Searching on LinkedIn When Recruiting Executives

By David E. Perry, Mark J. Haluska

Your first search stop when recruiting executives — especially for a C-suite hire — is LinkedIn, a social network for professionals that boasts more than 480 million professional profiles, with more posted every second.

Why LinkedIn? Simple. Unlike other social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and so on, LinkedIn is designed specifically for the sharing of professional information. True, most people don’t visit LinkedIn or update their profiles anywhere near as often as they do on other social media sites, but that’s okay. All you’re looking for at this juncture is static data — in other words, information on people’s profile pages.

To expedite your search, LinkedIn offers an Advanced People Search feature. Notice that the Advanced People Search dialog box (shown) contains several fields. You may be tempted to just fill in all these fields at once and click Search, but resist that temptation! Otherwise, if you get zero results, you won’t have any way of knowing which parameter is the bottleneck. And, you may accidentally eliminate people who may, in fact, be good matches.

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The Advanced People Search dialog box in LinkedIn.

Instead, your goal is to find all potential candidates in a systematic manner. Follow these steps:

  1. Direct your web browser to LinkedIn and click the Advanced link next to the search box at the top of the page.
  2. To identify all possible CFOs on the site, type CFO in the Title field.

    But don’t stop there. One by one, add other relevant titles and terms to describe the position — for example, chief financial officer or VP finance. Separate each of these with the OR Boolean operator and press Enter or Return when you’re finished. Here’s an example of what your search string might look like:

    CFO OR “chief financial officer” OR VP finance OR EVP finance OR “vice president finance” OR “chief finance officer” OR finance director OR financial director

    Why the quotation marks around chief financial officer, vice president finance, and chief finance officer? Simple. You’re searching for those exact phrases; adding quotes ensures Google treats each phrase as one expression. Omitting the quotation marks around chief financial officer, for example, would result in hits that include chief+financial, chief+officer, and financial+officer, which is not what you’re looking for. (No quotes are needed around the other multi-word phrases because those are limited to two words only.)

    Wondering how we came up with the additional titles and terms? By nosing around LinkedIn. During other searches for a CFO, we perused the results to see if any contained other relevant terms. You can do the same for your searches.

    On the right side of the screen, LinkedIn displays the results of your query, with links to profiles of individuals who match your search criteria. On the left is a narrow pane, shown in the following figure, that contains the same set of fields as before. You’ll enter additional information in these fields to refine your results.

    executive-recruit-refine
    Refine your results in this pane.
  3. In the field that appears immediately below the Title field, choose Current from the list.
  4. From the Location drop-down list, select Located In or Near.
  5. In the Country field, choose United States.
  6. To narrow your results to CFOs that have successfully raised money and have worked at a start-up, try typing the following search string in the Keywords field, leaving the Title, Location, and Country fields as they are:

    raised (funding OR funds OR money) (start-up OR start-ups)

    Notice the parentheses in the search string. On LinkedIn, you can add parentheses around AND or OR statements to combine terms. In this example, using the parentheses enables you to search for the word raised plus the word fund, funds, or money, as well as the word start-up or start-ups, in one stroke. You can also place quotation marks around multiple terms to find an exact match. For example, you might type “technology company” to return profiles that contain that exact phrase.

    This reduces the number of profiles shown significantly.

  7. Specify New York City as the location.

    To do so, type 10001 in the Postal Code field. Then choose 25 mi (40 km) from the Within drop-down list. This will limit your results even further.

    At this point, you could just screen those 19 profiles one by one and contact the ones that make the cut. But before you do, ask the following questions:. If you answered yes to any of these questions, your work is not done. It’s time to drill down further.

    • Could there be a CFO on LinkedIn who raised money for a start-up but did not mention that in his profile?
    • Could there be a CFO on LinkedIn who lives in or commutes to New York but does not include a New York postal code in her profile?
    • Could there be a CFO on LinkedIn who does not currently have a job?
    • Could there be a CFO who does not have a LinkedIn profile?
  8. Change the drop-down list below the Title field from Current to Past Not Current.

    In this way, you can find people who were, say, CFOs in the past but now serve as officers in finance. Or, change the drop-down list to Current or Past to see everyone who has served as a CFO, both now and in the past.

  9. Play around with the terms in the Keywords field to loosen up the search.

    Delete the start-up keywords. After all, it’s possible someone mentioned she raised money without specifying that it was for a start-up. Your search string should look like this:

    raised (funding OR funds OR money)

  10. Maybe a candidate in New York chose not to state his postal code, but did indicate his location in the text on his profile. To find these people, delete the entry in the Postal Code field. Then alter the search string in the Keywords field to read as follows:

    raised (funding OR funds OR money) (New York OR NY)

For those who want to become LinkedIn search experts, Josef has developed a special talent-sourcing methodology. He calls it the LinkedIn Onion Search.