We’ve all experienced it before. We’re conducting a search on our LinkedIn profile, trawling through the results and we come across a profile that has the perfect background but alas, their profile has been set to private. The only clues left about their real identity are their ‘job title’ and ‘company’. Now I know what you’re thinking, there are plenty of ways to social engineer the information from a gatekeeper, colleague or even ex-colleague. Yes I agree that it is possible to source the information through the phone based on this initial research, but this is an ethical grey area because of the duplicity involved. Fortunately there are much simpler methods to reverse engineer this information; one of which is just a few clicks from the ‘private profile’ page…
Take for example we’re looking for a “Engineering Engineer” working within a consultancy based in Sydney or Melbourne. There are 2 main ways of to reverse engineer a private profile on LinkedIn from your search results:
- Similar profiles
- Search Engine
The first is simple enough. You’ve probably used this tool hundreds of time to look for people with a similar background to the profile you have open, it’s located at the bottom right of all profiles called: ‘Viewers of this profile also viewed…’
How does this help? Well, if you think of it this way: If people who clicked on your profile always clicked on my profile as well, then it would make sense that the reverse was also true, i.e. people who click on my profile, will also tend to click on your profile as well. What’s more is that LinkedIn has a glitch which presents private profiles as full profiles under this section – all you have to do is match the ‘job title’ and ‘employer’. So, clicking on each of the profiles under ‘Viewers of this profile also viewed…’ may display the hidden profile you’re actually looking for under the same section. To be honest, the success rate of this using method is relatively low.
The second method has a much higher success rate however it’s a little more complicated but nonetheless pretty simple by relying on a search engine and simple Boolean search strings. Going back to our example, we only know this person’s ‘job title’ (Engineering Engineer) and ‘employer’ (Engineering SOS). What I like to do is select and copy this section of the private profile (though any unique experience will work as well):
Then I go to my trusty search engine and use a simple boolean search string – ‘site:linkedin.com’ (this string can be used for Google, Yahoo or Bing) followed by the copied text (making sure I place them within inverted commas [” “]):
site:linkedin.com “Engineering Engineer at Engineering SOS”
Nine out of ten times, your hidden profile will be revealed in the search result but if you’re looking for a more common job title within a larger organisation (e.g. web developer, project manager, senior engineer, etc) then you might need to sift through the results a little more. Also, it is important that if you don’t find the results with your favourite search engine, try a different one!