by Rich Hein

Tips for Finding Top IT Talent on LinkedIn

Feb 26, 20139 mins
CareersCIOIT Jobs

LinkedIn, the popular social network, recently announced that it had more than 200 million members. As the professional network continues to grow, more recruiters and employers are using the social network to tap IT talent--both those actively looking as well as those who aren't.

Before LinkedIn, Ed Nathanson describes the IT hiring landscape as a “Job Board Purgatory” where sites like Monster and HotJobs were the biggest games in town. Nathanson knows a thing or two about hiring tech professionals. He has been in the IT talent acquisition field for 20 years and last year he doubled the size of his company by adding more than 200 employees.

The problem with job boards, says Nathanson: “They were only engaging an audience that was actively looking for a job.” The only option for companies then would be to post a job and wait.

LinkedIn for Employers

What was missing was a way to target and identify passive candidates–those who aren’t necessarily looking for a new job, but might be interested in an ideal opportunity for career advancement. That’s where, he says, LinkedIn has changed things for him.

Related Story: 4 New LinkedIn Features for Job Seekers

Now, using LinkedIn, Nathanson says he is able to identify the huge demographic of talented candidates who aren’t necessarily looking. When he feels that he has found a good candidate in terms of skills, experience and culture fit, he engages them in a conversation.

So how can you use to LinkedIn to find your next hire? We’ve put together some tips to help get you started in the right direction.

Make a Good Impression

LinkedIn, when all is said and done, is a social network. If you are going to use it to recruit, you should have a dynamic, regularly updated presence. This includes a company page and a high level of engagement with the LinkedIn community. For example, a software company that created a mobile app for runners to log and analyze runs could create a “running” group on LinkedIn where participants discussed all aspects of running.

LinkedIn recently revamped its company pages to offer a new level of engagement. The new company pages offer a more updatable page with cover art and a way to share content. There are tabs for products and services, as well, where you can list in detail what your company provides or sells. For a fee you can also post jobs.

The key takeaway here is you have to make a solid impression on people who may be interested in working for your company. Use your company page to show off your culture and highlight what’s good about working there.

Identify Skills and Expertise Keywords

Come up with a list of keywords that encompass the role you are trying to fill. One good way to do this is to search through profiles of people who are already in this position and see what keywords show up with regularity. These can then be incorporated into your search for the right candidate.

Likewise, prospective employees will likely use search to find relevant companies in their area, making it wise to consider keywords when building out your company page.

Dig Deeper

When you find a person with an interesting profile, click on ‘People Similar To’ in the upper right hand corner of the page to see members with similar profiles. Pay attention to keywords found on those profiles and try a new search using those keywords.

Also, members usually network with other professionals in their field. Try clicking on “People Also Viewed” to see other profiles members have reviewed. Often, you’ll find other relevant candidates within the same field.

Related Story: The How-To Guide for LinkedIn

Use Your Employees’ Networks

Many new hires are the result of internal referrals. Ask your current team members if they know of anyone in their real life or via their LinkedIn network who they think may be a good fit for the role.

“Every study we’ve seen supports our experience: Good people recommend other good people. And you get a built-in reference, usually with contact information for other former colleagues who will vouch for the candidate as well,” says Mickey W. Mantle, coauthor of Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams.

Use LinkedIn Groups

Groups are free resources that are talent-rich. Target groups that you think will have the talent you are looking for and get involved. In an active group, it should take a short amount of time before you start identifying who the thought-leaders are. Who is answering questions? Who are they connected to?

Getting involved here will give you a good view of what’s going on where the rubber meets the road and help you better understand what’s important to potential employees.

LinkedIn Premium

LinkedIn has many free ways to find talent, but you are limited to people within your network or connections. To contact people outside your network, you will need to pay, however.

Prices for LinkedIn Premium range from a basic package at 19.95 a month, a mid-range package at $39.95 a month and an executive package at $74.95 a month. To contact anyone directly via InMail you will need to at least spring for the mid-range package, which offers 10 InMails. The executive package tops out at 25 InMails.

Engage Passive Candidates Thoughtfully

It’s important to understand that when engaging a passive employee as opposed to an active job seeker, a hard-sell technique is rarely the right approach. “IT professionals are highly sought after. Simply calling or emailing them regarding a job opportunity may not garner a response,” says Joe Roualdes, senior manager of Talent Solutions with LinkedIn.

Use Boolean Strings and Search Methods

“If you’re not using Boolean search methods, you are going to be inundated with people. Using those strings, we are able to narrow the search to people we know are qualified. Now the challenge isn’t knowing if they are the right fit for the job, it’s getting them interested in the job,” says Nathanson.

Boolean searches can be conducted by any LinkedIn member. Members using the Recruiter feature can as well because both searches share the same the same query processor.

Here are some of the common Boolean terms to aid your search:

AND – Recruiters can search for profiles that include two terms by separating those terms with the uppercase word AND. However, you don’t have to use AND. If you enter two terms, the search engine will assume there is an AND between them. For example:

Software AND engineer

“Software engineer”

“Customer service” AND hospitality

“Instructional design”

Human resources

OR – Recruiters and hiring managers can broaden their search to find member profiles that include one or more terms by separating those terms with the upper-case word OR. OR is most often used to search for alternate spellings or for terms that mean the same thing. For example:

Helpdesk OR “Help Desk” OR “Technical Support”

“Vice President” OR VP OR “V.P.” OR SVP OR EVP

J2EE OR “Java Enterprise Edition” OR JEE OR JEE5

“Account executive” OR “account exec” OR “account manager” OR “sales executive” OR “sales manager” OR “sales representative”

NOT – Recruiters can conduct searches that exclude a particular term by typing that term with an uppercase NOT immediately before it. Their search results will exclude any profile containing that term. For example:

NOT director

(Google OR Salesforce) NOT LinkedIn

Director NOT executive NOT vp

NOT Recruiter NOT Talent

Please note that NOT is the least used and least understood modifier, but it shouldn’t be underestimated. A huge part of what recruiters ARE looking for is what they’re NOT looking for. NOT helps recruiters pare down their search results by excluding LinkedIn members they know aren’t eligible or wouldn’t necessarily be interested in the role.

Quotes – Recruiters searching for an exact phrase or terms that include punctuation, enclose the phrase in quotation marks. They can use these in addition to other modifiers. For example:

“Product manager”

“Account representative”

“Executive assistant”

“.net” AND “C++”

Parenthesis – Recruiters can conduct complex searches by combining terms and modifiers. The following example will find both software engineers and software architects:

Software AND (engineer OR architect)

Trainer NOT (fitness OR physical)

(HR OR “human resources”) AND “customer service

LinkedIn Talent Solutions Options

LinkedIn also offers services to hiring managers and recruiters over and above LinkedIn Premium.

Job Slots – Nathanson likens this option to a parking spot for your job postings. As opposed to job boards where you post a job and after time it expires. “It’s essentially your real estate for your jobs for the year,” says Nathanson. You can post a new job each day or just keep refreshing the same one.

Recruiter Seat – Using this service, Nathanson says, you can contact any person in LinkedIn’s network of 200 million professionals without that person being a part of your network.

Work with Us Ads – Allows employers to buy ad space on their employee’s profiles. “The number one activity on LinkedIn is looking at profiles. So in that moment of natural curiosity we are able to market our openings to the people viewing,” says Nathanson.

Career Page – There is a free and paid version available. The free option is like a basic company page. Using the paid version however, you can post jobs, videos, employee testimonials, as well as, messaging and branding.

LinkedIn does not release pricing info regarding the services discussed above. It is in the process of revamping its pricing structure and available services, according to Roulades. Other sites have reported the cost for Recruiter runs about $7,000 a year to start and, according to an unnamed LinkedIn rep, that corporate packages can cost as much as $80,000 a year.

When comparing that to the cost of an IT recruiter, who can make 15-30 percent of the hiring position’s annual salary, this may be out of the reach of many small businesses but when you’re talking about C-level executives with high six figure salaries those numbers could sound like a bargain.

Rich Hein is a senior writer for He covers IT careers. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and on Google +.