LinkedIn Sourcing With a Free Account

Jan 13, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Do you use LinkedIn for sourcing? Everybody does these days, right? Would you like to be more efficient, reach more relevant people, and do this all for free? Perhaps you are aware of some of the points below, but I hope you will find something new here too.

Join LinkedIn Groups

Suppose one of your areas is, like mine, SAP Consulting. Search for groups using the word SAP in the group search box. The groups will be shown in the order of size. You will find:

SAP Community with almost 15,000 members
SAP Network Global (12,000+) … Active 12,000 members
SAP People Forum almost 8,000 members

Join these groups. The instant benefit is that all of the members are now in your network even if they are beyond the 3-level connection distance.

Search for Group Members and Send Them Messages for Free

There are two ways to search for people in a group. First, there’s a simple search box within the group members tab. You can search for members by keywords. The advantage is that you will see 500 results.

Now notice that you can “send a message” to any of these people using a link under their name in the list of results. If you go to the very last page of the search results, you will likely see people who are connected to you only through the group, yet you can send them a direct message. That is just like sending a LinkedIn “Inmail” but is free.

The second way to search is to use the new advanced people search functionality. You are able to check one or more of your groups on the advanced people search page to target your search at these groups’ members. You can now combine your search with keywords, target title, company, location, etc. If you have a free account you would only see 100 results. (It used to be 500 just recently.) I don’t see it as a big limitation; there are always ways to run a variety of searches to see more results. If you mouse over a person’s profile in the results list you will see the link “send message” for people who are either connected to you or are in your group. If you go to a profile view, you will see the same “send message” link there as well.

Important Notes on the LinkedIn search syntax:

a) LinkedIn search allows you to use Boolean syntax: as an example, in the group search members box you could look for
“SAP FI” AND Consulting NOT Recruiter.

b) However, just like Google, LinkedIn search does not recognize special characters like @. It’s no use to include @ in your search string in order to find email addresses either on Google or on LinkedIn.

c) While Google search would see the symbol * as “a word or a few words” and some databases like Monster would allow to use it as a “wildcard,” LinkedIn search doesn’t recognize the symbol * at all.

Post Discussion Items on Groups

On the majority of LinkedIn groups, the discussion boards have anything and everything. People self-advertise, announce that they are “open networkers,” etc. However, if you post a discussion item about your opportunities there’s a chance you will see some relevant responses.

Or, post an interesting industry-specific question in the hopes that you will hear from experts.

Explore the Company Pages

The company search is located at

Search for the company you are sourcing for. LinkedIn shows a lot of information on a company page. That includes the “career path” that helps identify target companies for your sourcing.

Search within the companies is rather limited, but you could also do a Google X-ray search like this: <keywords> site:
to investigate target companies and look for their employees.

As an example, do a Google search

SAP Consulting site: “San Francisco”

and explore the results.

Use Contact Capture to Parse and Organize Your People Searches

Broadlook Contact Capture is a great tool with many uses, and it’s free. You can download it at

On the “people search” page on LinkedIn, use the “extended” view. Highlight-all on the page and use Contact Capture to capture the results. The tool was not made for pages like this, and you will get some extra “junk” — but this will capture all the first and last names. If you searched for employees of a specific company where you know the email pattern, you can now create an email list for these people.

(Another relevant tool comes from eGrabber. It is not free but is extremely useful for capturing and parsing LinkedIn profiles. Go to the site and look for the “Excel” tool.)

Have Their Email Address? Learn More About the Person

If you have an email address that is likely to belong to someone you’d like to learn more about, there are several ways to do it using LinkedIn.

You can enter it in the “import contacts” page. If the person is on LinkedIn and is not in your network you will get a link to his/her profile. Another way is to use the LinkedIn Outlook toolbar. If you create a contact in Outlook with the email, save it and reopen, you will see a link to the profile. You can download the Outlook toolbar from

Drive Traffic to Your Profile

It is somewhat similar to search engine optimization for websites. Make sure your profile is complete, and it’s clear what your competency is and who you are looking to connect with. Make your profile rich in content; add links and applications such as WordPress if you have a blog. Use relevant keywords in your profile including variations (such as consultant and consulting).

To get more relevant people to find you, post interesting questions and answers in the LinkedIn Q&A section; start LinkedIn groups; use your LinkedIn profile link in your signature in emails, blog posts, Twitter posts, etc. (Here’s mine, by the way:

Being an “open networker” or not is, of course, a personal preference. I think though that with 30+ million of people on LinkedIn, it’s a good idea not to limit yourself to networking with a just few people whom you closely know, but allow yourself to see and be seen by a larger community.

I hope you liked what you read. I’d also like to invite you all to join our “Boolean Strings” group on LinkedIn. It’s a great community of people and you will have a chance to learn a lot and to share your web sourcing knowledge.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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