How Employers Can Leverage LinkedIn to Find Candidates

by Peg Bogema

When the labor market is tight, posting a job advertisement isn’t enough—especially when the role you need to fill requires skills that are in high demand.

According to research by Kinsta “…over 50% of adults who have a bachelor’s or advanced degree in the US are LinkedIn users.” Furthermore, there are “50 million people searching for jobs on LinkedIn every week.”

In addition to the 50 million active job seekers, LinkedIn is a great place to find candidates who aren’t actively looking but might be lured away for the right opportunity.

LinkedIn Recruiter

For the princely sum of $8999 annually, you can purchase a one-year subscription to LinkedIn Recruiter. That’s the per seat fee, so if you have more than one recruiter, you’ll need more than one subscription.

Among its benefits, LinkedIn Recruiter provides access to all LinkedIn members, advanced search tools, saved searches, templates, and 150 in-mail messages per month. It also allows you to access information that candidates are not posting publicly but are providing privately—such as the fact that they are open to a new opportunity.

Using LinkedIn Without LinkedIn Recruiter

If you cannot afford LinkedIn Recruiter, or don’t want to spend your money on it, you can still find candidates on LinkedIn. This technique is called X-ray Searching, which you can easily learn about on the Internet. It involves writing Boolean search strings that target LinkedIn.

For example, if I want to find candidates who mention Java and Spring in their LinkedIn profile, I can use any search engine to query: OR “Java” AND “Spring” -intitle:profiles -inurl:dir/

This search returns a huge number of profiles, so learning how to slim down the results to target the candidates you really want to talk with is the key.

What Smart Candidates Do to Make Themselves Findable

Smart candidates understand that not everyone can afford to use LinkedIn Recruiter. While they are definitely checking the boxes in their settings that help LinkedIn Recruiter’s search tools, they do other things to help recruiters coming in from the outside world.

Here are some of the clues that tell you someone would likely be interested in hearing from you about an opportunity.

  • The LinkedIn profile has a lot of content. That includes a detailed work history similar to what you would expect on a resume.
  • The introductory paragraph includes information about what the candidate is passionate about, or what the candidate sees as their next professional goal or career move, or what the candidate is studying or learning on the job. Without coming out and saying the type of job they would be interested in hearing about, they are dropping hints in ways that won’t get them in hot water with their current employer.
  • Key words are used intelligently to make the profile findable. There are many ways in which candidates can optimize their profile for search engines. Having a section of key words is one way. Reiterating key words is another.
  • The individual has a lot of connections.
  • There is a lot of recent activity: posting, sharing, commenting, liking. The candidate is clearly an active LinkedIn user.

How to Reach Out

If a candidate has an OpenToWork photo frame, or if the candidate mentions in their introductory paragraph that they are #opentowork or actively looking, then of course you can reach out to them with a job opportunity.

If they are not sending such strong signals, then it’s hard to know if your outreach will be welcome. Sending a brief note describing your opportunity and asking if they would like to hear more isn’t pushy.

Many candidates are intensely curious about the employment marketplace. They will engage with you.

Any time you share details about the job opportunity, make sure that you include the title, the salary range, whether or not the role is remote, and the top three to five requirements. Describe a few things that make your company a great place to work: exciting project, cutting edge technology, great work culture, etc. Someone who isn’t actively looking may recognize in your role a terrific career move.

Curious about what we're telling candidates about leveraging their LinkedIn? Check out our latest Getting Hired article.

This is a technical/business article catered to developers, hiring/project managers, and other technical staff looking to improve their skills. Sign up to receive our articles in your email inbox.

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Stout Systems is the software consulting and staffing company Fueled by the Most Powerful Technology Available: Human Intelligence®. We were founded in 1993 and are based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We have clients across the U.S. in domains including engineering, scientific, manufacturing, education, marketing, entertainment, small business and robotics. We provide expert level software, Web and embedded systems development consulting and staffing services along with direct-hire technical recruiting and placements.
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