How to Find and Identify Active Job Seekers on LinkedIn

Posted by | August 01, 2011 | Active Candidates, LinkedIn, Sourcing | 24 Comments

I’ve received a few inquiries over the past month regarding how to find active job seekers on LinkedIn.

This isn’t something I do, nor have I ever tried to do it, so I didn’t have any read-made search suggestions for these folks.

I don’t recruit people because they are looking to make a move – I recruit people based on their skills, experience and critical intangibles. I could care less if they are looking or if the thought of leaving their current employer is the furthest thing from their mind.

In my opinion and experience, everyone is a candidate and anyone can be recruited if you have a great match between their skills, experience and interests and the opportunity you’re looking to fill.

Having said all that, if you want to search LinkedIn to identify people who are highly likely to be actively seeking employment, you have a few options.

How to Find Active Job Seekers on LinkedIn

As with nearly all human capital information retrieval efforts, experimentation and pattern recognition are key.

When it comes to finding people who are likely to be active job seekers, the first thing you can do is think about what types of words and phrases these people might use on their LinkedIn profiles to signify that they are looking for a new opportunity.

I don’t want to risk losing anyone with this comparison, but I think it’s critical that you realize that any solid sourcing methodology employs the scientific method for acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. The foundation of the scientific method is to propose a hypothesis and to design experimental efforts to test the hypothesis via predictions which can be derived from them.

Let’s hypothesize that people on LinkedIn who are looking for new employment would actually state such on their profile, and let’s predict that they might write such things as “currently seeking,” or “seeking new.”

We can test this hypothesis by running the search to see if we get any results, and if we do, how many results are returned.

When I ran the search, I got 36,222 results for all of LinkedIn (all locations).

That struck me as low, but at least we have verified that some people do in fact mention that they are actively seeking new employment on their LinkedIn profile.

Now we need to continue to hypothesize as to other phrases people might use to denote that they are looking for employment.

Before we do, however, let’s take notice of some information returned from that first search.

Looking over at the “Current Company” facet, we hit a little jackpot of information in the form of people actually entering in active job seeker phrases in their current employer field.

One thing you can glean from this section is 2 new job seeking phrases to search for – “actively seeking” and “seeking employment.”

Another thing to notice is the companies that are in the top 10 list.

Getting back to the “actively seeking” OR “seeking new” search results, you will see that this first very basic and limited search works…

…but it also pulls false positives in the form of people who mention “seeking new” in ways not referring to employment opportunities.

When it comes to information retrieval, false positives are inevitable – the goal is to minimize them whenever possible.

LinkedIn Search String to Find Active Job Seekers

After spending about 10 minutes reviewing results, iteratively modifying my searches and looking for patterns of phrasing for seeking employment as well as hypothesizing (making educated guesses) what people might say to signify that they are pursuing employment, here is what I came up with:

(seeking OR seeker OR “looking for” OR “in search of” OR “open to” OR “new job” OR “actively pursuing” OR “pursuing new” OR “searching for” OR “new opportunity” OR “new opportunities” OR “available for”)

That search returns 2.43M people globally – quite an improvement over 36K!

You probably noticed I decided to search for “seeking” without searching for specific “_______ seeking” or “seeking ______” phrases.

That’s because searching for “seeking” is actually more effective than using it in specific phrases.

Searching for the single term “seeking” is a double edged sword – it pulls false positives because it isn’t an intrinsically specific term for pursuing employment, but if you decide to add terms to it to create specific phrases, you will actually eliminate viable results of people who are looking for a new job.

This is because there are literally 100′s of ways people can specify what they are looking for in their job search.

For example:

 

Because of this, I would recommend simply searching for the term “seeking” and accept a percentage of false positives because there is no way you can think of (or search for) every possible combination of “seeking _______” that someone might use to denote what kind of role they are seeking.

If you are a recruiter and you are not looking for other recruiters, you may want to add something like -(recruiter OR recruitment) to your string/query to eliminate false positives of recruiters that mention they are seeking/looking for people with specific titles and skill terms.

Of course, you can also use all of the above approaches when X-Ray searching LinkedIn through Google or another search engine, although I personally recommend starting with and exhausting LinkedIn’s search before searching LinkedIn via an Internet search engine.

LinkedIn Offers Great Job Seeker Intel!

I can’t move on before sharing one of my favorite features of LinkedIn – the ability to see the top 10 results by current company, location, industry, etc.

I find this information fascinating – and when you run your own searches by your country or metro area, you’ll get even more applicable insight.

Here are the top 10 results by location, current company, and industry for the 12 active job seeker term search:

When searching globally, it’s not surprising to see some of the largest employers in the top 10, but there are some very large employers that are not listed and a few companies in the top 10 that I didn’t expect to see there.

Here’s the global top 10 industry breakdown:

LinkedIn Jobs and Recruiting Groups

When reviewing your results, other patterns you can notice are things such as the groups that the people who mention they are actively pursuing employment belong to.

You can notice this in a couple of places, including the “Groups you share with ______”

…and the groups facet which can be expanded to show the top 10 groups:

If a medical device development project manager is in several job and recruiting-focused groups, it might be a sign that (s)he is trying to connect with recruiters in an attempt to find new employment. Hello!

Bullhorn Reach Radar

Some people have hypothesized that making numerous changes to a LinkedIn profile and/or adding multiple recommendations in a short period of time can be indicative of someone that is beginning to look for new employment.

It’s not a bad theory – but how can you be alerted when people make changes to their LinkedIn profile and rack up recommendations?

One way is to use Bullhorn Reach’s Radar.

Radar isolates key LinkedIn profile updates (and Facebook too if you connect it) so you are automatically notified of updates and recommendations within your network.

For example:

 

I’ve seen some profiles that have been updated 10 times and receive 5 recommendations in a month. Could that amount of profile and recommendation activity indicate that they are beginning to look for employment?

Sure, but not necessarily.

One of the sharpest recruiters I know has always expressed his interest to me in being able to find/identify people based on frequent and recent LinkedIn profile updates and recommendation stacking, and I have to agree with him that there is at least a correlation between frequent and multiple LinkedIn profile updates coupled with acquiring recommendations and job seeking status.

Bullhorn Reach’s Radar is a simple way to automate the identification of such LinkedIn profile activity.

Of course, Radar is limited to your network, so if you’re not connected to your target talent pool, you won’t gain any/much insight.

Although more tedious and manual, you could also use LinkedIn Signal to search by update type (profiles):

I wonder how many people use LinkedIn Signal – I don’t see too many people writing or talking about it, and LinkedIn all but buried it. It’s a shame – it’s quite powerful.

Final Thoughts & LinkedIn Search Challenge

I can understand why there is an interest in identifying people based on their job search status.

However, according to the BLS, only about 14% of all people are actively looking for a new job, so you’re you’re missing the deepest portion of the talent pool by only targeting them.

Also, while a percentage of people who are actively seeking employment will mention things on their profile such as “currently seeking” or similar, many people won’t.

While 2.43M results from my “active job seeker” search on LinkedIn is a big number, it’s really only around 2.4% of all LinkedIn profiles (estimating slightly over 100M profiles).

That means that not everyone who is actively seeking employment actually mentions such on their LinkedIn profile, as well as that there are many more ways to express an interest in seeking new employment opportunities than the 12 terms and phrases I turned up in 10 minutes of quick research.

To that end, I’m asking you to improve this core LinkedIn search string designed to find active job seekers:

(seeking OR seeker OR “looking for” OR “in search of” OR “open to” OR “new job” OR “actively pursuing” OR “pursuing new” OR “searching for” OR “new opportunity” OR “new opportunities” OR “available for”)

If you can think of or dig up additional search terms/phrases that reliably identify people interested in seeking new employment opportunities, please include them in a comment and I will combine them into the single most comprehensive and effective LinkedIn active job seeker search string for everyone to use.

All I ask is that you *please* test your terms/phrases before suggesting them.

:-)

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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.

  • http://twitter.com/Azn_CyberSleuth Jung Kim

    I added “in transition” OR “help me find a job” OR unemployed to the search query below.

    (seeking OR seeker OR “looking for” OR “in search of” OR “open to” OR “new job” OR “actively pursuing” OR “pursuing new” OR “searching for” OR “new opportunity” OR “new opportunities” OR “available for” OR “in transition” OR “help me find a job” OR unemployed)

  • Lisa Jones

    Great post! LinkedIn really should consider a flashing red tick box highlighting active job seekers… I know that there is already a contact setting for career opportunities, but for those that are unemployed, something more obvious and searchable would be really beneficial to seekers and Recruiters
    Thanks Glen (see you at #TruLondon?)

  • Paul Pleus

    Hi Glen. This is a great post! I suggest to add “new challenge” OR “challenge”. The term “new challenge” gives me 18,215 results. “Challenge” alone give me 255,903 results with the risk of additional false positives.

    RegardsPaul
    Pleus ツ
    International Executive Recruiting – IER

    http://www.ier-network.com
     

  • http://twitter.com/recruiterblog Johnny Campbell

    Great post Glen; I’m really glad you mentioned LinkedIn Signal as it there are thousands of people who update that they are job-seekers yet dont modify their profile.
    In terms of LinkedIn having a “job-seeker” button, I suspect that they will begin to collate data on those members who have applied for a position using the new “Apply with LinkedIn” button and then perhaps re-sell that information to Corporate LinkedIn account holders so that they can filter by “Active” job-seekers.  I cannot find detailed T’s &C’s from a job-seeker point of view on what LinkedIn are entitled to do with that data but I suspect there will be some fine print in their that says that they can do what they want with this info!

  • http://twitter.com/StephenTurnock Stephen Turnock

    I was looking at a way to search profiles with a current job
    date ending before today .. e.g. May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 but gave up! Glen
    is the blackebelt here and perhaps can build a good x-ray search. I’m not sure
    why linkedIn doesn’t allow profile users to tag with an availability date or looking
    now flag as recruiters would want to search/filter them first. Certainly
    recruiters in the contact IT marketplace would start with availability and this
    is most likely used back in their static crm.

     

    I know that when I place an actual job add on LinkedIn –
    they come back with a recommendation and list of ‘profile matches supposedly 90%
    + match [for sale]. Mostly they do not match on skills or location and probably
    not even  active jobseekers at all! So at
    least for the profile matches LI tries to sell us,  they might sell a few more if they had an
    availability indicator / definitely looking.

     

    Interesting re Johnny Campbell
    comment on “Apply with LinkedIn” data
    and what will happen to it we will have to see.

     

    Of course, most job seekers, are not advertising the fact
    they are looking if currently employed. But whilst generally about 14% are
    active [and they will be visiting jobboards too], I suspect at the moment many
    of the remaining 85% are on the lookout too given the right opportunity post
    crunch and all that and many of which are not visiting jobboards – so would be
    great to find better indictors from movements and updates and the searches to
    do it. Many passives are getting more active and social however – so not necessarily
    an indicator of looking.. The recruiter has to have some drudgery and work to
    do! Even the false positives are part of the reaching out to others and they will
    be good candidates/connections to add to your network/community for later.  Recruiters will need to be finding, engaging and
    inbound attracting people before they are looking and now and in the future the
    divide between active/not active will become less as everyone becomes a
    potential candidate. In recruitment 3.0 I mean!

  • http://twitter.com/StephenTurnock Stephen Turnock

    I was looking at a way to search profiles with a current job
    date ending before today .. e.g. May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 but gave up! Glen
    is the blackebelt here and perhaps can build a good x-ray search. I’m not sure
    why linkedIn doesn’t allow profile users to tag with an availability date or looking
    now flag as recruiters would want to search/filter them first. Certainly
    recruiters in the contact IT marketplace would start with availability and this
    is most likely used back in their static crm.

     

    I know that when I place an actual job add on LinkedIn –
    they come back with a recommendation and list of ‘profile matches supposedly 90%
    + match [for sale]. Mostly they do not match on skills or location and probably
    not even  active jobseekers at all! So at
    least for the profile matches LI tries to sell us,  they might sell a few more if they had an
    availability indicator / definitely looking.

     

    Interesting re Johnny Campbell
    comment on “Apply with LinkedIn” data
    and what will happen to it we will have to see.

     

    Of course, most job seekers, are not advertising the fact
    they are looking if currently employed. But whilst generally about 14% are
    active [and they will be visiting jobboards too], I suspect at the moment many
    of the remaining 85% are on the lookout too given the right opportunity post
    crunch and all that and many of which are not visiting jobboards – so would be
    great to find better indictors from movements and updates and the searches to
    do it. Many passives are getting more active and social however – so not necessarily
    an indicator of looking.. The recruiter has to have some drudgery and work to
    do! Even the false positives are part of the reaching out to others and they will
    be good candidates/connections to add to your network/community for later.  Recruiters will need to be finding, engaging and
    inbound attracting people before they are looking and now and in the future the
    divide between active/not active will become less as everyone becomes a
    potential candidate. In recruitment 3.0 I mean!

  • Michelle

    A member could group their contacts e.g. colleagues, suppliers, other contacts etc.  Then there are a few alternatives about what each is allowed to see, by adjusting the settings on each.  This will allow job seekers with jobs to block their colleagues (and also some non contacts, blocked by name if possible) from seeing that they are actively seeking new employment.  This would also work for consultants seeking new projects or clients.
    The options for flagging that they are seeking new employment could be a badge or an adjusted profile (with the words seeking new employment or other wording) for each contact type.  A badge might be easier, to allow for filtering, as long as its invisible from selected people.  Also note that the selected people should consist of current members but also potential new members (enter names and get a note when they join to confirm if its them, all the time, keeping them from seeing anything).
    In case its not clear above, blocking people should be be allowed on 2 levels – from within and outside contacts.

  • Michelle

    A member could group their contacts e.g. colleagues, suppliers, other contacts etc.  Then there are a few alternatives about what each is allowed to see, by adjusting the settings on each.  This will allow job seekers with jobs to block their colleagues (and also some non contacts, blocked by name if possible) from seeing that they are actively seeking new employment.  This would also work for consultants seeking new projects or clients.
    The options for flagging that they are seeking new employment could be a badge or an adjusted profile (with the words seeking new employment or other wording) for each contact type.  A badge might be easier, to allow for filtering, as long as its invisible from selected people.  Also note that the selected people should consist of current members but also potential new members (enter names and get a note when they join to confirm if its them, all the time, keeping them from seeing anything).
    In case its not clear above, blocking people should be be allowed on 2 levels – from within and outside contacts.

  • http://twitter.com/ITStrategyLisa Lisa-Mari Jones

    all great stuff – thanks.  Lots of my recruiter clients are very excited by this, but are asking how to remove other recruiters from the search results (as they also have seeking and looking in their profiles… and not all of them put themselves into Staffing and Resourcing sectors.  Is it just a matter of NOT (Recruiting OR Recruitment OR Staffing OR Resourcing)?

  • http://twitter.com/ITStrategyLisa Lisa-Mari Jones

    all great stuff – thanks.  Lots of my recruiter clients are very excited by this, but are asking how to remove other recruiters from the search results (as they also have seeking and looking in their profiles… and not all of them put themselves into Staffing and Resourcing sectors.  Is it just a matter of NOT (Recruiting OR Recruitment OR Staffing OR Resourcing)?

  • http://www.booleanblackbelt.com Glen Cathey

    Lisa,
    Thanks for commenting!

    False positive results of recruiter profiles are always an issue – and your instinct was dead-on. It is as easy as adding something like this to the current and past title field:

    -(recruiter OR recruitment OR staffing OR resourcing OR “executive search”….)

  • Felicia Oglesby

    I tend to be a “skim” reader but this post was worthy of really sitting down and thinking through everything you shared.  Thank you for sharing so much of the “how” so people can improve their searching success!  Time well spent for me today!

  • http://www.booleanblackbelt.com Glen Cathey

    Felicia – thanks for reading and commenting. I really appreciate the feedback! My main goal in writing is to get people to think and to provide real value – I’m glad you found the material helpful!

  • Bruce Bixler

    In the Chicago are “In Transition” and “Volunteer at”has been popular in networking groups.

  • Sean Toms

    Linked in is good for establishing a fit before head hunting and arguably the fact that someone is even on linked in indicates they wish to have a public business face available to view.

    Few candidates other than the unemployed or self employed who understandably may choose to demonstrate they are actively looking would be foolish enough to openly state they were looking for a new role

    Those who are employed if they do then must to oddy naive if they think that their current employers don’t view linked in profiles of their staff to see who seem to be active and looking.

    If you are looking then you either register with recruiters who operate in your sector and / or research and target companies yourself that you aspire to work for.

    Any other way is both lazy & risky.

  • Charles

    Hi. Great article! I’m told that boolean on linkedin won’t return semantic phrases like “in search of” ect. I learned this after trying and failing to search for such phrases. Thoughts or comments?

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