Getting relevant candidates on LinkedIn might be very challenging especially when you are looking for non-technical candidates without any specific hard skills.

When you are seeking, let’s say Ruby on Rails developers, you simply use the advanced LinkedIn people search field Keywords and tweak it by the Title field.

Keywords: ruby OR RoR OR rails; Title: developer OR engineer OR coder OR programmer

Or you can use the exclusion version which I like more as it avoids scenarios when you miss somebody who mistyped the title (like enginer, engineeer or enginner) or used a different title you are not aware of - e.g. ninja, contractor, freelancer or foreign language terms such as programmierer (in German) or programador (in Spanish).

So let’s adjust the search query a little bit by focusing just on the keywords and filtering out the people we know that don’t want for sure – recruiters and any kind of managers and company owners and founders.

Keywords: ruby OR RoR OR rails; Title: -recruitment -recruiter -recruiting -hr -human -talent -headhunter -placement -staffing -sourcer -permanent -vice -manager -leader -director -owner –founder

But what if you are looking for people without a proper hard skill you could normally state as a keyword.

What are the possible scenarios?

  • Project Manager in the automotive industry
  • Key Account Manager in the pharmaceutical industry
  • Team Leader in software development
  • Sales Representative for sporting goods
  • Project Coordinator for banking and financial institutions

What are the best ways how to target candidates for these openings?

1) Target Industry Specific Candidates by an Industry Filter

There is an option to filter people by an industry in LinkedIn so problem solved, right? No. Of course it does some work for you but there are several problems why using just an industry is simply not enough.

Let’s say we are looking for project managers in the banking industry. Your search query might look as follows.

Title: "project manager" OR "project manger" OR "project mamager" OR PM; Industry: Banking

This search query would be pretty similar in the LinkedIn Recruiter as well.

The bummer is that your search results are influenced by the quality of data LinkedIn users put on their LinkedIn profiles.

The problem no. 1 is that not all banking project managers choose the correct industry. There are more reasons for this. Imagine a user who started his/her career in the automotive industry. Then he switched and started to work for a bank but forgot to update the industry parameter on the profile which happens frankly.

The problem no. 2 is that it is not crystal clear which industry to select sometimes. Imagine yourself as a software engineer working for a bank. What industry are you going to select? Banking, Information Services or Information Technology and Services? Any of these sometimes contradictory options are possible and also commonly used. When you as a recruiter don’t know, a candidate, an average user, does not know either.

So take this into account and select all possible options such as Banking, Investment Banking, Investment Management or Financial Services if related.

This will broaden your results. You will get more potential candidates but also a bunch of those irrelevant.

The problem no. 3 is that you will not cover professionals who worked in banking but are currently working in a different industry. We want these people as well.

So let’s move to other method.

2) Target Industry Specific Candidates by Keywords

To target the candidates with a wrongly chosen industry and candidates with an unidentified industry, you can use keywords to locate some other potential candidates.

Set industry back to All and prepare a search string for the field Keywords. Let’s stick with the banking Project Managers and let’s say I am looking for these people in Spain.

banking OR bank OR banker OR banco OR bancario

Title: "project manager" OR "project manger" OR "project mamager" OR PM; Keywords: banking OR bank OR banker OR banco OR bancario

Note: I would probably find some other Spanish terms for Project Manager as well. It is a bit out of scope of this article so I do not focus on that.

With this search query you unleash project managers who used a word bank, banking, banker, banco or bancario somewhere on their profiles regardless it is a Summary orExperience section, name of the employer or a job title. If anybody worked at a bank 2 years ago and now is working in automotive, he or she is going to be in the search results.

For targeting LinkedIn candidates by keywords you can also use so called x-ray search. This means to use Google, Bing or any other search engine to search through LinkedIn website. It has some pros and cons. Anyway, it can help you to uncover some other candidates you was not able to find using LinkedIn – especially when you are not that skilled in overcoming the number of results limit, etc. With x-ray search you can see up to 1000 results (using CSE – Custom Search Engine) which means up to 1000 candidates when the x-ray search query is effectively composed. On the other side you are not able to see private LinkedIn profiles – profiles which are not indexed by search engines or anywhere on the Internet. Hopefully this is just a minority of all LinkedIn profiles – maybe 10%.

How would the x-ray search query for Spanish Project Managers in banking look like? OR -inurl:pub/dir ("project manager" OR "project manger" OR "project mamager" OR PM) (banking OR bank OR banker OR banco OR bancario)

Note: Brackets are not mandatory but it is more visually clear.

Ignore the Did you mean message in this case.

Because it is not so simple to x-ray Project Managers working in this role now (i.e. LinkedIn option Current), it is more suitable for searches analogical to LinkedIn option Current or past. Digging deeper into x-ray topic would cover whole new article so let me stop here.

But what if are there professionals not having these keywords on their profiles and are still PMs in the banking industry?

Let’s move on.

3) Target Industry Specific Candidates by Groups

It might happen that there are profiles of banking professionals which does not contain a single word related to banking and the professional is still banking related. As well as there are Java developers not having the term java on their profiles.

Another indicator which might help us to locate these people are LinkedIn groups. If there are any banking related groups with a solid members base, we can use them to narrow relevance just to banking professionals. Who would be a member of a banking related group rather than a banking professional or a recruiter looking for banking professionals, right?

Firstly, let’s take a look if there are such groups on LinkedIn. Switch to groups in the main full text search.

And proceed with the following search query:

banking OR bank OR banker

We can see that there is a number of banking groups with ten or even hundred thousand users including:

There are also local banking groups. Let’s say you want to locate banking groups in United Kingdom. Adjust the group search string as follows.

(bank OR banking OR banker) (UK OR "united kingdom" OR london)

Once you are a member of the relevant groups, execute your search by filling in the Title and selecting the groups in the filter section. When using the basic LinkedIn profile, you cannot select more than one group and you have to break down your search.

When using a business premium LinkedIn account or LinkedIn Recruiter (or Recruiter Lite), you are able to put all groups into one search.

4) Filter Industry Specific Candidates by Companies

Another way how to isolate industry specific professionals is to use searching by companies. Let’s keep the project managers in banking. Banks usually need a license issued by the national or a central bank to run their business so you can quite easily find a list of them online.

I am from Prague, the Czech Republic in Central Europe so my list could look like this:

  • Air Bank a.s.
  • Bank Gutmann Aktiengesellschaft
  • Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (Holland) N.V.
  • BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV
  • Citibank Europe plc
  • COMMERZBANK Aktiengesellschaft
  • Česká exportní banka
  • Česká spořitelna
  • Českomoravská stavební spořitelna
  • Českomoravská záruční a rozvojová banka
  • Československá obchodní banka
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Equa bank
  • Evropsko-ruská banka
  • Expobank CZ
  • Fio banka
  • GE Money Bank
  • HSBC Bank plc
  • Hypoteční banka, a.s.
  • ING Bank N.V.

So the search would look as follows in the Czech Republic.

Company: citibank OR citi OR mbank OR "air bank" OR "fio bank" OR "equa bank" OR "ge money" OR "erste bank" OR "komercni banka" OR "ceska sporitelna" OR raiffeisenbank OR sberbank OR unicredit OR "PPF banka" OR "Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka" OR "ING bank"; Title: "project manager" OR "project manger" OR "project mamager" OR PM

Of course you can adjust Current to Current or past based on the scenario you are solving. Are you looking for candidates who work for a bank right now or with any banking experience in the past? You would adjust this for the job title in an analogical manner.

Beware that people who for instance left their last project management banking engagement one month ago, are already recognized as past in terms of LinkedIn. But they are still banking project managers in a real life so it makes sense to cover the whole Current or past results.

There is another way how to get a list of companies from a specific industry using LinkedIn data. Switch the full text search to Companies and insert the term banking. Then narrow your search to the specific country in the Location filter.

I am going to stick with my home country.

You will definitely get all companies categorized in the banking industry on LinkedIn. Plus you will get other companies having the term banking in their description. Those would be false positives.

5) Filter Industry Specific Candidates by Alumni and Schools

As Irina Shamaeva (@braingain) describes in her blog post:

„Find Alumni. This search is just amazing and is often missed by Sourcers. It has lots of ways to search that the advanced people search dialog doesn’t provide, – not in a personal account and not in LIR (LinkedIn Recruiter). Start using it now (change your school to a different school and use the multiple available search parameters on two screens, as well as Boolean keyword search): Find Alumni

Thanks for this tip Irina. Universities can be a great variable to target candidates who cannot be located by hard skills. Alumni search is one of a great ways to get people who not only attended the specific university but you can also distinguish those who graduated there from those who just attended.

Let’s say I want to filter out the people who graduated from The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) who graduated in 2013.

Click here to see the similar results as below

The second way to find people who study or attended some specific schools or universities is to use the advanced people search in the basic LinkedIn account or in LinkedIn Recruiter.

When you want to find all people who attended any of e.g. economical faculties and universities in one city, it can be quite a heavy search query. The command for filtering candidates studying any economical subject in my city of Prague would look as follows:

“University of Economics” OR VSE OR “Faculty of Finance and Accounting” OR “Faculty of Business Administration” OR “Faculty of Economics” OR “Faculty of Economics and Management” OR “International Prague University” OR IPU OR “College of Information Management and Business Administration” OR “University of New York in Prague” OR UNYP OR “Metropolitan University Prague” OR “Banking Institute” OR “University of Finance and Administration” OR “University of Economics and Management” OR “Jan Amos Komensky University Prague” OR UJAK OR “Vysoka skola ekonomicka” OR “Fakulta financi a ucetnictvi” OR “Fakulta podnikohospodarska” OR “Narodohospodarska fakulta” OR “Fakulta ekonomiky a managementu” OR “Vysoka skola manazerske informatiky a ekonomiky” OR “Metropolitni univerzita Praha” OR “Bankovni institute vysoka skola” OR “Vysoka skola financni a spravni” OR VSFS OR “Vysoka skola ekonomie a managementu” OR “Univerzita Jana Amose Komenskeho”

I admit, this command is not 100% precise. You could find even more terms and abbreviations people use in the field for schools.

Maximizing your success in the search phase on LinkedIn means to realize all possible scenarios which might happen. They are usually determined based on the reason why people sign up to LinkedIn, how/why they use it and finally, what data they provide. On the other hand, LinkedIn provides us with numerous search capabilities that we have to exploit to squeeze the LinkedIn database as much as possible and to differentiate ourselves from our competitors, other recruiters.

There are even more angles to this. LinkedIn is still more and more non-transparent using different search algorithms for paid and non-paid LinkedIn accounts. Therefore you will experience a different search results using basic LinkedIn account, premium LinkedIn account or using x-ray search. This was not a case in the past that much.

So don’t be afraid to combine and stay alert.

Josef Kadlec (@JosefKadlec), notorious author of People as Merchandise: Crack the Code to LinkedIn Recruitment

Hey! Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.