It’s no secret that LinkedIn’s recent changes have left many recruiters scrambling to find new tools and sourcing strategies. If you’re one of these recruiters, you’re not alone. These changes (and the resulting loss of search functionality that came along with them) made a tough job even tougher. We can’t restore all of these tools and functions, but we can offer some tips to replicate the site’s most useful features.

For your best results, you should embrace Boolean searches and the vast amounts of information they can parse in seconds.

An important aspect of this task is finding new terms and ways of searching for candidates using alternative job titles, skill sets and keywords. To increase your chances of finding candidates with these approaches, let’s delve into the best strategies for finding candidates with the help of keyword alternatives and semantic searches.

What features have we lost with the recent LinkedIn update?

For nostalgia’s sake, here’s a list of past search features that free LinkedIn accounts could access. On the left, you’ll see the features that were available to free accounts. On the right the extras that could’ve been added to paid subscriptions.

Via Kissmetrics
Via Kissmetrics


Here’s the list of tools that are currently available on the free plan.

Notice that you can pay to upgrade your plan, but you are still only provided with a limited number of tools. You don’t have access to the abundance of search features that an upgraded plan used to offer.

available features

So now we want a solution for sourcing highly targeted candidates, without the expense of upgrading to LinkedIn’s pricey programs.

Skip the new expense with these steps

Continue utilizing keywords

Although LinkedIn claims that we’ll be seeing a return of this feature, it’s a tool that you likely don’t want to live without. Fortunately, this can be replicated using Boolean searches and carefully identifying the specific skills that your ideal candidate must have.

Now, you may feel that Boolean isn’t helpful because it returns candidates who have already been contacted by other recruiters far too often. Avoid this problem by utilizing new terms, alternative job titles and unique ways of describing common skills.


Identify the relevant keywords and terms your ideal candidates will most likely be using in their profiles. You can start by googling the job title and noting all of the skill sets and terms that are associated with it. Then, conduct an X-ray search of LinkedIn to see what additional terms or job titles you come across, jotting down common terms.

LinkedIn isn’t the only site that has vast amounts of candidate information, and you can also make use of Facebook’s search features to gain a better understanding of popular industry terms. Twitter also yields great results in this realm as you can typically see most candidates’ profiles and their conversations to see how they discuss their role informally.

Keep track of useful terms and their alternatives with a running list or spreadsheet.

Note: If you’re feeling a little lost and want to brush up on Boolean, we have a beginner’s guide as well as an advanced user’s toolkit to offer as refresher courses.

Join LinkedIn groups with applicable keywords in their titles and/or descriptions

(If you miss sourcing candidates from LinkedIn Groups)

Unless you’re in the group, you’re now unable to see the group’s members on the site. Yes, you could join as many groups as possible, but these are becoming increasingly selective and can have slow response times. Avoid these delays by seeking out groups that may include your ideal candidates. Make note of these along with your list of keywords and skill sets. After you’ve found these groups, conduct an X-ray search to identify members.

Take this, for example:

Say you’re looking for candidates who have worked with Coca-Cola before. Well, it just so happens that there is a Coca-Cola Current & Former Employees Group on LinkedIn and that a quick X-ray search will find these members for you. It’s pretty simple, all you have to do is enter “” followed by the name of the group in quotations into your browser. “Coca-Cola Current & Former Employees Group Members”


Replace the Years of Experience filter with targeted Boolean search strings

(If you want to continue using the Years of Experience filter)

This is one of the trickier functions to mimic. Glen Cathey has some great tips for narrowing down the search and finding candidates who have the experience your role requires. He suggests using a range of years based on the candidates’ graduation date to try to approximate the years of experience they have in the field.

Here are a few of Cathey’s examples: -dir (java | j2ee) -recruiter (engineer | consultant | programmer | developer) “location * Greater Atlanta” “(“BA” | ” B.A.” | “BS” | “B.S.” | “Bachelor” | “Bachelors”) * * * * * * 2004?

The 6 asterisks before the year 2004 are stand-ins for years prior to 2004. We’re not concerned with the exact year that this candidate started school, but know that someone who enrolled in college around this time will likely have the years of experience the client is looking for.

Here’s another one of Cathey’s examples. This one isn’t based on education, but the years that this candidate was active in their field: -dir (java | j2ee) -recruiter -answers -jobs (engineer | consultant | programmer | developer) “location * Greater Atlanta” 2000..2011 -1990 -1991 -1992 -1993 -1994 -1995 -1996 -1997 -1998 -1999

Here, we’re looking for someone who was professionally active between 2000 and 2011. To better vet these results, the search is specifically telling the site not to show profiles that contain the years 1990 through 1999. This candidate needs to have a good bit of experience, but is not expected to be at the senior level. Eliminating those years gives us a much better chance of finding a candidate who will fit the role and compensation package being offered.

Replace your favorite premium filters and features with free workarounds

Workarounds aren’t always the best solution for tasks you perform all the time. Some can be too time-consuming or complicated to make them worthwhile. These ideas are simple and easily manageable, so you can work them into your process without much trouble or time.

You want to continue utilizing the Function filter

Boolean and X-ray search combined with the semantic keywords will likely provide more specific results than the advanced search feature ever could, speeding up your sourcing process.

You want to continue utilizing the Seniority Level filter

Also scrapped from the basic accounts, this feature simplified finding candidates within a certain compensation range. If you consider the holes that were in LinkedIn’s role titles (e.g. manager, owner, partner, CXO, VP, director, senior, entry, students & interns, volunteer), you may be better off now. It may be more effective to choose the exact seniority level you are looking for using a Boolean string. By using the new title search feature (Title:) you will have more specificity than before.

An example would be searching for “Title: Senior Product Manager” in LinkedIn’s search bar. Now pair this with the semantic keywords and alternative titles that your candidates often use, and you’ll be much more likely to find relevant results.

You want to continue using the Interests filter

It’s increasingly difficult to get a sense of a candidate and their personal interests without this information. You can look at other LinkedIn sections, such as volunteer interests. Aside from that section though, you have to use other social sites to get a full sense of the candidate.

You want to continue utilizing the Company Size filter

Unfortunately this conveniently offered information might be gone forever. Boolean and X-ray searches have failed to pull results that include company size, and we’ve yet to find a workaround for this feature. If company size is important to the role you’re searching for, it’s best to create a list of top competitors and search for candidates who have the worked with those companies previously.

You want to continue utilizing the Fortune feature

Although the tool that once gave you increased search functionality is now gone, we hope that adding Boolean and X-ray searches to your arsenal of tools will alleviate the pain.

You want to continue utilizing the Date Joined feature

This seems to be another one of those features that is lost to us. We’ve looked for solutions from the pros and have done a bit of trial and error on our own, but still haven’t been able to revive this feature.

You want to continue utilizing the Company filter effectively

Although you’re still technically able to search for current and past companies, the process is not as organic as it once was. Unless you’re using Boolean, you will now be forced to look up candidates’ companies using a dropdown menu.

Challenges (and opportunities in the sense of keyword alternatives) can arise here since candidates are not required to use these dropdowns when creating their profiles. They have increased freedom and chances to abbreviate or accidentally misspell company names. Though this might sound frustrating, it sets up a great opportunity to experiment with keyword alternatives.

Talented candidates could be listing experience at places like:

  • “Gogle” instead of “Google”
  • “Targrt” instead of “Target”
  • “IBN” instead of “IBM”

Manually search for a company “company:” followed by whatever abbreviation or spelling you choose.

For example, entering:

company: WSJ

…into the LinkedIn search bar allows you to find candidates who may have chosen to abbreviate the paper’s name instead of listing Wall Street Journal explicitly on their profile.

Old habits can lead to new solutions (and better results)

We hope this list helps you replace favorite features that are now missing from LinkedIn. We’ll be continuing to search for solutions, but we always welcome your thoughts. Have you found a helpful workaround for utilizing LinkedIn’s updated usability? Let us and your fellow recruiters know! Thousands of recruiting processes could depend on it.