10 Steps for Navigating LinkedIn Profiles

What we know already: LinkedIn is one of the biggest online resource pools for recruiting quality staff. It allows employers and recruiters to sift through a high number of potential hires and find the best and most qualified people for the jobs available.

The Challenge: With such a high volume of profiles of widely varying degrees of quality, knowing the most efficient ways to sort through LinkedIn prospects is critical to using it effectively.

Article Continues Below

There are some proven methods to follow, as well as signs and indicators a recruiter can look for when sifting through LinkedIn profiles. Here are some basic steps you can follow when searching for qualified job candidates on LinkedIn:

  1. PAY FOR THE RECRUITING TOOL. The recruiter tool allows you to send “InMails” to anyone, regardless if they are a connection or not, whereas a regular LinkedIn user has to be connected to send messages. Also, the recruiter seat offers an invaluable Dashboard that helps you organize candidates. Since none of us have any time to waste, this feature more than pays for itself.
  2. Go from general to specific. Start with the Advanced Search feature. At this stage, cast a wide net. The goal initially is to be very inclusive (rather than exclude potentially great candidates). Use just a few criteria — title, location (use the zip code plus a 50-mile radius), industry, and function. Leave the other fields set to “All.” Hundreds of profiles will appear.
  3. Examine the resultant profile summaries. There is minimal information here, but it can give you enough to decide whether it’s worth your time to view their full profile. “Red flags” are things like: no photo, no companies listed, no contacts, vague titles, no work history, background missing, etc. Skip these profiles. Most of the searches which should be at the top of the list are upgraded to “Job Seeker” which is indicated by a small icon next to their name. This is a clear indication that the person is serious about the search.
  4. Read profiles selectively. Once you open a profile, it should only take 10 to 20 seconds to know if it’s worth reading further. Spotty and incomplete profiles aren’t worth your time. If a photo is included, make sure it’s professional in appearance.
  5. Zero in on valuable criteria. From here, look for appropriate education, experience, current and past job titles, number of years of experience, level in the company, etc., to find a match for the position(s) you are trying to fill.  Also, look at the groups to which they belong. Most users who have taken time to research and join groups also put the most amount of detail into their resumes. This tells you something about their character and habits in that they are both specific and thorough.
  6. See what people are saying. Read recommendations and find out what are others have to say about the potential recruit.  Specifically look for recommendations that are detailed (citing specific successes, achievements, and goals achieved from the peer’s perspective) and personal. Are simple resumes worthless? By no means, but when qualifying a candidate, the more detail given the better the chance that said person will rise above the other candidates.
  7. Dive in deeper. With desirable candidates, scroll down and read the profile summary and work history. If a resume is uploaded, review it. If there is no resume or if it’s incomplete, this may be a sign this applicant will not be a fit. Look at the job history and see if there are any gaps. This can be difficult given the formatting, but if you see a gap, make a note to identify the reason later with the candidate (if they pass your criteria).
  8. Verify contact information. Scroll to the very bottom of the page and verify if they want to be contacted about new career opportunities. Verify also that contact information including phone number has been provided.
  9. Lather, rinse, repeat. If these search steps fail to produce many viable candidates, go back and change the industry or title and try again. You don’t have to change the whole search, just some of the criteria. Try casting an ever-wider net in a different segment of the LinkedIn pool.
  10. Company name search. If all else fails, try and search by company name. If you know of a specific company that could have people who are a fit for your open positions, search LinkedIn using that company’s name. This will bring up all people currently working for this company, or those who have in the past.
  11. Consider getting qualified help. Mystified by the recruitment process? You don’t have to go at it alone. There are qualified companies and recruiters that can help you navigate the waters of LinkedIn and other online resources. Companies such as Paycor offer an employment screening service that brings together industry-tested and effective online recruiting methods. Consider partnering with qualified recruitment help.
  12. Bonus Tip: One trend to be aware of in LinkedIn profiles is that the poster will often portray themselves as a “jack of all trades, master of none,” even when they may have a tremendous amount of experience in one specific area. It is a common mistake for job applicants to try and come across as “multi-talented,” thinking that this makes them look like a more desirable job candidate. What they don’t realize is that this only proves to be distracting, causing many strong applicants to be passed over for great positions.The savvy recruiter can capitalize on this common LinkedIn mistake of trying to seem too “multi-faceted.” Instead of just passing these applicants by, take a few moments to dig deeper. Look for areas in their profile that show extended employment and experience in the areas you are recruiting for. It may take some patience as you weed through an overly complicated profile, but it’s possible to find some diamonds in the rough this way — people who are perfect for the slots you are trying to fill. Many of these sorts of applicants are passed over by other employers and recruiters, but you can look past this common LinkedIn profile mistake and help connect these applicants with the ideal positions for them.

Joseph Parker has worked with business, large and small, for more than 10 years. His experience includes management, HR, and supply chain metrics. His experience in HR was specific to employee hiring and recruitment, hiring and managing employees numbering from 4 to 40. He is also an avid blogger and content provider for many business blogs. He is currently an avid Inbound Marketer, and enjoys showing the relationship between matching good talent to the right organization.


12 Comments on “10 Steps for Navigating LinkedIn Profiles

  1. This is more or less consistent with what I do. One notable point, though: I dont spam. Rather, I craft each note individually, catering it to the specific candidate. Is it more time consuming? Absolutely *but* I’m on the receiving end of considerable spam so I appreciate the perception of negative value (on behalf of the receiver) as well as the degradation of brand equity (to the sender). I wont be caught causing either. My response rate is higher, as a result.

  2. In regards to the first point stating: “The recruiter tool allows you to send “InMails” to anyone, regardless if they are a connection or not…”
    Everyone is aware of this and doing this. And while LinkedIn users are not necessarily welcoming this, this is not stopping literally every recruiter from doing this, making this method turn into virtual white noise and ultimately ineffective. While LinkedIn is excellent for viewing professional profiles, I don’t believe paying for “InMails” is the best investment.

  3. This post covers knowledge and advice that everyone needs and we need more of those posts. LinkedIn is “the” top place for many recruiters and for many people I have met “LinkedIn” is almost equals “sourcing”. Everyone we had placed in the last year was initially contacted on LinkedIn.

    I’d like to add a few notes.

    Re: [1] The Recruiting tool allows InMails and is GREAT that way. Unfortunately, that very tool, LinkedIn Recruiter:
    * will not let you see the photo – which will not allow you do use the red flag mentioned in [3];
    * will not show you the resume the person may have uploaded to their profile, you can’t use [7] unless you use a workaround.

    Lower accounts like Talent Finder do not have these deficiencies and allow the wonderful InMails to be sent as well, though not as many and not mass-InMails.

    Re: [9] I agree; just on extra note here:
    One way not to look at every profile preview in the wide search is to exclude some that are obviously “false positives”, by adding a keyword with the minus in front of it, as an example:


    Re: [3]. The point number [3] is the most interesting to me. “Examine the resultant profile summaries…. “Red flags” are things like: no photo, no companies listed, no contacts, vague titles, no work history, background missing, etc. Skip these profiles.”

    The questions here are:
    (1) How does the absence or the presence of lots of information on someone’s profile correlate to them being a matching candidate? I would say it does for people whose jobs require their presence on social networks, such as social media managers, marketers, and recruiters. For a geologist, a doctor, or an engineer it seems irrelevant. (Did you know that Oracle’s CEO tweeted for the first time just a few days ago?)

    (2) Is it worth using LinkedIn to only search about 10% of its profiles, that *do* have the complete info, such as past companies and plenty of keywords, and ignore the rest (“shallow” profiles)?

    Those of us who look into searching for “shallow” profiles, modifying searches accordingly and cross-referencing the Internet for more data, will be, generally, ahead of the competition. It’s not rocket science and can be figured out. Of course, if you find great matching candidates and keep the pipeline you need, there’s no need to look for the shallow data.

    We should have more posts about LinkedIn since it’s so important to all of us.


  4. @ Lizzie: Well said. A couple of months ago, I was working on getting attendees to my client’s Recruiting Event, and we didn’t have much time to get people there. We have LI Recruiter and I did a number of carefully-constructed searches to get potential attendees. I also worked to craft a viable, non-boring letter to go out via: InMail to those who indicated they were interested in a new job. I sent out 1,580 InMails in a week, and received a 5% response rate, and of these 5% about 60% weren’t interested in a job; not my job- ANY job (despite what they said). I subsequently learned from a LI Rep that “looking for a job” is the default setting and YOU HAVE TO OPT OUT. So, pay $8,000+/yr. to NOT directly contact 98% of people who aren’t interested even if they say they are? Just glad I’M not paying for it…

    BTW Folks, I’ve repeatedly used two much more affordable techniques to get a much higher percentage of direct contact information on LI profiles, and I’ll be happy to tell you what they are when you contact me.


    Keith keithsrj@sbcglobal.net

  5. Joseph, thanks so much for a concise and relevant article! I agree with each of your suggestions with one exception: Suggestion #3. While it is certainly important to “examine the resultant profiles”, I don’t believe it is prudent to ignore incomplete or non-job seeker-tagged profiles. After 14+ years of recruiting, it is my belief that LI has solved the sourcing challenge – ie identifying relevant names and functions – but it has not taken the place of good ol’ fashioned research. Focusing primarily on the “job seeker” candidates is the equivalent of looking for resumes on Monster or CareerBuilder – for the most part, these are candidates in transition. While they may be a great fit, it is our duty as good recruiters to reach out to everyone that is qualified, even if the only information we have is their employer and title. Our commitment to each client is to present a slate of 5 candidates with the best possible talent and fit, regardless of their employment status and the amount of research we had to conduct to fully vet them. Approximately 20-25% of our placements over the past 2 years have been LI profiles that we did not otherwise know. However, 88% of those did not have a complete profile! As you stated, LI is a fantastic tool, but it is up to us to use it to its fullest capacity.
    Ken Schmitt
    President/Founder, TurningPoint Executive Search

  6. Thanks for the article! People who do not seem to appear to be looking for a job could also be great candidates. Many times, you can locate someone on LinkedIn and use the web to find their contact information. We have a google custom search engine for LinkedIn as well that provides a better search function in some cases. Additionally, if you join large groups in your industry chances are good you will share groups with your desired candidate population and can then message them through the group. Alternatively, many of them are on Facebook or other mediums that also offer free contacting features (and may appear less spam like). Also – on the recommendations front – many times those people are great candidates as well!

  7. There are some great tips in here for finding active or very engaged people on LinkedIn, but it does discount the real passive candidate who could be the best fit for your job.

    @Irina the photos in Recruiter is now being rolled out to Recruiters so they will be able to see this if their administrator has enabled this in their account as it’s optional.

  8. Come on… this is more a user manual for dummies than for real recruiters. Also I disagree with some points, specifically 6 and 7. Recommendations on LinkedIn are very unrealiable. Make sure you only pay attention to the ones from clients. The rest tend to be “mutual recommendations” which you notice if you check who referenced a person and whom they in turn wrote a reference for. Recommendations from people having been in turn recommended are worthless. Secondly, why is no CV uploaded a red flag? Most people treat LinkedIn as a professinal network, not a job board – even if some recruiters wish it was a job board. InMails are fine but even better to call into the company. Voice beats email every time.

  9. Hi Folks,

    Remember our recent discussion about using LI Recruiter and alternatives?
    Well, a friend of mine is able to provide 75-85% of the emails (and presumably even higher percentage of the main company phone numbers) when given a LI Profile or just a complete name and company, using a combination of tools and techniques.

    A customer would only pay for what is confirmed, or at least “*not unconfirmed”.
    Question: what would the company you work for pay to get direct, verified email and phone numbers of LinkedIn and other candidates without contact info? If YOU (and not your company) had to pay, how much would you pay for each verified name? A deep, intense telephone sourcer charges something like $44/name, but this is NOT that- it’s not sourcing of new, hard-to-find candidates, it’s just confirming contact information.

    Your thoughts….

    Keith D. Halperin,
    Sr. Recruiter and SPHR Emeritus

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *