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5 Secrets of Conducting an Effective LinkedIn Search

linkedin search

When you run a search on LinkedIn, what percentage of the results do you reach out to? We asked this question of the thousands of recruiters worldwide who took part in our 2016 Global Recruiting Survey, and found that, the average recruiter reaches out to just over one quarter (28%) of the people they identify in their LinkedIn search results. Sound about right to you?

We then asked them, “what is your average response rate on LinkedIn?”, or in other words, what percentage of people who you reach out to on LinkedIn actually come back to you. We found that the average LinkedIn response rate of a recruiter in 2016 is about 28%. But just because a candidate responds to you on LinkedIn, doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily say yes to the opportunity you’re offering. Some will decline to go any further in the process. So, we asked recruiters, “what percentage of candidates who do respond to you on LinkedIn, agree to go forward in the process”? 27% was the average response.

We delved even further by asking, “what percentage of candidates you submit to the hiring manager are called for interview”? On average, our respondents told us that two-thirds (66%) of the candidates they send forward actually get an interview. But that begs the question, how many candidates does the hiring manager want to have on their interview panel from which to make a hiring decision? The average we got back was 4.

But what does all of this mean? Well, all of these results help us to build a picture of what the average process a recruiter has to go through to make a hire, actually looks like. In other words, it allows us to visualise the average recruitment funnel in 2016.

The 2016 Recruitment Funnel

2016 Recruitment Funnel

In order to make 1 hire, you told us the hiring manager needs to interview 4 people. But if just 66% of the candidates you send forward to the hiring manager are selected for interview, to get 4 on the interview panel you have to submit 6 people to the hiring manager. But if just 27% of the candidates you reach out agree to go forward in the process, to submit 6 people to the hiring manager, you need to speak to 22 people. To get 22 people talking to you, how many people do you have to reach out to? Well, if your average response rate on LinkedIn is 28%, to get 22 people talking you need to reach out to 79 people. But if you’re only reaching out to 28% of your LinkedIn search results, that means you need to identify a whopping 282 people in a search!

So, to make one hire, you need to identify 282 per open vacancy… Does that look like an efficient funnel to you?!

Just look at the waste! This funnel shows us that 72% of our search results are not relevant, which means that we view and discard circa 200 profiles per assignment. Quite significant when you consider we send between 30-60 seconds viewing each profile! It also shows us that 72% of the candidates we contact never respond, meaning we just spammed 60 people. And if 73% of the candidates who do respond to us say no, we just had 16 wasted conversations.

This is an EXTREMELY wasteful process! And one that can be avoided if you know how to plan and structure your searches properly.

In contrast to the above results, when we asked the same questions of the recruiters who had completed our Black Belt in Internet Recruitment course, they told us that they reach out to 95% of the people they identify in their LinkedIn search results. Which means they must be conducting a very different search to that of the non-Sourcing Ninjas we surveyed. They apply our Universal Search Method to all of their searches.

The 5-Step Universal Search Method

1. Fully understand the requirements.

This might seem an obvious thing to you. “I have my job spec, I know what I’m looking for!” But you cannot produce a really accurate search and you cannot work well as a sourcer or as a recruiter without actually understanding the true needs.

Often we’re given job specs that have either too much information or too little information, and perhaps the key information you need might be missing from that job spec or might be hidden in all the text and jargon. You need to understand from the person who makes the ultimate hiring decision, what they are actually looking for. So ideally you’ll start your search be talking directky to him/her to get their opinion on what you really need. They might have listed 10 things in the job spec but really there’s 4 core things that they actually want from the perfect candidate.

For example, they may have specified that they require the candiate to have a degree, but when you tease it out with them, you find out that a degree is just preferred as long as they have the expereince or come from a list of top competitors.

You need to understand what is required, otherwise you’ll go into this search with the wrong information and end up wasting precious time and resources.

2. Organise those requirements by listing everything the candidate needs to have in order to get an interview.

Remember: your job as a recruiter is not typically to make hiring decisions, but to produce a list of candidates the hiring manager wants to meet.

Now that we’ve established the core skills and requirements a candidate needs to have to get an interview, we can begin to build an effective Boolean search string by listing them out. For example, if we were looking to find a UI Developer we would list our requirements down as follows:


Boolean AND string

We’re listing each and every individual skill and parts of the job title including things that need to be grouped together as individual terms even though they have multiple words in the phrasing of them e.g. “enterprise apps”. These are all separate and we list them down the page. By including a space between each word the space acts as the AND operator in your Boolean string.

3. Research and list synonyms

Step three involves researching and listing the synonyms of these requirements. So, now you need to look at your requirements and think of all the words/phrases that mean the same thing and list them alongside the original requirement. This is the part of your string that could take the longest to produce as often words can have many synonyms.

For example:


Boolean OR string

Be sure to separate each synonym with OR.

You should now be starting to see a more complex search, yet all you’ve done is list the ANDs and ORs of your Boolean string.

4. Run your search.

Copy and paste your search into LinkedIn. Do not copy and paste it into the top search bar on LinkedIn. That’s a big no-no, and a surefire way to get yourself crap results. ALWAYS start each and every search in the Advanced Search section of LinkedIn.

5. Remove unsuitable results.

Look at the results your search has brought back. Does anyone jump off the page at you that doesn’t belong there? And if they do jump off the page at you, what are the words they’ve used in their profile that make them unsuitable? Are they too senior or too junior? Or have they used a keyword you seek but used it in combination with something else that doesn’t quite work e.g. “java recruiter”?

Once you’ve identified the offending word or words, remove them using the NOT operator, as follows:

Boolean NOT string

After going through each of these steps your search results should start to look much more accurate. You should be able to look at the first two pages of your LinkedIn search results and say “I think every one of these people looks interesting and worth contacting”.

Yes, this method may take 10-20 minutes to do, but doing this research at the start of your search will make you much more effective in the long run. Right now you’re only contacting 28% of the people in your search results, after implementing our universal search method you should be contacting 95% of your search results. More people, more accurate people, less time, more productivity.


Need a bit of a Boolean refresher? In order to truly get to grips with the Universal Search Method you need to understand how Boolean works. Check out our no nonsense, straight talking Beginner’s Guide to Boolean Search Operators. We’ve explained each of the 3 main operators  – AND, OR and NOT – as well as the significance of brackets and quotations, and how each of them are used in order to get the best results from your search.

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