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IT recruitment

How To Find Software Developers Using LinkedIn

IT recruitment

According to the Manpower Group Talent Shortage 2020 report, IT skills are the sixth most sought-after skills on the market. LinkedIn is the go-to place for sourcing software developers for the majority of recruiters, so it’s a very crowded and competitive space. The higher the demand for top tech talent, the more efficient you need to be with your sourcing. In this post, we explain how to source software developers from LinkedIn.
In order to
maximize the potential of a very limited talent pool, you need to get the most data from LinkedIn, be creative, and make the most out of the tools available to you. It takes a certain amount of experience to work out an effective pattern – here’s how to become a LinkedIn sourcing superstar.

Table of Contents

Recruiting with LinkedIn

Let’s start with the basics, shall we? You can look for people with a given skill or join groups on the subject (which I also wholeheartedly recommend).

Source: LinkedIn Talent Solutions

Here are the results you get when you run a simple location-specific search for people who specialize in Java. To narrow down your results, you can use the LinkedIn search filtering menu located below the search bar:

Linked in Selection

Source: LinkedIn Talent Solutions

You can choose from the “Industry” menu:

  • Computer Games,
  • Information Technology and Services,
  • Internet,
  • Staffing and Recruiting,
  • Program Development.

Another way is to search via current and past companies (you can add any company to the list):

linkedin companies filter

The “Company” option also allows you to prioritize organizations with the largest talent pools and focus your employee branding effort on their current and past employees. The same goes for schools and universities, but you shouldn’t be too attached to the requirement of a formal degree, as 27.4% of developers are entirely self-taught, with another 37.7% admitting to participating online courses or other non-formal initiatives on top of their formal education.

Using job-specific keywords further increases your chance of finding the right person. Nowadays and other automation software allow recruiters to automate their talent hunt and make it much more targeted and effective. However, remember that early in the process you should try to be inclusive. If you’re not, you’ll most likely miss some gems. How so? In 2018 UK-based recruitment agency Robert Half conducted research among over 300 hiring managers. They have found that tick-box recruitment leaves British companies understaffed, with over 62% of companies still prioritizing ideal skills alignment and experience over candidate potential. Widening your LinkedIn search and including candidates who lack one or more skills from your job listing can make a huge difference for your talent pool size. Remember that you’re operating in a crowded and limited talent pool, where everyone is trying to source software developers from.

The problem with the basic one to two keyword search on LinkedIn is that the results you retrieve are identical to those of your competitors – read on to find out how to get some more unique ones. But before we get to that, it’s time to talk about talent pools.

Talent pool size

Without a doubt, data is a strategic asset in talent acquisition. However, if your recruiters lack the tools or strategies of deriving insights on the market and talent pool they are recruiting from, their hiring efforts might go in vain.

Here’s where data-driven recruitment comes into play. How can this approach help you assess the talent pool size? Let’s see how many people mention “java” in their LinkedIn profiles in your area:

Linked in talent source

Source: LinkedIn Talent Solutions

Once you’ve narrowed down your search to, say, the United States, you can also play with the filters and search options, i.e., by adding more requirements through running a “java ruby” search in the same area. Remember that when you add keywords in a string, LinkedIn reads it as if there’s an “AND” operator in between.

Erik Putkonen talks about getting talent pool insights from LinkedIn in this post and he says that by adding every requirement from the list “instead of just saying that there were too many requirements or that few would meet these requirements, I was able to show what the numbers were” for each of the requirement. You can see exactly which of the requirements shrinks your talent pool most and decide if you can alter or omit any of them.

Here are the results of an iterative search Putkonen completed:

iterative search step by step

Source: Recruiting Blogs

Iterative search

Like I mentioned, the problem of the basic one or two keyword search is that you find people who everyone else finds. Because they are from the top of the pile and people usually go from top to bottom, these people are frequently contacted by recruiters, and to put it mildly, they are most likely not in love with the idea of recruiter outreach.

How to find someone who’s not receiving tens of messages a day?

Meet Glen Cathey of Boolean Black Belt who rightly argues that as so many recruiters use LinkedIn at work, you need to get competitive advantage over them. One of the ways to do so is to improve your searching skills so you access what Cathey calls “LinkedIn’s Dark Matter”, or undiscovered profiles. To do so, you need to think (and search) creatively – this Ruby LinkedIn sourcing challenge is a great place to see what Cathey means by creative developer sourcing. Cathey argues that Dark Matter results constitute “at least 50% of the each source searched”, so there’s a lot at play here.

Glen Cathey believes you should run multiple searches (he calls that process “iterative search”) to get optimal results. Here’s his recipe:

  1. “Start with maximum qualifications,
  2. Use the NOT operator to systematically filter through mutually exclusive result sets,
  3. End with minimum qualifications.”

So, as Cathey advises, you should specify:

– Required qualifications: A,B, C,

– Explicitly desired qualifications: D, E,

– Implicitly desired qualifications: F.

Here’s how you go from maximum to minimum qualifications:

linkedin search query

Source: Boolean Black Belt

And here’s the discrepancy between maximum and minimum results you could be getting:

Discrepancy between minimum and maximum search

Source: Boolean Black Belt

It’s probably even bigger, as some LinkedIn users don’t mention certain terms on purpose. They do it to avoid getting found by recruiters. Example? There are people who are experts in Java who never use the word “Java” in their LinkedIn profile because they don’t want to be found so easily. They want to be accessed only by cream of the crop recruiters who know how to search out of the box.

A great idea Cathey gives in his presentation is that you can run a search to find “software engineers or developers or programmers who have that as their current title but they don’t mention any primary programming language”. These people don’t show up in the standard “java ruby” searches most tech recruiters rely on and as a consequence are less frequently contacted.

Let me show you a practical example of how you can access less frequently retrieved results. If you’re looking for cloud experts, you can just search “cloud” in your area, but you’re only accessing top of the pile candidates again. However, if you work on your iterative search, you’re getting competitive advantage over your colleagues. You don’t need to specialize in the discipline – Cathey mentions he uses Google to confirm or deny the relationship of the terms with the skill he’s looking for, because most times he doesn’t specialize in it himself.

iterative search linkedin

Source: YouTube

It’s hands-down one of the best tips I’ve ever heard on sourcing devs.

You can also use the following field commands inside LinkedIn:






Caution: These commands need to be written in lowercase and the Boolean operators AND OR NOT must be written in uppercase. To keep up with the syntax changes, I highly recommend searching for instructions coming directly from the career platform. For instance, here is the official LinkedIn Business resource on Boolean searches which I urge you to read.

Another amazing point on the importance of polishing your search skills is made by Irina Shamaeva of Boolean Strings blog. Check out these discrepancies between returned results – as you can see, LinkedIn algorithm is puzzling and research is key when you’re searching:

word order search linkedin

Source: Boolean Strings

Both Cathey and Shamaeva are great experts and I strongly recommend following them to learn how to retrieve top results and think creatively when it comes to sourcing.

Commercial use limit

There’s a commercial use limit on free LinkedIn accounts when you browse LinkedIn for the purpose of hiring, prospecting or scraping.While the platform doesn’t disclose the specific number in it’s official resources, in late-2019 Vista Today published a piece which reported that LinkedIn started sending out warnings to users when they were nearing the limit of 300 searches per month. According to LinkedIn Help resources “this limit is calculated based on your search activity since the first of the calendar month.” Data security limit on profile views may also prevent you from temporarily viewing profiles of members you’re not connected with.

Here are the data security limit parameters officially listed by LinkedIn:

  • Search frequency,
  • Viewing suggested profiles,
  • Non-name searches,
  • Mobile searches,
  • Searches outside your network
  • Other factors.

In one of their help resources, LinkedIn also explains that they use certain activities to detect whether people are using their platform for recruitment or lead generation purposes:

“Here are some examples of what might be considered as habits for recruiting or generating leads:
1. Viewing lots of profiles that are not 1st-degree connections
2. Searching for companies and employees of a specific company
3. Searching outside of your network (3rd-degree people searches)”.

You should also know that things have also become more difficult as far as profile searches from outside of LinkedIn are concerned. There is now a limit, as Social Talent pointed out in August 2016.

commercial limit linkedin

Source: Social Talent

LinkedIn has now blocked X-ray searching via browsers and is encouraging people to use premium products like LinkedIn Recruiter instead. Interestingly, LinkedIn doesn’t publish the exact number searches allowed (people claim it’s around 50 for most free users). With the Premium subscriptions profile views are unlimited.

Here are the activities that don’t count towards the data security limit:

  1. Searching profiles by name from within LinkedIn (through the search box),
  2. Browsing 1st-degree contacts using the connections page,
  3. Going through jobs on the jobs page.

While a lot of tech recruiters rely on the free version while they work, others use LinkedIn Recruiter Lite which comes at $119.99/MO. I’d definitely recommend checking it out because you get 30 InMails to engage with top talent and I think that’s by far the best feature. If you’re not sending these messages on a regular basis, I think you’re fine with the free version if you know how to work around the commercial limit.  You can do that by viewing profiles while logged out or in incognito mode (check the comments of this post for more details), and X-ray LinkedIn on Google.

Location & willingness to relocate

According to the Manpower Group 2020 Talent Shortage Survey, global talent shortage is at record high, equalling to 54%. The US, Sweden, Finland, Hungary and Slovenia are at the top of the list.

manpower talent shortage explorer tool

Source: ManpowerGroup

As the degree of talent shortage varies between countries, it’s worth getting into talent pool analytics of your region for the positions you’re typically hiring for. You can create a talent density map to see where the people you’re looking for are based:

talent density map

Source: NeoRecruiter

Another idea is to use LinkedIn search filters to specify the location you’re interested in. This comes in handy when you’re looking for software developers from your area or an area you would like to open an office in.

An example from the software development industry – a few years ago, Qualcomm needed to recruit research software engineers in the very competitive San Diego area. Following some in-depth talent pool analytics, they’ve found that Sydney, Australia offered an abundance of people with the skillset they were looking for. They eventually built an office there with the aim to house most of their research software engineers.

Another great location tip is to promote your employer branding communication in the location where the talent you need to grow is abundant. This way, they are familiar with your brand long before you even reach out for the first time.

You can also look for developers who may be willing to relocate, as described by Andrew Stetsenko, Founder of This strategy is still not utilized by many tech recruiters, so you have a chance of finding “the one”.

One way is to run a simple search in LinkedIn like this one: “Java relocate” or “Java relocation”. The results you get this way are scarce but there’s a chance these people might be very open to discussion – they most likely need a change in their life. Some of them even specify the area of their interest in their description.

Source software developers from LinkedIn with InMail

Although top tech talent is now more visible than ever, it’s simultaneously getting harder to get these people to talk to you. How to start a conversation with InMail?

LinkedIn Talent Solutions came up with the 9 golden rules of InMail to help you get things moving in the right direction.

  1. Review candidate profile. Let them know what caught your attention  – it’s flattering, plus it shows you’ve done your job.
  2. Grab attention. One way of doing that is to mention mutual connections, it often works wonders.
  3. Show you are selective. Tell people what makes them interesting to you and compliment them (don’t be cheesy though).
  4. Be conversational and brief. Write like a person and don’t just paste the job description in your message. People enjoy talking to other people – remember to stay human despite the iterative nature of InMail. You’re not a robot and let your messages show that.
  5. Listen. Ask people about their goals and respond to whatever clues you get from them. Relocation? More responsibilities? What’s the one thing that could make their life better? Identify their needs and see if you can help fulfill them.
  6. Focus on goals. Tell people what’s in it for them, otherwise you seem self-centered and desperate to fill an open position.
  7. Leverage content. Devs like data – use whitepapers, reports and other resources to illustrate your point.
  8. Be patient. Use status updates  as a gentle reminder to stay in the mind of the candidate throughout the process.
  9. Add a call to action. Invite to discuss the subject, don’t give a yes/no option to apply right away.

Since we’re talking InMail, I’d like to throw in a couple of personal recommendations here:

  1.  Understand what developers find interesting in a position so you know what you should focus on when you first talk to them. According to Stack Overflow research 51.3 % of software engineers believe that the tech stack they’ll work with is the most important part of the new position, while 44.5% say that it’s company culture and office environment that matter to them most. Use that knowledge when you reach out.

Source: Stack Overflow

  1. Build a strong talent brand – people who engage with it are “2x more likely to accept your InMail”. Finally, don’t disregard company connections because they are “1.5x more likely to accept your InMail”.

Finding new candidates with content

LinkedIn Talent Solutions recommends using Status Updates to show thought leadership and expertise to your candidates, present you as a strategic partner and expand your reach. They also advise using Sponsored Content to raise brand awareness and get new leads.

You can use Sponsored Content to estimate what your target audience find interesting because they are data-rich. For instance, you can use LinkedIn Dynamic Ads and Sponsored Updates to track the engagement rates on specific ads and see which topics/technology resonate the most among prospective hires.

linkedin sponsored updates

Source: The Modern Recruiter’s Guide by LinkedIn

Your own profile & careers page

Effective LinkedIn sourcing starts with an impeccable personal profile. According to LinkedIn resource “The Modern Recruiter’s Guide“, here’s what a good recruiter profile looks like:

anatomy of linkedin recruiter profile

Source: The Modern Recruiter’s Guide by LinkedIn

When it comes to recruitment, a lot of emphasis is placed on having a bold headline. Here’s a handful of inspiration from LinkedIn:

recruiter headlines linkedin

Source: The Modern Recruiter’s Guide by LinkedIn


There are a couple of ways to locate LinkedIn groups, but the easiest one is to run a simple search with the keyword of your interest and click “Groups”. I searched for “Python” and clicked  “Groups” in the upper menu:

When you find the group, you click “Ask to join” and wait to be accepted.

The best group tip is to “convert highly connected group-only connections to 1st degree connections” but be careful. Recruiters often abuse LinkedIn Groups so make sure you’re not one of these people developers actually hate.


Because Slideshare is a part of LinkedIn, each CV uploaded to LinkedIn is automatically uploaded to SlideShare, unless you tick a box saying “Don’t upload to SlideShare”. However, since LinkedIn now allows people to generate and download CVs based on their profiles within seconds, you should not expect candidates to invest their time into updating the CVs they might have uploaded to SlideShare in the past.


Sourcing from LinkedIn can give you high hopes, but the number of returned InMails is often disappointing. Remember to use iterative search, think creatively and access Dark Matter results to source software developers from LinkedIn, otherwise you risk landing on the pile of unwanted developer outreach. Identifying “bottom of the pile candidates” is critical to finding the right developer. As you can see, some of the ideas I’ve suggested in this post may bring you scarce results, but these are the searches many of the recruiters are forgetting to complete, so these results are actually quite promising. The best thing you can do when you want to improve your sourcing skills is to follow great minds like Irina Shamaeva and Glen Cathey – their inquisitiveness and creativity really makes the life of tech recruiters much easier and more effective. Finally, make sure you also choose your tools and sourcing extensions well so that your process is optimized.

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