How to Use LinkedIn to Source Top Candidates

Professional holding cellphone with LinkedIn app on the screen and laptop open with the LinkedIn website open in the background

LinkedIn is the social network of a recruiter’s dreams, used by some 660 million professionals in 200 countries. Built specifically for the purpose of networking, it’s where people go to update their virtual resume, look for jobs, and develop beneficial professional relationships.

But despite its many advantages, LinkedIn has one big downside when it comes to sourcing candidates: it’s crowded. The wrong move can quickly take a good candidate from interested to irritated. In this article, we’ll explain how to source on LinkedIn for recruiting—the right way—and some common missteps to avoid if you want to make the best impression on prospective talent.

Why Should You Use LinkedIn to Find Candidates

When candidates are looking for a new job (or just thinking about looking for a new job), LinkedIn is where they go to find information. 75% of people who recently switched jobs used the platform during their decision-making process.

LinkedIn is one of the top recruiting channels for the quality and retention of resulting hires. The platform says new employees sourced on its network are 40% less likely to leave the company within the first six months than candidates sourced via other channels.

LinkedIn sourcing makes sense for hiring managers and recruiters because of the platform’s very nature: its core purpose is to enable users to make professional connections. Users are in a different mindset when they log onto LinkedIn than when they open other social media apps, like Instagram. They’re primed and open to conversations about their career.

LinkedIn Sourcing Tips and Techniques

So how can you effectively use LinkedIn recruiting to drive top candidates to your open positions? Follow these recommendations.

1. Focus on your company page

Before you do anything else, ensure your LinkedIn company page is up to snuff. Company pages are different from personal profiles in a few key ways. First, company profiles have followers rather than connections. Your followers are more than just a vanity metric; they’re actually highly indicative of whether a candidate will engage with you.

A LinkedIn member who is following your company is 95% more likely to accept your InMail message and 81% more likely to respond to it than a member who is not your follower. Hence, it pays to focus on growing an authentic following.

Secondly, a company page allows you to create offshoots, known as showcase pages, that are dedicated to specific products, services, or achievements. This is useful for helping visitors understand what you’re all about. Giving each business unit its dedicated space is helpful for large companies with many different brands or divisions under one roof.

Finally, and most importantly, company pages allow you to post your open positions, which helps interested candidates find them. You can add a job description, requirements, and desired qualifications just as you would in a standard job listing.

Ensure your company page is 100% filled out and reflects your brand with your logo and current imagery. Post regularly so that your page looks fresh and up to date when prospective candidates land on it. Encourage your employees to post and share their work experiences and accomplishments to help boost visibility.

2. Understand the roles’ objectives

When posting open positions on LinkedIn, it’s important to utilize the most relevant keywords. Make sure that the job description is clear. Candidates searching LinkedIn will be served with roles and positions that match their experience and previous work history. Keywords are essential in how the algorithm makes suggestions to them.

LinkedIn typically uses two to three lines to describe the overall role and the objectives. It’s concise, so it’s important to ensure that the person writing the description clearly understands the type of candidate you’re looking for and exactly what the job entails. 

Many job seekers scroll quickly through the job descriptions looking for the bullet points that fit their searches. Use those bullet points to pitch some of the most exciting things about your business that stand out. Really utilize the space you have and make sure to highlight the most important objectives. 

3. Enable applying via LinkedIn

The next step is to enable applications via LinkedIn Jobs. This will allow candidates to submit for your open positions without ever leaving the platform. You can enable LinkedIn applications when you’re posting an open position. During the posting process, you’ll be asked whether you want to direct applicants to an external site (like your careers page) to apply or to allow them to apply on LinkedIn.

Enabling in-platform applications allows you to track and manage applications, communicate with candidates via messaging, and track the effectiveness of the channel as a recruiting medium. You also have the option to add a promotion budget to your job listings to help them reach more prospective candidates.

Related: Maximize Your Job Board Recruiting With These Strategies

4. Use LinkedIn when candidates are online

Effective LinkedIn sourcing is part of using the platform at the right time. Believe it or not, the time of day you send InMail messages determines how likely you are to get a response.

LinkedIn recommends sending InMail between 9 and 10 a.m. on weekdays for best results. This makes sense because most people spend the first hour of their morning checking notifications, responding to emails, and getting up to speed for the day. Avoid sourcing candidates on weekends if you can help it. Despite being a less busy time, LinkedIn says InMail messages sent on Saturdays are 16% less likely to get a response.

5. Be strategic with your Boolean searches

A Boolean search uses words like “and” and “or” to narrow down your options further and search for more specific things online. Sometimes a search can return thousands of matches, and it becomes overwhelming to sort through everything. When you are searching for candidates, try including more than one ideal candidate quality in your search field. 

Advanced search options will return fewer candidates, but you’ll have more matches to exactly what you’re looking for. It will improve the quality of your return over the quantity. Use location-based search terms to find someone in a specific area. Switching the descriptive words and swapping them for synonyms is also good because people may use different terms meaning the same thing. Hashtags are another helpful search feature. When you’re posting about job openings, make sure to utilize relevant hashtags. 

Misspellings are common on LinkedIn as well. Consider ways that your search terms may be commonly misspelled and see if you get a new batch of potential candidates. People are a little less careful about their LinkedIn profiles than they might be with a resume, so it’s possible that they haven’t done a thorough spell check and might be a perfect fit for your organization.

A “similar profiles” feature will allow you to find people with many of the same skills but might not have shown up in your original search. The key is finding new ways to search for potential candidates on LinkedIn. 

6. Don’t just look at the top searches – try starting from the bottom

Many competing companies will utilize the same search terms when searching for candidates on LinkedIn. Instead of starting at the top, skip a few pages into the search and start looking at candidates that are not close to the top. The odds are that other companies will already reach out to those at the top, but hundreds of profiles likely match your search terms.

Start at the bottom of the page and work your way up, looking at the matches. You’ll have less competition if you work on the leads further down the list. Profiles that show up on page 15 are less likely to be found by other competitors but likely still just as qualified.

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7. Don’t send generic messages, and use InMail wisely

This is the biggest LinkedIn recruiting blunder staffing professionals tend to make, sending impersonal, uninvited messages to a mass audience. It’s more than just a faux pas; LinkedIn has cracked down on InMail spammers in recent years, and doing this can get you blocked from messaging or even kicked off the platform.

Personalized messages are always a good thing -in recruiting and beyond. In marketing, for example, personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates than generic ones. Regarding consumer behavior, 59% of shoppers say that personalization influences their buying decision. LinkedIn has even noted the positive impact of personalization, pointing out that recruiters who reference a former employer in common when messaging a candidate are 27% more likely to get a response.

Crafting personal messages takes more time than sending a generic blast, but it pays off in the form of more interested, responsive prospects. So, how should you personalize your messages to candidates?

Reference a specific reason their profile caught your eye. You might cite their current job duties or previous experience that’s relevant to the role you’re looking to fill.

Reference connections you have in common or other candidates you’ve successfully placed from their company. If you have a mutual connection, this is a huge leg up, and even better if you can enlist that shared connection to make the introduction for you.

Reference information that you learned outside of LinkedIn. For example, you might comment on a recent blog they wrote for their company website or cite an article that featured their work. All of this shows you’ve done your homework and are connecting for a legitimate reason, not just to add one more resume to your stack.

8. Join relevant groups and participate in them

As a recruiter or staffing professional, this is where your personal account will come in handy. While a company page has many benefits, you’re currently limited to posting on your own company’s page when using a company profile. Your personal LinkedIn account lets you interact in groups and connect directly with other users. Group participation pays off; you’re 21% more likely to get a response from a candidate when you send an InMail to someone who shares a group with you.

To use groups for LinkedIn sourcing, approach it in an organic way. Join groups that are a natural fit, like those dedicated to job searching, networking, and continuing education within your industry. You might join groups specific to your city, like one for marketers in New York City. You can also look for groups dedicated to the specific role you’re looking to fill, like one for network engineers or CPAs.

After joining groups—and this part is crucial—interact within them. Don’t just pop in only when you have a new opening. Make it a point to stop by regularly and contribute to the discussion. It’s a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your job market. Some groups even have dedicated threads where recruiters can post job openings.

9. Don’t judge candidates based on their LinkedIn profiles

LinkedIn is an incredibly helpful tool for job seekers and companies looking to hire, but it’s not viewed equally by each user. Some people have very basic profiles set up and never return to add content over the years. If you find someone that is intriguing based on some of the information on their LinkedIn profile, don’t assume that you’re seeing their entire resume listed.

If you use LinkedIn as just one tool in your recruitment efforts, you’ll be introduced to many potential candidates, and each will have different levels of engagement with LinkedIn. Avoid judging candidates on their profiles and use the site to reach out and start a conversation. Let them know about open positions and encourage them to apply. You might be surprised by their actual resumes and their performance in an interview. People may put more work into their resume than they do in updating their LinkedIn profile, especially if they are not actively seeking new employment and opportunities. If you like something that you see, reach out and start the process.

Related: Effective Methods of Recruitment and Selection for Hiring Top Talent

10. Consider a LinkedIn Recruiter account

Consider investing in a LinkedIn Recruiter account if you recruit for many roles. Several different Recruiter account tiers vary based on how many people are on your team.

With a Recruiter account, you can access up to 1,000 candidates with each search compared to the 100 results you’ll get in a regular search. You also have the ability to save search results.

Whereas a personal account limits the amount of profile information you can see if you don’t share a connection with a candidate, a Recruiter account allows you to see the full profile of every candidate. You can also send more InMail messages and track and analyze their performance.

Open New Recruiting Channels With 4 Corner Resources

Are you relying on the same handful of recruiting channels every time you have a new opening? Are you frustrated by the quality (or lack thereof) of candidates entering your hiring funnel? It’s time for a new approach.

The team of staffing professionals at 4 Corner Resources can help you maximize the effectiveness of your existing recruiting channels and find creative new ones to reach more candidates. We’ll help you cut through the noise and reach the best talent in your field, including those elusive passive candidates.

To get started, contact us to speak with one of our hiring experts today.


Why is it important to source candidates on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn was developed as a professional networking site. It’s a place where people come searching for opportunities and to connect with others in similar industries or job titles. Forty million people use LinkedIn weekly to search for jobs, so it has a great reach.

How can I help boost our company page on LinkedIn?

Use LinkedIn to share company events and accomplishments, highlight your current employees, and post job openings. Consistent posting will help more people see your company’s content. Encourage your employees to share on their personal LinkedIn pages as well.

What are the best ways to search for potential candidates on LinkedIn?

Utilize Boolean searches when sourcing candidates on LinkedIn and switch up the keywords you’re searching for. Don’t take the first page of search results. Start at the bottom and work towards the beginning to reach candidates that other companies aren’t competing over. 

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn