Is LinkedIn Locking Down Public Profiles or Just Having Problems?


Have you noticed anything different about LinkedIn recently – specifically with regard to viewing 3rd degree profiles, searching for headline phrases, searching by first and last name, and using Google and Bing to X-Ray search for public profiles?

I have, and either I am encountering some serious and hopefully temporary errors, or LinkedIn may finally making serious moves to make it very difficult to find public LinkedIn profiles for free.

Let me show you what I’ve discovered so far, and please share back any additional findings, or simply let me know that I am the only one affected.

What Have I Found?

So it started when I was looking through my inbox to accept invitations to connect. I tried to click on a few profiles to learn more about these people before accepting their invites.

Here’s one example:


LinkedIn Problem 1


When I click on her name, I get this message from LinkedIn: “You and this LinkedIn user don’t know anyone in common.”


LinkedIn Problem 2


This is annoying, because if someone is trying to connect to me, shouldn’t I be able to at least look at their profile to determine whether or not I want to connect with them?

So then I tried searching for her by her first and last name.


linkedin problem 3


I found her, but when I try to click on her profile, I get the same “You and this LinkedIn user don’t know anyone in common.”


LinkedIn Problem 2


This is definitely different, because previously, if you searched for someone by their first and last name you could see their full profile even if you weren’t connected to them, presumably because LinkedIn assumed that if you had someone’s full name, you likely knew the person. This was a sound assumption and solid user functionality for non-recruiters going to LinkedIn to search for friends and current/past colleagues. Of course, leave it to sourcers and recruiters to exploit this functionality to the point that it might prompt LinkedIn to change it.

I thought this whole experience was odd, so I decided to do some additional exploration.

Next I performed a simple title search of “recruiter” within LinkedIn (free version) and I filtered the results for “3rd + Everyone Else” – here’s a screenshot of some of the results:


linkedin problem 6


Notice that LinkedIn shows that Elissa is a 3rd degree connection of mine, yet when I click on Elissa’s profile, LinkedIn then claims she is a 1st degree connection (nice bug, yes Irina?).


linkedin problem 7


Also, look what happens when I try to look at someone I share a group with – if I click on this person:


linkedin problem 15


I get the familiar “You and this LinkedIn user don’t know anyone in common,” even though we share a group!


LinkedIn Problem 2


Then I found a 3rd degree connection with whom I also share a group:


linkedin problem 8


So I then went into the group to search for him and I was able to find him, also verifying that I can still send messages to group members who haven’t closed that door.


linkedin problem 9


Then I went back and searched for him by his first name and title and I noticed that LinkedIn now thinks he is out of my network, even though I just found him and LinkedIn claimed he was a 3rd degree connection! Strange!


linkedin problem 16


By the way, if I click on this result, LinkedIn won’t show me his profile.

Next, I decided to see if I could find Zel by searching for his headline phrase on LinkedIn, which worked:


linkedin problem 10


If I am logged into LinkedIn, LinkedIn claims the profile is not found.


linkedin problem 11


When I search for his profile from an Incognito window, I am able to find his profile:


linkedin problem 12


So that worked well when LinkedIn didn’t know who I was on LinkedIn.

However, look what happens when I try that same tactic with Angela’s profile – using her headline phrase as I did with Zel:


linkedin problem 13


That doesn’t work at all.

Could she be someone who customizes her public profile to not show her headline phrase, or perhaps set her public profile content to “basic,” restricting Internet search engines to only her name, industry, location, and number of recommendations?


linkedin problem 14


No – because a simple LinkedIn X-Ray search from an Incognito window for her name and location doesn’t return her profile (the one Angela DuBois that does come up isn’t the right person).

So perhaps she simply chose “Make my public profile visible to no one?”


But as I try to use LinkedIn itself and Google and Bing to find public profiles of random people, I am getting different results than what I used to see, and some of my usual techniques aren’t working as well as they used to, or at all.

I am not sure if LinkedIn is simply suffering from technical difficulties or if LinkedIn is making changes to reduce free people search functionality and utility in order to prompt more people to pay for premium accounts (or if their tinkering for the latter is causing the former!).

Have you noticed any changes to your ability to view 3rd degree profiles inside of LinkedIn and your ability to use Google and Bing to X-Ray search for public profiles or am I alone?


  • I have had the jarring experience of hitting a profile which appeared in a search of groups only to encounter precisely the same locked out of profile viewing message so you’re certainly not the only one on the receiving end. It’s difficult to know what’s going on here, I’ve encountered enough buggy behaviour, too much to go into here, on the platform to allow me to dismiss this, for the time being at least, as a bug.

    On the other hand LinkedIn might well be tinkering with ways to wring out yet more revenue. It’s in the nature of such beasts to do this but it will always be a fine line that they walk. Too far one side and they leave money on the table. Too far the other and they risk pushing the jobs away, or at least a substantial number of people with jobs to fill, which in the long run will lessen the attraction to users who put profiles up in order to be found. LinkedIn is the best show in town but it’s not the only show and if, as a result of Linkedin over “optimising” their site, more people end up receiving opportunities on other platforms, be that Google+ or XING or Twitter or Viadeo, then they might have second thoughts.

  • Glen, I’m seeing a lot of this as well. Not sure if it’s a tech glitch or just experimentation on LinkedIn’s end. It’s been coming and going for me. No consistency or regularity or pattern to it at all… and you know how well we both like/notice that stuff! :)

  • Clear Viz Computer

    It’s happened a few times to me as well. Although, oddly enough, if I retry to view the profile via a different way, (search on a different criteria or name, etc.), it will come to full view. It’s weird. It’s as if LI is offering search service via some “load balancing” scheme among different profile server engines, and the “rules” may be slightly different for each engine. You hit a different engine, you get different results. But it is intermittent.

    Or, perhaps it’s just LI tinkering with the rules and re-publishing them at different intervals. I do notice that a little with the “skin” and some of the features.

  • Two words: Google Plus. More here: Friends Don’t Let Friends Ignore Their Google Plus Profiles

  • Sadly not a glitch, this is along the lines of their continued efforts at fooling recruiters into paying for that which is free by actively blocking public profiles from being seen when you are logged in. All you have to do is log out, then you can see the profiles no problem… even if you log back in. Or… clear your cookies/cache. I have no trouble at all finding profiles. For example, through external (public) search, I see 378 profiles of recruiters in Atlanta with Turner Broadcasting on their profile, compared to only about 150 internally (logged into LinkedIn). Keep in mind I am constantly shifting my search method to adjust for their attempts to block, but it is very easy to keep up with the changes once you know what to look for :)

    And some GREAT news – Bing searches are more useful than ever because now they return a summary of Education and Experience when you hover over a linkedin URL. SWEET! Have you tried that? Looks fabulous.

  • Chuck Stichweh

    Try getting to same profiles with Simple interface and when used in incognito or privacy mode – it works well.

  • Zulfiqar Rizvi

    The same thing I am also facing with my LI account. and also having problem with the boolean search..

  • Don Madsen

    I noticed similar problems – specifically because I use both LI Recruiter package AND personal (free) accounts open all the time (you can’t connect to people via LI Recruiter – even though you are communicating with them).

    Notice 2 big issues – I’ll run a boolean search in Personal (free) to fine-tune and test – when done, I run real search insider Recruiter – and will get different results (at least in order) AND sometimes connections show different – and can’t connect or contact because outside my network but show in group or level 3.

    Also I will copy and paste name / search from Recruiter side (when I find someone and what to connect with them). Run the search in Personal (free) and the person does not exist! Then go back and see they do exist! – but still can’t find to connect.

  • LinkedIn has been having a lot of tech glitches lately. I’ve recently ran into several issues, 2 of which LinkedIn acknowledged as known issues; Company Name Indexing and Contacts Exporting. I think a lot of these issues are bugs, but it may be a combination of them locking the system down as well.

  • Regina Brodersen

    I connected yesterday with an individual and tried to send her a message and got the message from Linkedin that I was no longer allowed to send messages to this contact, when clearly she is in my contacts list…..

  • I will often get different results between LI and LI Recruiter even though the Boolean string is obvious and those people should have shown up on Recruiter side but don’t.

  • Me too. Same thing.

  • Rommel Ambrocio

    I’ve noticed the same thing as well. Any advice on how to go around this problem? Anyone?

  • Leave it to Shally and gang to find a way around the latest LinkedIn changes. Good job, guys!

  • AscentJack

    I have been finding something similar whereby a person will show up in my x-ray search and I can see a full profile, but, should I want to connect, viewing through my network via linkedin I can only see name and title. One way to ensure full profile visibility I’ve found is to run x-ray searches in a separate browser to the one I’m using linkedin in. Chrome also offers ‘incognito’ functionality so you can right click to open in an incognito browser window – also useful.

  • Patrick

    I’m seeing a lot of problems just getting a list of profiles to even show up in my BING searches. It will say 91 results but I only see 2. The next page it will jump to results 18-21; very strange!

  • A.c. Quinn

    LinkedIn is Momentarily Unavailable

    LinkedIn is momentarily unavailable but should return in a few moments.

    We apologize for any inconvenience.

    Please wait a moment, then follow this link to return to the home page. You may need to sign in again.

    This has been like that for 3 hours when you try any search

  • Eric Bebchick

    Hi A.C.
    Same thing happened to me today. What has happened with yours?

  • nDC

    Making a profile private defeats the purpose of LinkedIn. The purpose was to find people you know and connect with them for job prospects. If you lockdown your profile, then a potential acquaintance or a former acquaintance can no longer contact you. This is the reason I no longer use LinkedIn. It defeats the purpose of using the site in the first place. Most people just use it as an online resume by locking it down and a way for narcissist to brag to the people they already now about their jobs. Recruiters are still able to see your profile since they pay for the privilege of looking for locked down profiles. When I had a LinkedIn account with 140 connections, I was getting an average of 40 spam emails per day from Recruiters from India trying to “Hire” me.

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  • Dominic

    Sounds like linkedin needs to start drinking its own Koolaid, and employ some better developers? I mean, with an est. 200 million users and valued at $18 billion, you think they could create an interface that’s worth a sh1t. Can someone tell me if paying for the service gets you a better interface, or tech support, to fix this crap?

  • Yawhnie254

    Thank you.. Unchecked “Headline”