LinkedIn’s Undocumented Search Operator

Posted by | July 05, 2011 | Boolean, LinkedIn, LinkedIn Search | 10 Comments

Earlier this year, I wrote an article on how to use LinkedIn’s advanced search operators as search agents in which I briefly mentioned and demonstrated an undocumented LinkedIn search operator at the very end of the post.

Did you catch it?

If not, you’re in luck.

Although it’s not an Earth-shattering discovery by any means, it is a discovery nonetheless, and because I keep encountering people who don’t know about this LinkedIn search operator, I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate a short post to the topic to ensure ensure everyone is aware of it.

LinkedIn’s Search Documentation

If you take a look at LinkedIn’s Advanced Search tips or in LinkedIn’s Help section, you will see the standard Boolean operator explanations.

When you get to the NOT operator, you will see a mysterious reference – “note: we also have a NOT operator that does the same.”

Okay, maybe that’s not so mysterious, but at least it could be interpreted a number of ways.

In any event, I haven’t found any LinkedIn documentation that actually specifies their NOT operator other than “NOT.” If you find some, please let me know.

I do, however, think I found their NOT operator…

LinkedIn Supports the Minus Sign

One day I was curious to see if I could use the minus sign inside LinkedIn, and lo and behold, it worked.

I’ve found that you don’t actually have to use the NOT operator when searching LinkedIn – neither in the Advanced Search interface nor in the Quick Search bar.

That’s because LinkedIn supports the minus sign (-) as the Boolean NOT operator, just as Google does.

This works for single search terms, quoted phrases, parenthetical OR statments, LinkedIn’s advanced operators, and it also works in every search field I’ve tested – Keywords, Title, Company, etc.

Here’s an example of a query using LinkedIn’s advanced search operators to look for current employees of Facebook that mention Hadoop on their profiles that are not in recruiting, marketing, or sales:

ccompany:facebook hadoop country:”united states” -(recruiting OR recruiter OR marketing OR sales OR “business development”)

The advanced LinkedIn search operators, as well as the minus sign, populate the left search rail:


As I was working on this post, I spent a little time looking for some kind of reference to LinkedIn supporting the minus sign, and before I got bored of finding nothing, I did discover this little gem in LinkedIn Answers from back in 2007.

I found it interesting that the suggestion to try the minus sign was proffered by non-recruiters/sourcers (one was a UNIX admin).

What’s the Big Deal?

It’s not really a big deal, but I like discovering things, and I also like sharing what I discover.

I also have to say that finding 1 undocumented search operator makes me wonder if there are more. Have you found any?

As someone who gets annoyed that he has to capitalize Boolean operators on Internet search engines and LinkedIn (I don’t have to in my ATS, nor on any major job board resume database), I’m quite happy that I don’t have to type AND, nor do I have to type out NOT when searching LinkedIn.

I’m a fan of efficient and concise query syntax, so I owe LinkedIn thanks for supporting the minus sign as the NOT operator. I’d also suggest that LinkedIn include this in their documentation so other people don’t have to learn about it from my site or stumble into it out of curiosity like I did.

While being able to use the minus sign as the NOT operator in your LinkedIn searches isn’t a huge deal, the NOT operator/functionality itself IS a big deal.

In fact, I believe the NOT operator is the most powerful and least utilized of the 3 main Boolean search operators.

Stay tuned in to my blog if you’d like to learn why. :-)

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About Glen Cathey

Glen Cathey is a sourcing and recruiting thought leader with over 16 years of experience working in large staffing agency and global RPO environments (>1,000 recruiters and nearly 100,000 hires annually). Starting out his career as a top producing recruiter, he quickly advanced into senior management roles and now currently serves as the SVP of Strategic Talent Acquisition and Innovation for Kforce, working out of their renowned National Recruiting Center with over 300 recruiters. Often requested to speak on sourcing and recruiting best practices, trends and strategies, Glen has traveled internationally to present at many talent acquisition conferences (5X LinkedIn Talent Connect - U.S. '10, '11, '12, Toronto '12, London '12, 2X Australasian Talent Conference - Sydney & Melbourne '11, '12, 6X SourceCon, 2X TruLondon, 2X HCI) and is regularly requested to present to companies (e.g., PwC, Deloitte, Intel, Booz Allen Hamilton, Citigroup, etc.). This blog is his personal passion and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone other than himself.

  • Jacco Valkenburg

    Hi Glen, it’s not really an undocumented Search operator because I specified it in my book ‘Recruitment via LinkedIn’ in 2008 ;-) I can’t remember where I found all LinkedIn boolean operators but it might have been on this page at that time.

  • Jacco Valkenburg

    Ah, found it! It’s in an official LinkedIn document called Reference Sheet – Search Tips. I’ll send it to you.

  • AllegisGroupServices

    Hi Jacco and Glen. Great info here. Jacco, can you share that link in the comments please?

  • Jacco Valkenburg

    It’s a PDF document that can be found in the training section of LinkedIn Corporate Recruiting Solutions. So I’m afraid I can’t share it here publicly.

  • philsomething

    I’m trying to find a way to get LinkedIn to display more than 10 records in response to a faceted search.  Ideally, I’d just get all the records returned in one long page.  

    While trying to reverse engineer LinkedIn’s URL nomenclature, I was teased by a field: “&count=” but I can’t find any values that make any difference.  Any ideas?

  • Glen Cathey

    If anyone could dig up LinkedIn documentation, it would be you – well done!

    I do have to point out that although LinkedIn has it documented for corporate solutions customers, I still haven’t been able to find anything publicly available online mentioning it, and the majority of LinkedIn users are not corporate solutions customers. :-) Of course, that doesn’t mean it isn’t documented anywhere online – but I haven’t found it, and I am hoping someone might be able to find what I have not, assuming something does exist.

    Additionally, the only reference to it seems to be the corporate solutions tip sheet from 2008 you found. I find it interesting that the 2008 reference sheet mentions the “single dash,” yet makes no reference to the NOT operator, and conversely, the 2011 document mentions the NOT operator and does not make reference to the “single dash” / minus sign.

    Curious, no?

    @AllegisGroupServices – don’t worry, you’re not missing anything – the reference sheets offer the same info you can find online, with the exception that the 2008 tip sheet does mention the “single dash” as an operator to exclude terms.

  • Glenn Gutmacher

    I’m afraid using – as the boolean NOT won’t work in every field on LinkedIn Advanced people search.  Specifically, the job title field is problematic.  For example, if I type sales -business for Title (current or past) and VCE for Company, and limit to Boston area (50 mi. from 02110), I get Sandra Herforth in my search results.  She shouldn’t be there, because Business is clearly part of her current job title (Sales is one of her oldest job titles).  LinkedIn has acknowledged this flaw, but won’t apologize for it or fix it. Their suggested workaround is using the keywords field, which does process – for NOT correctly.  In fact, if I move the Title field contents from this example to the Keywords field, I get zero results!  But that workaround obviously doesn’t give you the specificity you want when searching using job titles.

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