Sourcing Candidates – Do’s And Don’ts

woman searching - looking

By Marcus Twyman


So, you’re sitting at your desk, trying to login to LinkedIn Recruiter and for some reason you’re unsuccessful. What’s going on? A coworker walks by, noticing your anxiety-ridden plea that you keep issuing to your computer screen to let you have access, and says, “Didn’t you see the email from talent acquisition? We’re not using LinkedIn Recruiter anymore.”

What? Not using LinkedIn Recruiter? Has the world gone mad? As your coworker saunters away, you’re left feeling dazed and confused. All of your saved projects, searches, and starred candidates are in LinkedIn Recruiter. Now what are you going to do?

Ok, so that scenario is a little dramatic, but if you’re a sourcer, or a recruiter who also sources, then I bet you have a little knotted ball still sitting in the pit of your stomach after envisioning that scenario.

It’s unfortunate, but the recruiting industry as a whole has systematically made itself dependent on LinkedIn’s paid platform levels to find talent. Gone are the days when a sourcer would create an organizational chart of a target company to then fill in with names and source candidates from. Cold calling? Is that when you stand outside in the winter to make a call from your cell phone?

It’s easy to poke fun at what sourcers and recruiters don’t do in the current talent marketplace, but ultimately, it is the talent acquisition departments within each corporation that have weaned us off of actual sourcing and onto a reliance on LinkedIn’s product offerings.

So how does someone find a solution to a scenario like the one described earlier? How do we prevent the loss of data that’s been scraped and collected by our talent teams? Well, the answer is multifaceted. It would involve the use of a proprietary CRM or database (or a spreadsheet at worst) and more focus on old school recruiting and sourcing practices. I’ll highlight some best practices that I always push across to the teams that I train and support that surround LinkedIn usage. These tips are designed to allow sourcers to still leverage LinkedIn for locating candidates but also facilitates the use of outside tools and the inherent skills that each source possesses.


Save Your Searches

One major issue with saving your searches within LinkedIn is that should you lose your license, you’ll most likely have to start from scratch in order to rebuild the searches that are commonly used by your sourcing team. This means a major loss in time and productivity, which ultimately affects revenue and ROI. Maybe you don’t pay attention to that, but someone in the upper echelons does, so we want to make sure that when a repeated search comes through that we can act very quickly to locate candidates.

A suggestion that every sourcer should live by is to save your searches externally. What that means is somewhere on your computer (or on a cloud storage account preferably) there should be basic Boolean and x-ray strings for all successful searches that you’ve run in the past.

Example of saved x-ray strings:

example string 1

example strings 2

I have an ongoing document that has probably close to 1000 separate searches for LinkedIn and Indeed. When I have a new search I just open my document hit Ctrl+F and then modify any highlighted strings to fit my current search parameters. Once I have a newly modified string that returns good results, I save it to the list for the next time that I need a similar search run.

Even with a free LinkedIn account you can use these strings to find talent through Google. You may not be able to InMail any of the candidates, but you can get around that as well.

find a profile that you want to locate contact info for and highlight the candidate’s name and copy it.


Now start constructing a Boolean string.

“Marcus Twyman” AND


Go back to the profile and take note of the location. Now add that to the string as well but use a tilde, aka ~, in front of the location name. This means that we could get results with similar or synonymous words in them. New York City may come back as NYC or just NY. Hopefully this will help to limit any loss of results due to imperfect location matches.

“Marcus Twyman” AND ~“new York city”


Now add “phone” to the string and some Boolean wildcards around the @ symbol so that Google searches for an email address.

“Marcus Twyman” AND ~“new York city” AND “phone” OR “*@*.com”


Here are a few results that the string was able to pull from across the web.

Untitled 1

All of the results above have accurate contact info in them. You may come across multiple listings with conflicting information in them but it is your job as a sourcer to play detective and track down information by using what you already know about each candidate. Where do they live? What titles have they had? What companies have they worked for? All of these questions allow us to attempt to construct an accurate profile of those candidates that we want to engage with. You’ll get some right and some wrong, but you’ll get better and better at finding information the more that you practice this type of sourcing.


You can also source LinkedIn with an X-ray string designed to find contact details such as phone numbers and email accounts. Construct your x-ray string as usual and then add in components to tell Google to only locate profiles that display this data.

Example String:

(( ( OR AND -dir) AND (“tax analyst” OR (“tax manager” OR “senior tax manager”))) AND (“*” OR “*” OR “*” OR * OR “*@*.com”) AND (“Washington D.C. Metro Area” OR “DC” OR Alexandria OR Bethesda OR arlington) -networking -recruiter


Here are some results from using the string on Google.


Another way to use LinkedIn is through a custom search engine or “CSE”. This is helpful if you are not comfortable building out your own x-ray strings. You can find a CSE designed for x-ray searching LinkedIn below.

Custom Search Engine: LinkedIn X-ray Search

So to recap, don’t save all of your projects and candidate profiles within LinkedIn Recruiter or you could lose all of your hard work. Do use x-ray and Boolean searches to find highly targeted candidate profiles and to locate contact information for those candidates across the web.

Adhering to these guidelines will make searching LinkedIn for talent more productive and result in both present -state and future-state successes.

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