LinkedIn Plans Demystified For Recruiters

Gabi Preston-Phypers
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LinkedIn absolutely adore upselling but how often do you truly feel that you have been sold the best product for you? Often feel like you never really understand the different plan options? Well we are here to help. Sit back and get ready to learn everything you need to know about LinkedIn and its various magical plans, from the perspective of a sourcer.

With over 875 million people on LinkedIn it is an obvious place for recruiters to go hunting for talent but the challenge they face immediately is determining which LinkedIn plan truly suits their sourcing needs.

Sadly many of the LinkedIn sales team / customer success team are solely focused on upselling you to the highest package but provide little to no clarity on the true differences in the bundles and how that works in conjunction with your sourcing approach.

Today the game changes.

By the end of this article I am NOT going to tell you which plan you should buy, that is your choice, but what I am going to do is guide you through what I believe to be the top 9 features to take into consideration when determining which plan best suits your sourcing needs.

WARNING: As you read each section, you may get over excited about some of the numbers you see but do not make any knee jerk reactions until you get all the way to the end as there are twists and turns all the way along the story.

Recruiters, let's dance!

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When you walk onto LinkedIn you assume that you will have full access to view the entire network, this is not the case. With no real surprise, this is driven by the plan you sit on. The table below breaks down how far into the network you can see.

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*According to their website but have some clients using it and the results are debatable, so if you look at this plan, get them to evidence the results.

There are two plans there that show “full network” access and funnily enough they are at either extreme of the plan options. I would encourage you to consider this, if you are focused on building a network on LinkedIn of only people you truly want to play with in the sand pit then your 3rd degree connections are going to get closer and closer. Therefore it might be arguable that up to 3rd degree connections, with a few unlocks is sufficient. Do not jump to corporate until you truly assess you need for “full network”.

“But hold on Gabi, full network is also available on LinkedIn Account + Premium.” Take a deep breath and keep reading, there is a huge twist to this story.

When you run a search, in any version of LinkedIn, the platform will show you the number of people that match your search criterion. Example below highlighted in yellow.

NOTE: LinkedIn has just introduced that on the basic plans you can no longer connect with more than 10 people a month.

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The number highlighted in yellow is widely misleading because although this search had 23,000,000 matches across the entire network, on LinkedIn Premium (where I ran this search) I am only allowed to see 1,000 results (10 results per page, 100 pages).

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Sneaky right?! As with everything with LinkedIn, things are not always what they seem.

Check out the table below to see what this looks like on other plans, I think the numbers will surprise you.

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*According to LinkedIn but cannot confirm

OK so you have read those numbers and probably instantly jumped to the assumption that you should go for Sales Navigator or Corporate so you can get more search results.

Let's take a deep breath.

Yes there are 23,000,000 results in the example above but it doesn’t mean that we actually want to view all 23 million profiles.  Chances are your search is too vague and needs refining… lots of refining.  This is where the wonderful topic of search functionality comes in, which happens to be our next section - woo hoo!

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This section is focused on how LinkedIn enables you to search through its database in order to find who you are looking for… that dream candidate or dream client if you will.

Lets jump straight into the numbers and see what we are playing with.

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* On people filter. ** The main keyword search bar has been temperamental in recent weeks so be careful. *** It is possible to add more than 15 operators in the company field yet LinkedIn returns no official error. We have also noticed that there are discrepancies in the results after the 15 operators used. For example, some test searches displayed no additional results after the 15 operators. When we then ran the same search in Recruiter, there were more visible results that were not showing in Sales Nav. **** These are unofficial limitations that we have discovered whilst testing

Let's start the filter dance.

What is the difference between the plans? You asked for it, so here goes. Below grid outlines the key differences from a filter perspective for each account type.

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* note, there is an extra field to allow for Boolean searching on this category ** Sales Navigator Advanced up *** In account section

When it comes to assessing which filters are critical for your business, this comes down to how you search for candidates and therefore your need/reliance on each filter. But in my view, filters should be used as sprinkle dust over the top of a clean Boolean search. Which leads me nicely onto my favourite topic, Boolean!

Which fields accept Boolean based on each plan?

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Not that many right? But when you use Boolean correctly in one or more of these fields, the real magic starts to happen.

The table above gives the impression that every plan can be leveraged by Boolean (which they can to an extent), but remember section 3 above.  LinkedIn Basic, only allows 5 operators in the keyword field.  Pretty useless for a super Boolean user.  Again Sales Nav, limits the user to 15 operators. Uh-OH!

You know by now that I am a Boolean addict so any platform that we choose to work with needs to help us leverage the power of Boolean and sprinkle a dusting of filters on top but not the other way round.  Recruiter Lite / Recruiter / Corporate all provide the same level of Boolean functionality.  We can run combined Job Title, Company & Keyword searches with 100s/1000s of operators and in some cases searches that contain more than 10,000 characters.  Powerful stuff.

Let's say that I am limited to running searches on LinkedIn Basic / Premium. In summary, 1,000 search result cap, commercial usage limit of 300 searches a month, 18 filters and only 5 operators to use.  There is a valid argument here that I could run better searches of LinkedIn’s network, outside of LinkedIn. Yes, that’s correct.  We could leverage X-Ray search techniques on public search engines like Google/Bing to run more detailed / accurate searches of LinkedIn’s public network. How?  By applying this technique you can leverage more Boolean operators providing your search fits within a 32 word limit. The main drawback of X-Ray searching LinkedIn is that although you can run more detailed searches than LinkedIn Basic / Premium, you still have to run 10s / 100s / 1000s searches vs. what you can achieve in Sales Nav / Recruiter / Corporate. Not experienced in X-Ray search, drop me a note and we can help pad out your knowledge.

If you are “stuck” with a LinkedIn Basic / Premium account and prefer to stay within the platform to search, this is absolutely OK.  You would just need to ensure that you are executing smart searches. With search results limitations, you need to be able to make tweaks to your search in order to ensure that those names showing up in your first search are no longer included. This is very difficult to achieve.  I would recommend building a library of Boolean strings and putting a methodological process in place to work your way through each one (this is our area of specialisation so shout if you need some guidance, we have a strategy that works).

As a rule of thumb. if a platform allows you to use Boolean then use it and sprinkle filters on top if necessary.  

Note: there is no fail safe way of ensuring you remove all previous search results until you hit the recruiter plan, check out the next section.

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OK, so we have spoken about the irritating reality that when you run a search on some of the LinkedIn plans you are not only restricted in the number of results you see but will struggle to actually remove profiles from the search that you have already seen. Well, this problem vanishes when you get to Sales Navigator Advanced and up… although the approach's are slightly different.

Sales Navigator plus, enables you to integrate with your CRM (note this is predominantly sales focused CRMs) in order to cross reference whether a profile you are seeing already exists within your CRM. A lot of CRMs offer a chrome extension now so you can see similar information but please be careful as if the chrome extension changes the look of the LinkedIn page / UI (in any way), then you are in breach of your LinkedIn contract and they can block your account (yes the sad information I know thanks to running a tech company).

The fun does not stop there, Recruiter + Corporate have a feature that enables you to do what we call “clean sourcing”. This is a technique that allows you to run multiple searches within a LinkedIn project that will automatically remove any profiles from the search results that you have already “assessed” for this specific project. For this to work, you need to:

  1. Leverage the “Save” & “Hide” buttons when assessing profiles.
  2. Follow this process:

* Create a new project for each job assignment

* Go to the “Project” field, type the name of the open project and select it

* Click the “Exclude” / “No Entry” button on the project name

* You’re ready to leverage “clean sourcing”

This approach is a gamechanger, whether you are a solo recruiter OR working in a squad on a shared job assignment.  You will completely remove duplicated sourcing efforts when searching LinkedIn’s network. This means I can run multiple searches for a particular project and NEVER see the same candidate pop-up again and think… “I am sure I reviewed you, but will take a look just in case”.  This super power gives you undeniable sourcing efficiency and is rarely/never explained by your LinkedIn Account Manager.

If you choose to get a recruiter or corporate profile, this is a technique you should be embedding as part of your search process from day 1.

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Back in the day InMails were a hot technique for engaging candidates and therefore the number of InMails you got with your LinkedIn plan was a serious part of the negotiation. However, we are now in a world where recruiters use a combination of approaches, most commonly including InMails & direct emails to engage candidates (some even pick up the phone but that's a whole different post).

The numbers below outline the number of InMails you get included in each plan, the max you can accumulate per account and the ability to pool InMail’s between accounts/colleagues.

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Pooling of InMails may be a new concept for many, as it’s an offering restricted to accounts that are set-up as teams. This means that if one person in a squad hardly uses InMails then their allocation can be given/shared to other team members who may be heavier users.

Did you also know that every time you have an InMail acceptance/response, you get that credit back? This opens up another fun game, of sending the most creative messages to get the best response rates which also rejuvenates your InMail credits for further use rather than constantly having your hand in your pocket to buy more.

Some of you maybe saying "yes that is nice Gabi but InMail's don't work". From my experience this is largely dependent on the relevance of the message and whether you are the 1st person to message or 100th! This comes squarely back to how you hunt. Quick, accurate, deep and clean hunts will see you hit relevant candidates first and thus improve your odds of engagement whether it be via InMail, email or even phone. But that is a separate article for another day.

Side note: Sales Navigator Advanced has a cool feature called SmartLink. This feature enables you to create power links that can quickly share with prospects on LinkedIn. You can track who opened them and how the prospect interacted with the document, including how long they spent on each page. This could really add a twist to your messages you send.

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Plans such as Recruiter and Corporate enable you to invite colleagues (who must also hold a Recruiter / Corporate account) to your project so you can work on a role / search together. If you combine this with the “clean sourcing” technique in section 4, you can have multiple recruiters working on the same role but they won’t be wasting time assessing candidate profiles that have already been assessed (saved/hidden) by a colleague within the same project.

Sales Navigator Advanced has taken a slightly different approach to this as the offering on this plan is more focused around sales (I wonder what gave that away). They have a feature called “TeamLinks”. This enables you to identify if anyone in your sales team is connected with a prospect. If you upgrade to Sales Navigator Advanced plus, then this feature will identify if anyone in the company is connected with the individuals and not just the sales team. By identifying this, you can potentially move to getting a warm introduction.

Some of you may be sitting there reading the collaboration section thinking “yes but it is just me right now”. But think forward, what if you gain resourcing support as the business grows?!  It would be powerful to have somebody join your search and carry on from where you left off. Something worth considering.

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Business owners this one's for you. Yes you may have contracts in place that state the business owns the LinkedIn profile if an employee leaves but which of these plans is truly set-up to enable ease of data transfer? Check this table out to see who actually owns the data.

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Obviously this does not change the power of the contracts you have in place however it does make transitioning accounts to new employees more challenging, until you hit Recruiter or Corporate plans. With these plans, if an employee leaves, you simply transfer the seat to a new employee and the projects, searches, messages, shortlisted candidates etc remain the property of the business.

As headcount fluctuates, the business intellectual property / communication to candidates can be transferred between new/existing team members.

Depending on how important it is for a seamless transition between old and new employees on a hunt, will depend on how much weight you put on this particular feature.

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How often do you run a candidate search and wish you could get a notification if/when someone new matched that search criterion? This would make life so much easier. With certain LinkedIn plans, you have the functionality to receive those all important candidate alerts. Check out the table below.

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Note: Sales Navigator has alerts on individuals who change jobs or companies, but does not offer candidate alerts based on a specific search project e.g. moved to “open to work”.

To have new matching candidates sent to me automatically when someone updates their profile / creates a new profile… well… Do I need to add more?!

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I have purposefully left pricing until the end for one very good reason, when people see pricing they start trying to force their sourcing strategy into a bucket to make the price work. When we choose a solution only based on cost, rather than correct features, we run the risk of inaccurately assessing the technology stack and that will have significant consequences on your search.

Remember all the features you have mapped out as critical for you process, now check out the pricing plan below?

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Remember, these figures are based on March 2023 numbers and may fluctuate depending on your negotiation skills, number of seats and ultimate the mood of the sale rep you talk to!

Having seen the pricing structure changed your mind about the plan you wanted or did you do what we did and stick to your guns based on the features you need as a business?

Honestly this topic sometimes makes me chuckle.  We see recruiters literally throwing money at new “AI” tech stacks and automated solutions that find emails, automate communication, “personalise” messages etc.  In some cases, they are happy to pay similar prices to that of a Recruiter licence, if not more. BUT when it comes to actually paying the little blue devil recruiters lean back and resist with all their might to pay them a penny.

Some of that resistance is because the sales team have not articulated clearly the key strengths / limitations of each plan vs. your candidate sourcing strategy, therefore it feels like they are pulling you up to the highest price point because they can. You feel out of control, I get it! But go back through this article, look at the features highlighted and then sit back and assign a weighting of importance to your sourcing strategy. Then select a plan. One that makes you perform to your highest potential.

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Wow, what a journey!

We have covered the 9 core areas that we recommend recruiting teams consider when reviewing the LinkedIn plan options.

Remember, LinkedIn is arguably the largest professional network in the world and if you can fully optimise the use of the data it presents to you, then it will completely transform your sourcing strategy from hunt to communication and see you become the ultimate hunters out there.

Which plan do you need to become the ultimate hunters? The one that marries up best with your sourcing strategy. Grab this article and read it again. Map out what hunting techniques are used by your organisation now (and techniques that you may want to use in the future), review each section of this article piece by piece and assess suitability from there. Then and only then, do you end up with the right plan for YOU!

Now… at the start of this article, I told a small porky pie!

I said that I would NOT give an opinion on plan preference vs. sourcing strategy but for those that know me, holding back my opinion is like trying to contain a tube of mentos in a bottle of coke.

Until next time, happy hunting team!

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Gabi Preston-Phypers

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