LinkedIn Sourcing With a Free Account

Do you use LinkedIn for sourcing? Everybody does these days, right? Would you like to be more efficient, reach more relevant people, and do this all for free? Perhaps you are aware of some of the points below, but I hope you will find something new here too.

Join LinkedIn Groups

Suppose one of your areas is, like mine, SAP Consulting. Search for groups using the word SAP in the group search box. The groups will be shown in the order of size. You will find:

SAP Community with almost 15,000 members
SAP Network Global (12,000+) … Active 12,000 members
SAP People Forum almost 8,000 members

Join these groups. The instant benefit is that all of the members are now in your network even if they are beyond the 3-level connection distance.

Search for Group Members and Send Them Messages for Free

There are two ways to search for people in a group. First, there’s a simple search box within the group members tab. You can search for members by keywords. The advantage is that you will see 500 results.

Now notice that you can “send a message” to any of these people using a link under their name in the list of results. If you go to the very last page of the search results, you will likely see people who are connected to you only through the group, yet you can send them a direct message. That is just like sending a LinkedIn “Inmail” but is free.

The second way to search is to use the new advanced people search functionality. You are able to check one or more of your groups on the advanced people search page to target your search at these groups’ members. You can now combine your search with keywords, target title, company, location, etc. If you have a free account you would only see 100 results. (It used to be 500 just recently.) I don’t see it as a big limitation; there are always ways to run a variety of searches to see more results. If you mouse over a person’s profile in the results list you will see the link “send message” for people who are either connected to you or are in your group. If you go to a profile view, you will see the same “send message” link there as well.

Important Notes on the LinkedIn search syntax:

a) LinkedIn search allows you to use Boolean syntax: as an example, in the group search members box you could look for
“SAP FI” AND Consulting NOT Recruiter.

b) However, just like Google, LinkedIn search does not recognize special characters like @. It’s no use to include @ in your search string in order to find email addresses either on Google or on LinkedIn.

c) While Google search would see the symbol * as “a word or a few words” and some databases like Monster would allow to use it as a “wildcard,” LinkedIn search doesn’t recognize the symbol * at all.

Post Discussion Items on Groups

On the majority of LinkedIn groups, the discussion boards have anything and everything. People self-advertise, announce that they are “open networkers,” etc. However, if you post a discussion item about your opportunities there’s a chance you will see some relevant responses.

Or, post an interesting industry-specific question in the hopes that you will hear from experts.

Explore the Company Pages

The company search is located at

Search for the company you are sourcing for. LinkedIn shows a lot of information on a company page. That includes the “career path” that helps identify target companies for your sourcing.

Search within the companies is rather limited, but you could also do a Google X-ray search like this: <keywords> site:
to investigate target companies and look for their employees.

As an example, do a Google search

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SAP Consulting site: “San Francisco”

and explore the results.

Use Contact Capture to Parse and Organize Your People Searches

Broadlook Contact Capture is a great tool with many uses, and it’s free. You can download it at

On the “people search” page on LinkedIn, use the “extended” view. Highlight-all on the page and use Contact Capture to capture the results. The tool was not made for pages like this, and you will get some extra “junk” — but this will capture all the first and last names. If you searched for employees of a specific company where you know the email pattern, you can now create an email list for these people.

(Another relevant tool comes from eGrabber. It is not free but is extremely useful for capturing and parsing LinkedIn profiles. Go to the site and look for the “Excel” tool.)

Have Their Email Address? Learn More About the Person

If you have an email address that is likely to belong to someone you’d like to learn more about, there are several ways to do it using LinkedIn.

You can enter it in the “import contacts” page. If the person is on LinkedIn and is not in your network you will get a link to his/her profile. Another way is to use the LinkedIn Outlook toolbar. If you create a contact in Outlook with the email, save it and reopen, you will see a link to the profile. You can download the Outlook toolbar from

Drive Traffic to Your Profile

It is somewhat similar to search engine optimization for websites. Make sure your profile is complete, and it’s clear what your competency is and who you are looking to connect with. Make your profile rich in content; add links and applications such as WordPress if you have a blog. Use relevant keywords in your profile including variations (such as consultant and consulting).

To get more relevant people to find you, post interesting questions and answers in the LinkedIn Q&A section; start LinkedIn groups; use your LinkedIn profile link in your signature in emails, blog posts, Twitter posts, etc. (Here’s mine, by the way:

Being an “open networker” or not is, of course, a personal preference. I think though that with 30+ million of people on LinkedIn, it’s a good idea not to limit yourself to networking with a just few people whom you closely know, but allow yourself to see and be seen by a larger community.

I hope you liked what you read. I’d also like to invite you all to join our “Boolean Strings” group on LinkedIn. It’s a great community of people and you will have a chance to learn a lot and to share your web sourcing knowledge.

Irina Shamaeva is a Partner and the Chief Sourcer at Brain Gain Recruiting, an executive search firm that specializes in placing senior software development and management consulting candidates nationwide. In addition to full cycle recruiting, Irina does Sourcing projects across numerous industries and geographies. She shares techniques that she invents, while hands-on sourcing, in blogs and in presentations. Irina maintains an active blog, Boolean Strings, where she publishes sourcing advice, tips, and best practices, that has enjoyed 175K+ visits to-date. Prior to Brain Gain Recruiting, Irina held engineering and management leadership positions at biotech and high technology companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Applied Biosystems, MDL, and e-Motion. Irina holds a Master of Science Degree in Mathematics from Moscow University. To learn more about Irina, check out her LinkedIn Profile , follow her on Twitter, and circle her on Google-Plus.


23 Comments on “LinkedIn Sourcing With a Free Account

  1. Irina,

    You included some good tips that I will definitely be using. Thanks for sharing & I’ll plan to join the boolean strings group on LI.

  2. Hi Irina,

    Excellent post and it has been duly distributed to my team. (PS I originally replied in your BooleanStrings group on Ning)

    On your Post Discussion Items in Groups, you state:” 1.However, if you post a discussion item about your opportunities there’s a chance you will see some relevant responses.
    2.Or, post an interesting industry-specific question in the hopes that you will hear from experts.”

    I agree and disagree here. 1.Many of these groups have recruiters posting positions left and right, where it really should be an area for SME’s to answer questions or to disseminate their knowledge. Nothing irks me more than seeing groups spammed with recruiter posts- UNLESS the groups are specifically geared towards jobs and careers.
    2.Yes, yes yes!- post a question and hopefully you’ll her back from an a SME that you can network outside of the group

    The Company Pages Feature is a little goldmine and offers insight on career paths,title levels, diversity stats and more.

    Love the E-grabber tool for LI/Excel.

    Lastly, many people will update their Status regularly in either “What are you working on?” (i.e. Currently looking for SAP Consultants in the Bay Area) or within their profile stating something along those lines. Result? Your network gets a Network Update from you and perhaps a person looking for an opportunity will reach out to YOU. Now that’s passive candidate networking 😉

  3. Hello Irina,
    Thank you so much for sharing this information. I did not realize how much more I could be doing with Linked In.

  4. Hello Irina,
    You shared some great tips! Regarding the LinkedIn limitation to 100 search results: try this on Google xvariable yvariable zvariable

    The results are unlimited.

  5. Hi Irena,
    It is always good to keep up to date with what is being offered. A practical post. Thanks,

  6. Joanne,

    Thanks for your comment! I am glad to be of help. A couple of things I’d like to say here in response to your suggestion:

    1) If you search on LinkedIn you will be able to find people who have made their profiles *private*. You will not see them on Google.

    2) On Google results are limited (to 1000 results).


  7. Great article – I have linked back to this on our blog. I really think you have some highlighted some great ideas here which will help our customers when using the site. I have put a link from our blog back to this article. We also wrote an article a few months back along the same vein using linked in for recruitment which I think complements this article.

    Feel free to join our group on linked in to discuss more of online recruitment

  8. Even though I am the Founder of Linked:HR, the largest HR Group on LinkedIn (around 105,000 members, growing almost 500 members per day),I learn quite a lot from your Post, Irina. Great tips!

    What we are trying to accomplish on Linked:HR fits perfectly with your recommended strategy: As you noticed in one of the numerous Linked:HR Group Discussions ( Linked:HR “is helping us all by trying to make this group even bigger.”

  9. Hi,
    Did you try this Google Chrome Extension?

    1. Targeted to help recruitment professionals in segregating profiles from LinkedIn.
    2. Bookmark public profiles (you do not have to request for a connection).
    3. Assign categories to profiles. This is helpful in order to review/keep track of filtered profiles.
    4. Add notes to profiles (e.g. number of years of experience).
    5. Ease of maintaining candidates’ info by saving their email and contact numbers.
    6. Delete profiles from your list if you don’t need them.
    7. Offline access to your saved data. You can access your saved data without internet connection.
    8. Remember Search button is not the ultimate solution when you have better tools available like this!

    Click on the extension icon after you have browsed a LinkedIn public profile.
    It will take you to the options page where you can enter the data you want to save.
    Once you are done with your changes click on the save button(Close this new tab and continue with LinkedIn for more candidates).

    Too good app for google chrome users!

    Thanks and regards,

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