessarily use “ANDs” to “break your way” to true Boolean search. Simply changing the keyword order in such a way that the terms don’t convey a job title – Developer Java – would “fix” the search:


This sort of job title-sounding search terms interpretation is inconsistent across accounts (no matter, basic or business). Different accounts get different numbers of results on the same job-title-like-sounding searches that vary quite significantly.

To avoid being misled:

  1. Watch for Job Title-sounding word combinations in your Keywords and avoid them.
  2. Use common sense – does the number of results make sense to you or is it too small or too large?
  3. Change the keyword order, rerun the search and compare.
  4. Use the advanced people search dialog and search operators.
  5. Come to our brand-new webinar LinkedHacks for Sourcing on Wednesday, March 27th.
    We will explain how to avoid search pitfalls – and how to make your Basic or Business account quite comparable in power with LinkedIn Recruiter by using workarounds, undocumented operators, URL modifications, and messaging alternatives.
    If you work with a Basic or Business account, I strongly recommend attending!

Four Major LinkedIn Sourcing Hacks

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Here are some LinkedIn Sourcing News.

  1. In case you haven’t noticed: LinkedIn has quietly introduced a “People” tab to its Company pages, like this one: (It is similar to the Alumni pages). We can search by location, school, the field of study, job function, skills, and connection level. It’s quite useful, especially if you are looking at some stats.
  2. The*/people pages do accept LinkedIn search operators! Example.
  3. So do the Alumni search pages. Example.
  4. I have discovered another undocumented LinkedIn search operator, in addition to thesefieldsofstudy:The operator takes one or more Field of Study codes as an argument, for example, fieldsofstudy:100892;“100189” is the code for the Computer Science major. You can find other codes to use in a search by playing with a company “people” dialog like

Happy Sourcing!







Ten Custom Search Engines for Recruiters

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Google Custom Search Engines (CSEs) is a powerful Sourcing tool, that can improve your Sourcing process with new results, often faster than “regular” Google.

CSE users fall roughly into three categories:

  1. End-user. If writing out search operators is not your cup of tea, you can use CSEs built by your more technical peers, without even learning advanced operators.
  2. Creator. Creating CSEs is not rocket science! Creating CSEs for your own and your peers’ use has numerous advantages. You can create CSEs that would “hide” Boolean operators, such as site:, from the end user (saving time on retyping), search within a list of sites, and, importantly, use CSE search options unavailable in “regular” Google. For example, you can set a CSE to “search the entire web but emphasize included sites” – it is like “Soft” X-Ray.
  3. Master. Unknowingly to many, CSEs have additional search operators compared to “regular” Google. These operators allow finding not just web pages with the keyword occurrences but pages where a particular term is in a person’s company or job title, for example. Learning how to identify and use the special operators takes a bit of a learning curve, but it is well worth it.

Let me share with you some Custom Search Engines for Sourcing that I have created.

  1. Diversity Associations
  2. Hidden Resumes
  3. LinkedIn X-Ray
  4. LinkedIn – Countries
  5. LinkedIn – Contact Info
  6. XING X-Ray
  7. Github Profiles
  8. Search for Teachers
  9. Documents – Formats
  10. Google Storage


We will be delivering a Custom Search Engines Webinar >>> Become A Custom Search Engines Expert. Don’t miss it!

LinkedIn Recruiter Doesn’t Do What You Think It Does

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LinkedIn has not failed to create UI/UX that doesn’t do what we expect it to do. It’s been a Sourcer’s delight to figure out the “ins” of LinkedIn and, in particular, LinkedIn Recruiter (which I extensively use for sourcing) over the years. To add to the confusion, LinkedIn often makes “helpful” adjustments to its software, and what it exactly does keeps shifting. LinkedIn Recruiter (LIR) is especially misleading in its hidden “helpful” semantic interpretations of our searches (none of that stuff is documented). There have always been bugs, too – worse than we can expect from a corporation that has the resources they do.

So many Recruiters rely on the expensive product for Sourcing, while missing matching results and getting non-matching results due to the way it works.

While LinkedIn seems to care about the UX, they seem to do the wrong thing a lot of the time. Here are just some unhelpful things LIR users experience:

Free and Business LinkedIn users have features that LIR doesn’t – LinkedIn Operators: One More and a Tip Sheet.

Are you a LinkedIn Recruiter user? Check out the online class “Mastering LinkedIn Recruiter” coming up on Wednesday, February 13th. (If you miss it, we will have a recording available at the same link).

If you are confused with your search results in Recruiter, it’s not you, it’s them! Let us show you ‘what’ it does while searching (not what you think it does!) and how to search “right”. LinkedIn’s documentation doesn’t talk about this, and customer support, unfortunately, is unaware of these search behaviors. (Sometimes we wonder if anyone at LinkedIn is aware of what we are discovering!) Seating is limited.

Our webinars include the materials and video-recording for you to keep and one month of support on the topic (an excellent value by itself; I don’t think anyone else provides that).

Four “Lazy Operators” for Lazy Sourcers

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If you source well, that implies that you are also a Lazy Sourcer. What I mean by a Sourcer’s “Laziness” is trying to get results with fewer keystrokes and mouse movements. (Those of us who type slowly – I do! – need to find ways to reduce typing even more desperately). I am a Lazy Sourcer – and am always on the lookout to do things faster.

I won’t be covering various info-fetching Chrome extensions in this post. Good people like Dean DaCosta and Jan Tegze have posted plenty of information about them. Rather, I will talk about ways to type less when searching – specifically when considering using most common advanced Google search operators.

(To mention, I am not a fan of “Boolean Builders.” I always type searches “by hand”; I recommend you do, too! Humans do better than machines in generating searches as of February 2019.)

Here are some tips I want to share. (They are simple.) I will call them Lazy Search Operators.

  1. Lazy site: (X-Ray)

Google has become very intelligent. We can often search for a site (or company) name without writing out a site: operator (X-Raying) and still find the information we are looking for on that site.

For example, searching for <first> <last> linkedin (example search) or, for more common names, <first> <last> <company> linkedin, will find LinkedIn profile(s) in question. We can write other types of searches (if the search terms are “reasonably unique”) along with the word linkedin and quickly land on the right results.

Similarly, we can search for <any site’s name> <keywords> instead of X-Raying that site. Example.

(Makes sense, Sourcers?)

  1. Lazy filetype:

You guessed it. We can often search just for the file type and drop the operator filetype:. We do need to put the file type in the quotation marks, e.g., “XLSX” (though there are two extra characters to be entered!). Example.

  1. Lazy intitle: and inurl:

Remember that Google will rank results higher if it finds our keywords in titles and URLs, even if we don’t use these operators. For example, searching for resume along with some keywords will often work just as well as the popular template intitle:resume OR inurl:resume.

  1. Lazy define

In many cases, just naming the entity and dropping the operator define will produce a definition in a “Featured Snippet,” which we see above the search results. Example. (You can also search for what is <term>).

Additional Tip:

Try using fewer, if any, quotation marks in these searches: you may get better results – and you will type less as well!

Note that these “relaxed” searches have started working much better in our experience in recent years, as Google has been enhancing its search algorithms.

(As a reminder, use these best practices while you are searching).

So, you would ask, do we no longer even need to teach new Sourcers Google’s advanced operators? We absolutely do! There are numerous cases where advanced operators give us searching superpowers. (I might just need to take a touch-typing class to speed up those. 😉)

Ten Habits of Best Sourcers

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Would you like to source like the best? Here are some habits that, I believe, best Sourcers demonstrate while performing their searches. (We teach these practices, along with numerous examples, in our Training Webinars.)

  1. Best Sourcers spend a good deal of time figuring out what to search for (for example, terminology, job titles, company competitors, target schools, certifications, etc.). (Ideally, they are able to verify with the HM!)
  2. They spend a good deal of time figuring out where to search (for example, associations, conferences, industry social sites, Facebook groups, etc.)
  3. They use their imagination. They imagine what the search results look like, then search for “that” (vs., for example, copying some keywords from a job description into the search box). This mindset – “search for what you expect to find” – is key
  4. They spend a reasonable amount of time adjusting (modifying) their searches so that the results are useful. (They are not after a “perfect” Boolean String)
  5. They use search results to expand the search in new directions (for example, notice terminology, memberships, or certifications and run additional searches)
  6. They notice additional sites or sources in the search results to examine further (for example, if they run across a profile on a membership site, they might also look at other members on the site)
  7. If they see unexpected results, they stop and try to figure out the reason (Did they use the right syntax? Is it a bug or some odd behavior of the search system? If so, what is the scope?)
  8. They make sure they know what can and cannot be found, and where. (For example, we can’t X-Ray LinkedIn for postal codes, but can for current job titles)
  9. They know how to interpret searches with no results, or no relevant results. (For example, most people in a given profession within a location may not be present on LinkedIn. Or, some country does not host a conference on a particular topic – it happens elsewhere)
  10. Last but not least, they think while they search 😉 (I expect Glen Cathey to agree with me on this one).

What do you think about these ten habits? Do you have them? 😊 Would you add something else to the list? Please comment.

The Matter of Time in Alumni Search

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It’s not surprising to discover that LinkedIn doesn’t do what we expect it to do in our search queries. This time it is about the study years, and it’s a mystery what is going on!

While grading our Exams, David Galley and I ran into the following inconsistencies:

1. Search for graduation dates using operators (I am searching in “Alberta, Canada” in all examples):

startyear:2016 AND endyear:2018 AND school:”university of alberta” (3 results right now)

2. Using the Alumni search: Link (1,535 results for me; you may get a slightly different number).

3. Using LinkedIn Recruiter (which apparently provides the same results as the alumni search):

4. Now, this search produces 155 results.

5. And this, 232 results.

To get puzzled even more, take a look at an alumni search for people who started school later than they graduated!

Where do the differences come from and which search provides the right answer? It’s especially important to figure out if you are using LinkedIn Recruiter: from the examples above, and by examining search results, we can say with certainty that Recruiter doesn’t produce the results we are looking for.

There are several things at play here. (I will be sharing some explanations and workarounds in my future posts and webinars.)

It’s a great Sourcing exercise to try and figure out what is happening. For starters, here are some things to consider:

  • Does the search look for the last school or any school?
  • Does it look for graduation dates at this particular school or any school?
  • Does it include people with no graduation dates?

Want to share your thoughts? Please do so in the comments or on our Boolean Strings Facebook Group.

Why Searching for URLs On Google Is a Thing To Do

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One popular Sourcing “hacking” technique is by constructing or altering page URLs. Doing so can be useful when the site doesn’t have the search capabilities “officially” in its UI. This is the case with Facebook Graph Search, some LinkedIn “hack” searches, and more.

How do we learn the way to construct the URLs, particularly search URLs, if they are not “official” and not documented by the sites? Visually examining the URLs helps, but sometimes it’s not enough.

You can undoubtedly Google for something like facebook graph search links and will find some great material from blogs, Slideshares, etc. But there’s a better way to search, that will get you straight to the search URLs and uncover some that you won’t find as easily in other ways. So here is what to do:

Google for parts of the URL(s) in question, and you will find full URLs – and more URLs – to use in your Sourcing.

When we search in this fashion, we’ll often find pages from sites for “techies,” like StackOverflow and Github, and sometimes non-English posts, along with blogs and presentations – all quite useful!

(Note that, while we are using page URLs, these searches are entirely different than searching with the operators site: and inurl:).

Let me show you, for example, how we can be looking for Facebook Graph Search URLs. The more specific URL pieces we put in a search, the more concrete related examples we will find (along with the experts who posted them!).

It’s important to remember, information on blogs and in presentations can be outdated or incorrect; we always need to verify it.

Want to learn more about Facebook Graph searches specifically? Check out our online class. We offer classes about Googling as well.

If you search for pieces of URLs and find exciting new hacks (sourcing on Facebook or outside), roup please share on our Facebook Boolean String Group!



Did You Know You Can Search Pipl by Social Profiles?

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You probably know about the site Pipl, which allows searching for people by name and location, an email address, a phone number, or a social handle. But did you know that you can also search Pipl by social profile URLs, including LinkedIn profile URLs?

Setting your expectations right is important. Given the nature of Pipl, you can expect some outdated or wrong information on the profiles, so my advice would be to verify the info. However, you can expect to find professional info, phone numbers, social handles, and links to multiple social profiles! If you are willing to dig into the links that accompany your search result (which is what Pipl displays), you will find plenty of additional professional information. This is especially useful when the LinkedIn (or other social) profile you are starting with is “slim”.

Take a look at a couple of examples:

Example 1

Example 2

P.S. Did you know that we are repeating “Sourcing without LinkedIn”  on Wednesday, January 23rd? We will be sharing lots of Sourcing tips (like the one above) – join us!






Quiz Answers and the Certification Exam Winner

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Following up on the Sourcing Quiz, (that was quite popular!) I am posting the solutions and answers to the questions.

Question 1: Find a LinkedIn member, living in the San Francisco Bay Area, whose headline is “Student at SDSU Executive MBA” and who started school in 2018. What is his last name?

Solution 1: This search on LinkedIn finds the right profile, but the profile is out of everyone’s network, and we can’t see the name. To find the last name, X-Ray: OR -pub.dir “Student at SDSU Executive MBA” “san francisco bay area” 2018

Answer 1: Novoa

Question 2: For this GitHub user – – who is his current employer?

Solution 2: The Github profile shows the company is Semantic Machines. If we look up the person’s LinkedIn profile (by following the link we will see the current company listed as Microsoft. Since Microsoft has acquired Semantic Machines, the answer “Sourcing Machines” is also acceptable.

Answer 2: Microsoft (or “Semantic Machines”)

Question 3: Find a LinkedIn profile with a headline containing the person’s Yahoo-based email address and also a phrase: “Strategist | Influencer | Disruptor | Innovator.” What is the email address shared in the headline?

Solution 3: You might try this search on LinkedIn – headline:”Strategist Influencer Disruptor Innovator yahoo” – but it produces no results. (The reason is that LinkedIn won’t search for part of an email address). However, this search – headline:”Strategist Influencer Disruptor Innovator”
finds two profiles, one of which is the one we are looking for.

Answer 3:

Question 4: There is a member of the “Women Who Code” Meetup, based out of San Francisco, who states her interest in four programming languages, including Java and Scala. She has misspelled the name of one of the languages (starting with an “H”). What is the correct spelling?

Solution 4: X-Ray the Meetup: Java scala. You will find this profile that matches the requirement.

Answer 4: Haskell

Question 5: Which of the following works as a search operator on resume search?

  • employers:
  • employer:
  • schools:
  • skills:
  • yoe:

Solution 5: Review the list on Indeed operators on their site.

Answer 5: skills:

Hope you had some fun solving these!

We got correct submissions from:

  • Antonio Miragliotta
  • Kitti Nagy
  • Marc Spiron
  • Abhilash S.
  • Abraham Devkule
  • Jeremy Tatom
  • Natalija Vukadinovic
  • Hemanth Nanduru
  • Shivkumar Gurram
  • Kumar K

Well done! And here is the (randomly selected from those who submitted the correct entries) winner who gets to take the Sourcing Certification Exams as our guest:

Shawn Vyas

– congratulations, Shawn!