Beyond Networking - Using LinkedIn for Research
By Parmelee Eastman
LinkedIn is one of the premier online networking sites for professionals. But LinkedIn is also a great research resource.
Use LinkedIn to find:
- People in targeted organizations or with special expertise
- Potential employers
- Information that you can use in your job hunt
The search feature allows you to search for people, companies, and answers, as well as jobs, events, and groups.
LinkedIn defines your network as your direct links, their direct links, and the links' links. You'll see the linkage designation next to the person's name:
(or similar icon) Direct Link: You know someone at company
Their Direct Links: Your connection(s) know someone at company
Their Links' Links: Your connections' connections know someone at the company
Obviously you can search for an old friend or business acquaintance by name, but you can also search for possible contacts using the advanced search features.
Click on the Advanced button to the right of the Search button and enter characteristics such as geography, title, industry, company, school, and keywords to find individuals meeting certain criteria. For example, I searched on "Aviation" and received 110,980 records. When I limited the search to within 50 miles of my zip code, LinkedIn produced 1,906 potential contacts. Adding job title "pilot" to the search cut the results down to 61.
Like most social media sites, LinkedIn is multi-tiered with significant value available free, but with other features accessible to paying subscribers. With a free account, called personal on LinkedIn, you can see only 100 search results. With the top level account, called Pro, you can see 700 entries at one time. Of course, often 700 is still a small percentage of the total LinkedIn data base.
You can focus your search using the "Sort" and "View" options. LinkedIn allows you to search by:
- Relevance: based on your network and the keywords that you entered (default setting).
- Relationship: Results are listed by First degree, then Second degree relationships. Third degree and out of network entries are mixed after First and Second.
- Relationship and recommendations: Adds the number of recommendations to the relationship criteria.
- Keyword: Sorted solely on the keywords that you entered
Each entry shows a picture, name and shared connections (for your network contacts), job title, and location. The expanded view adds current and past experiences.
If the person is out of your network, you can see only limited information. If you can not see all the information in a profile, take the basic information from the LinkedIn entry and try a Google search. Google will often find additional information on the person.
Users with free accounts can save up to three people searches which will be automatically repeated with results sent to you as often as you like.
LinkedIn includes a short summary of each company which is very useful for small, private organizations. I recently completed a project on a firm with less than one hundred employees. Of all the secondary sources that I checked, LinkedIn had the headcount number closest to the actual which we learned from an employee doing primary research.
Another feature that is very useful in finding other firms in a selected industry is the ability to find related companies. When you search for a company, LinkedIn will suggest related industries; click on one and a list of companies is returned with headquarters location and number of employees
You can also search for people by searching for a company. Using a local bank, State Street Bank, as an example, LinkedIn returned the short profile and a list of people in my network that work at the bank. In this case, none of the individuals were direct links, but the connecting link and degree are included with each name so I could contact the direct link and ask for an introduction.
Scroll down and look at the section "Viewers of this profile also viewed…" Many of the people listed also work at State Street Bank. Click on those names and find more names. While it is best to network through a contact at a prospective employer, if you do not know anyone in your targeted area, you may be able to find one through this process.
Typing in a question in the search box from your home page will result in any question or answer which contains one of the words; most will not be specific enough. Use the advanced search features.
LinkedIn has an increditable data base of professionals. Add these tools to your job hunting tool box to find new contacts for networking and one of them may be the key to your next position. For more details on how to search, scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the LinkedIn Learning Center and click on search on the list of topics on the left.
Use LinkedIn to find new contacts at targeted organizations, smaller companies that could be potential employers, and information that might be useful in your job hunt. With free accounts, access to potential contacts is limited to100 entries per people search so use the advanced search features to focus on the people you really want to reach. The advanced features allow you to set criteria such as location, job title, industry, etc. to narrow the results. The larger your direct network, the more likely those 100 entries are to be contacts of your contacts which means LinkedIn will reveal additional information on them. So combining networking and research on LinkedIn benefits you in both areas.
Find smaller firms in your targeted industry by checking out LinkedIn's industry listings. The Answers to questions posted by LinkedIn users may contain information useful for your job hunt.
About this author...
Parmelee Eastman is president of EastSight Consulting which helps provide more effective utilization of external information in internal decision-making processes. EastSight Consulting clients range from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Prior to founding EastSight, Parmelee was the vice president of the global technology and communications practice at Fuld & Company and employed for 16 years at Digital Equipment Corporation. Parmelee holds a B.A. from Wellesley College and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School. She can be reached at email@example.com.