A Better Way to Search LinkedIn for Industry Experience

LinkedIn Industry SearchSourcers and recruiters are often tasked with finding candidates that have experience in a specific industry. I’m sure that such a thing seems easy to the hiring managers and clients making the request, but it’s actually not an easily accomplished feat to perform exhaustively.

Sure, finding some people who work in a specific industry is easy – simply target one or a few major companies/competitors and you’re off to the races, right?

Not so fast, unless you’re happy only finding some people and you’re not really concerned with finding the best.

Most industries are comprised of many companies, and some have several hundred to over 1000! How can anyone say for sure that if they targeted 10 or fewer companies in an industry that they were exposing themselves to the best talent available?

Some people (and companies) think that the best talent can only come from a short list of companies they’ve identified, which seems both absurd and short-sighted in my opinion. The most talented “game changers” don’t always come from a blue chip Fortune 500 company.

However, even if a sourcer/recruiter wanted to identify people who worked at any one of a large number of companies in a particular industry, they are stuck to only searching for a few companies at a time because most search engines/interfaces have limits to the length of the search string that can be run. This can make for an extremely tedious and laborious search process, which explains why most sourcers and recruiters only search for a handful of companies or make use of built-in industry search functionality.

Industry Search Limitations

One way to search for people who have experience in a specific industry is to use an industry filter/selection, such as LinkedIn’s:


However, a while back I wrote about the intrinsic challenges and limitations of searching for people based on an industry selection which can actually prevent you from finding the people you’re looking for.

A large part of the problem lies in the fact that many people have experience working in more than one industry, yet they can only select one on their LinkedIn profile. The other issue at hand comes from the fact that people can and will identify themselves in any way they want to – which may have nothing to do with the way YOU would identify or label them. 

For example, a marketing professional working for a pharmaceutical company can just as easily think of themselves as working in the “Consumer Goods” or “Marketing and Advertising” industry when making the selection on their LinkedIn profile rather than “Pharmaceuticals.”

Of course this challenge isn’t limited to LinkedIn or social media in general – this phenomenon also occurs in job board resume databases and corporate ATS/CRM systems with similar functionality.

Is There a Better Way to Search for Industry-Specific Experience?

Let’s say you are in need of finding people with SAP experience who have worked in the Food Production industry. If this were something you were asked to do on a regular basis, you’d probably have a list of companies that you typically target for these folks. However, even if you didn’t you can easily create one.

Using LinkedIn’s company search functionality, you can browse for your industry and make appropriate selections amongst the various search options to end up with a list of companies that fit your criteria.


In the example, I refined the search down to 116 companies. Most sourcers and recruiters only search for a handful of companies at a time (or at all), typically due to the limitations of most search interfaces/engines.

However, because a basic LinkedIn account has for all intents and purposes “bottomless” search fields, we can take those 116 companies and, through some creative use of Excel, Word and find and replace, create a 350 word OR statement that we can put in the Company field:


Try doing that with a job board database, an Internet search engine, or your ATS/CRM. :-)

If you take a look at all of the industries in the search results, you’ll see that most of the people who have worked for one of the 116 Food Production companies we searched for did not choose “Food Production” – only about 18% of the results from the top 10 industries represented in the results come from “Food Production” (572 out of 3,181).

If someone was searching for people who mention SAP on their LinkedIn profile and who selected the Food Production industry, they would only be finding a small fraction of the total available and relevant results!


Thank You LinkedIn!

The ability to search for large volumes of companies in a particular industry (I’ve had no issues with 300+!) gives you a more exhaustive and complete method of identifying potential talent with specific industry experience, regardless of which industry the potential candidates selected when creating/updating their profile. 

Of course, when crafting company searches, you’ll have to keep in mind that there are often many ways that people will write company names – you can only find exactly what you search for in most cases.

Happy hunting!

  • Sourcing Samuri

    “through some creative use of Excel, Word and find and replace, create a 350 word OR statement that we can put in the Company field:”

    – This is great! But now my interest has been peaked… What is this “creative use of Excel” you speak of? Can we get a video demonstration of that?


  • Maybe it would be advantageous to create/build a 350+ word OR statement that we can put in Google Custom Search?

  • John Turnberg

    Thanks for this tip Glen.
    Here is a (n easy) way to make a in excel an giant OR statement. Remember that bad data in begets bad data out (see example at the end – Cos. & Corp.)

    1. Pick a cell such as H2 and enter ” into it
    2. in the column next to your data (your data starts on row 2, Column B), enter this formula =H$2&B2&””” OR ” –H$2 is the quote sign, B2 is your data, “”” OR ” will add OR with a space before and after.
    3. enter this formula in column D =D1&C2 –D1 is blank, but will have a value later, and C2 is your data.
    4. Drag the formulas down your list.
    5. Column C will be “data” OR and in your last cell in column D will be all your Data with OR’s in between and a Trailing OR.
    6. Copy this cell and you can Paste it into Linkedin.
    7.!!!! Remove the trailing OR at the end of the string!!!!

    Fortune 100 Type of list:

    “Wal-Mart Stores” OR “Exxon Mobil” OR “Chevron” OR “General Electric” OR “Bank of America Corp.” OR “ConocoPhillips” OR “AT&T” OR “Ford Motor” OR “J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.” OR “Hewlett-Packard” OR “Berkshire Hathaway” OR “Citigroup” OR “Verizon Communications” OR “McKesson” OR “General Motors” OR “American International Group” OR “Cardinal Health” OR “CVS Caremark” OR “Wells Fargo” OR “International Business Machines” OR “UnitedHealth Group” OR “Procter & Gamble” OR “Kroger” OR “AmerisourceBergen” OR “Costco Wholesale” OR “Valero Energy” OR “Archer Daniels Midland” OR “Boeing” OR “Home Depot” OR “Target” OR “WellPoint” OR “Walgreen” OR “Johnson & Johnson” OR “State Farm Insurance Cos.” OR “Medco Health Solutions” OR “Microsoft” OR “United Technologies” OR “Dell” OR “Goldman Sachs Group” OR “Pfizer” OR “Marathon Oil” OR “Lowe’s” OR “United Parcel Service” OR “Lockheed Martin” OR “Best Buy” OR “Dow Chemical” OR “Supervalu” OR “Sears Holdings” OR “International Assets Holding” OR “PepsiCo” OR “MetLife” OR “Safeway” OR “Kraft Foods” OR “Freddie Mac” OR “Sysco” OR “Apple” OR “Walt Disney” OR “Cisco Systems” OR “Comcast” OR “FedEx” OR “Northrop Grumman” OR “Intel” OR “Aetna” OR “New York Life Insurance” OR “Prudential Financial” OR “Caterpillar” OR “Sprint Nextel” OR “Allstate” OR “General Dynamics” OR “Morgan Stanley” OR “Liberty Mutual Insurance Group” OR “Coca-Cola” OR “Humana” OR “Honeywell International” OR “Abbott Laboratories” OR “News Corp.” OR “HCA” OR “Sunoco” OR “Hess” OR “Ingram Micro” OR “Fannie Mae” OR “Time Warner” OR “Johnson Controls” OR “Delta Air Lines” OR “Merck” OR “DuPont” OR “Tyson Foods” OR “American Express” OR “Rite Aid” OR “TIAA-CREF” OR “CHS” OR “Enterprise GP Holdings” OR “Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance” OR “Philip Morris International” OR “Raytheon” OR “Express Scripts” OR “Hartford Financial Services” OR “Travelers Cos.” OR “Publix Super Markets” OR “Amazon.com”

  • @John – Thank you for posting your OR-statement building how-to…your Excel skills are definitely beyond mine! I was simply copying and pasting info from LinkedIn company/industry search results lists into Excel, copying the company name column into Word, and using find (^p – I discovered this is the “return” on each line) and replace ( OR ). That works like a charm – but had not yet figured out how to easily put quotes around multi-word phrases. You’re the man – thanks John!

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  • fraggy


    I tried your formula and am getting an error – specifically with the =H$2&B2&””” OR ” piece

    The ””” bit is highlighted in excel as part of the issue. any ideas there?

  • John

    replace the “” (the double “) with H2&”
    H2 is the cell that has the double quote ” in it

    This will enclose your Company Name in quotes “Company Name” in the OR statement

  • fraggy

    got it john – i did =H$2&B2&H$2 in column d
    and =D1&” OR “&C2 in column e and that worked for me

    thanks for this tip – this is great and a real time saver.

  • I like using the Concatenate function on excel to combine the columns. Try this:

    Step 1. In column A1 enter a company name, or even a key word. Make sure you put quote marks at the beginning and end and also add one extra space using your space bar. Do the same for additional company names or keywords in A2, A3, etc.

    Step 2. In column B1 enter the word OR and add an extra space after it. You can then move your cursor over the lower edge of B1 and pull down to copy that value into the cells for B2, B3, etc.

    Step 3. Go to formulas and use the Concatenate formula your cell entry in C1 should be this =CONCATENATE(A1,B1)

    You can go to the lower edge of C1 and pull down to duplicate for cells C2, C3, etc. as appropriate.

    Step 4. Left click (Mac may be different) and highlight data in column C then right click to copy data.

    Step 5. Right click on cell D1 and select Paste Special. A dialogue box opens and make sure radio button Values is selected. The click OK and copy contents to either the keywords or company search box on LinkedIn.

    Step 6. Add ( to beginning of data set, remove ending OR and close with)


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  • Kapil


  • John,

    It is supergood, million thanks for sharing with us!

    By using your formula I just created a Boolean String Generator in xls format having three separated sheets for AND-OR-NOT. It can be easily used for the keyword-based searches (and certainly, for target companies as well).

    Now my sourcers can save it for each of their positions (and with this will create our keyword library!) which offers some really strong benefits:

    1. They can check all of the keywords and the keyword history they wanted and will want to try.
    * AND sheet contains the must-have requirements
    * OR for the nice-to-have and sysnonymes
    * NOT for the not/never keywords

    2. The saved and stored sheets, containing a good collection of keywords for a certain position, can be used in future so they will not need to create the Boolean Strings from scratch again.

    3. It saves their time, certainly.

    So, many thanks again for this.

    Only one comment regarding the NOT command. In my spreadsheet H2 cell contains not only ” but NOT ” as this command anticipates the keyword. Therefore the =H$2&B2&””” OR ” formula changes as follows =H$2&B2&”””.

    Wish you a great week-end,

  • Deeferrara

    Can you share this with me, I have no clue?

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