How to get around the lack of surnames on LinkedIn

Not that long ago, LinkedIn made a key change to the way it displays information about your third-level connections. Historically, your third-levellers were an open book – you could see their full profile, but now, you are no longer able to see your third-level connections’ surname, unless you’re willing to pay for an upgraded account (and not just any upgraded account, but a full “Executive” account at $99.95 (roughly £65) per month, no less). If you’re not prepared to do this, all you’ll get is the rather frustrating first Name/initial combination when looking at third-level connections.

LinkedIn: no more surnames

Now, this might seem like it’s pretty unimportant, but to a job-seeker looking to use LinkedIn for investigative purposes (particularly for a job-seeker using it to identify potential new employers and make pro-active approaches), it’s a pretty big thing. In fact, it’s a change which seriously restricts LinkedIn’s use as a people search tool to people with free accounts.

There is, however, a way around it – and here we’ll show you how.

Most (we don’t know what the percentages are, perhaps someone will come along and tell us) LinkedIn users have a public profile. Here, for instance, is our friend Ronald Rover’s. A public profile does what it says on the tin: it publically displays an individuals’ profile. It’s not necessarily a full profile, but it will include that person’s full name, employer and job title. So, if you’ve identified someone you want to speak to/connect with/network with but can’t see their surname, you need to go and find their public profile.


Here is Piers’s profile, as it appears in a search. Piers is only a third-level connection to us, so we can’t see his surname. We don’t know Piers, so we can’t invite him to our network “safely” (i.e. without running the risk of being “IDK’d“) and we don’t want to go through the time-consuming process of getting introduced because we’re a job-seeker and we’re in a time-sensitive situation. What we want is to send them a note directly, as part of an invitation to connect, or to send them an e-mail/letter/fax/whatever (or phone them up) outside of LinkedIn. To do either of these things, we need an e-mail address. To get an e-mail address we need a surname.

To find Piers’s public profile, we have two options. First, we could just Google some of the key details from his profile – a search for “Piers Idealpeople” may well bring up his profile. This works for some people, but not all – particularly if the person you’re looking at is called Mark or Sarah and works for a company with lots of Marks and Sarahs all doing the same or similar jobs. (In fact, in this case it does work – the first result is Piers’s public profile, complete with surname).

In the instances where that doesn’t work, try this.

1. Go to bing.com
For some reason, this works better on Bing than other search engines. We don’t know why, it just does…

2 Identify two or three keywords from the person’s profile.
In this instance, we’ll use “Piers”, “Idealpeople”, “China”

3 Search for site:linkedin.com {your keywords here} -dir -jobs
In this instance, that’s site:linkedin.com piers idealpeople china -dir – jobs

And, hey presto – the results:

There you have it – a full name. This works every time, provided that the individual in question has a public profile (all new members do by default but they can turn it off, so some people really are “invisible”). This type of search is known as an “X-ray” search, and you can find out more about it at the excellent Boolean Black Belt.

Now all you need is to find out is an e-mail address and making contact is easy. For a fool-proof way of doing that, you’ll have to come over and participate in one of our upcoming job-seeking webinars, or stick around for a bit longer and see if we decide to blog about it.

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