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How to search through your LinkedIn network for free?

While a lot of recruiters have been quite negative about some of the changes introduced by LinkedIn, it’s still their number one source of candidates (or at the very least their favourite place to hang out online). The truth is, it’s still a great product for those who know how to use it well and if you bother to track your sourcing activities, I bet you’ll find that a Premium or Recruiter license is still a pretty good deal. I recently asked my Facebook friends what they like about the new LinkedIn and they came up with quite a list 🙂

The main thing that bothered me was the feeling that I lost control of my own network. I used tags and notes a lot so I could organise contacts and when that function was removed, I admit I wasn’t too happy about it. I could no longer search through my network without limits and even if that wasn’t the case, I didn’t even know how to look for some of my connections (e.g. people I met at a particular event).

I found a solution quite easily. After all, your network is YOUR network, so you can use whatever tool you find is best to keep track of it. In my case, LinkedIn isn’t necessarily the best tool, partly because some of the people that form it don’t have LinkedIn profiles at all. So I decided to use a different tool and I wrote a blog about it in Polish, thinking it’s something recruiters in Poland may not realise how to do. Then yesterday I realised that was a little silly, there’s plenty of English speaking recruiters who could use this too and so I decided it makes sense to write it in English too.

Before we begin, a special thank you to Billy McDiarmid since I wasn’t entirely sure how to clean up the Excel file and it took him an entire minute to walk me through this process – if you’re not following him on LinkedIn or Twitter, I’d certainly recommend you change that today 🙂

The steps to being able to search through your LinkedIn network for free are simple but, just in case you need some more help, I’ll walk you through them step by step. All of this should take up to 15 minutes:

  1. Create a Hello Talent account
  2. Export your LinkedIn contacts to Excel
  3. Upload your LinkedIn contacts to Hello Talent

Voila, that’s all you really need! Not only will you be able to search through your connections without using up your commercial search limit (for those of you that can’t justify paying for a Premium or Recruiter licence), Hello Talent will also allow you to use tags and notes just like you used to be able to with LinkedIn before.


Create a Hello Talent account

Hello Talent is an amazing tool that you can use for free, but the premium version comes with some cool functions so check it out once you’ve had a chance to get used to the tool itself. You want to visit Hello Talent and sign up for free. There’s a big green button there you can’t miss and you can quickly sign up with your LinkedIn or Facebook account.

Once you created an account, you’ll want to add your first talent pool. You can call it “My LinkedIn Network” or anything else you’d like, really. You won’t necessarily be sharing this one with others (that’s an option available in Hello Talent too – just in case you ever need it!)


Export your LinkedIn network

This one is a tiny bit more complicated, it would seem. I’ve prepared some visual aids 😉

Step 1. From your main LinkedIn screen select the “my network” tab:



Step 2. On the left you’ll see the number of all of your connections and the option to see all of them. Click on “see all”:


Step 3. You’ll get to a new screen where, on the right, you’ll find the option to “Manage synced and important contacts”. Click on that (you may have to wait a second as it takes time to load):


Step 4. On the right side, you’ll see the familiar box with the number of all of your connections, and underneath it some advanced actions – one of them is to export your contacts, chose that one:


Step 5. You can now download your data. You have two options – for the purposes of what we’re doing, all you need is the fast file. Download it, and you’re all set! 🙂


Upload your LinkedIn contacts to Hello Talent

The downloaded data will come in form of several Excel spreadsheets. Choose the one called “Contacts” – it should look similar to this one:

Select the first column and in the “data” tab, chose “text to columns”. This will allow you to prepare the file so you can import it to Hello Talent.

You may want to add an additional column for status (you can manage statuses in the Hello Talent pool). Otherwise your contacts will end up with a grey label for No Status – but if that’s fine with you, you can leave the file as is.

The only catch is, before the file is ready for import, you need to make sure it doesn’t exceed 499 rows of contact information. If it does, simply copy some of your connections to other file (or files, depending on the size of your network) and save all of them for importing to Hello Talent.

Now log into your Hello Talent account again and go into your talent pool. On the right side of the name of the talent pool, you’ll see a button allowing you to manage the settings. You’ll then get to this screen:



Once you’re ready, I recommend you go through all of these options to see how you can make the most out of the tool. For now, however, you want to go to “Import / Export”. Once you click on that option, you’ll be guided through the rest of the process 🙂

Simply chose the file you want to import (and if there’s more, remember you’ll have to repeat this as many times as it takes to upload all of your connections).

That’s it. You’re ready. You can now search through your LinkedIn network for free. If you’re anything like me, you’ll also appreciate the option to add tags and notes so you don’t forget how you met people in the first place… 😉


If you liked this idea and are looking for some more sourcing tips and tricks that will help make your recruitment process more efficient without compromising your employer brand, get in touch. This is exactly what I help companies with 🙂

Kasia Borowicz
Kasia Borowicz
Social Recruiting geek turned trainer; Recruitment Open Community manager; blogger. I enjoy coffee, reading and yes, recruitment :)


  1. Adam says:

    Hey Kasia,

    Two questions.

    1) I tried to export my connections and got a link sent to me via email. I then clicked to download and it did nothing. Nada. Niente. Rien. You?
    2) If you can export to Excel why wouldn’t you just search them in Excel?


    • Kasia says:

      Hi Adam, thanks for your comment 🙂 to answer your questions:
      1) I haven’t seen that issue before and I often guide people through this in training. I’d suggest trying to get in touch with LinkedIn as I’m sure they’d be able to help 🙂
      2) You can obviously search through the Excel file. However, if you use Hello Talent you can:
      a. add new people to your network quickly with their Chrome extension (and from any online profile too, not just LinkedIn)
      b. use additional features such as tags, notes, job profiles and dates (none of it impossible elsewhere, but all just much more convenient here)
      c. share your talent pool with others if need be, so if you have a new person joining your team and you want them to be able to check if you already have a relationship with someone, that’s really easy to do
      d. in some countries you might need to delete data after a while because of data protection – you can keep track of people who allow you to continue to store their profiles and delete other profiles easily
      None of this is impossible with other tools, I just found that using Hello Talent helped me save a lot of time so I thought I’d share with others 🙂

  2. Ivan says:

    I am guessing the new “Export” of your LinkedIn data as opposed to the old CSV with your contacts broke all that import to Hello Talent functionality (unfortunately!!!).

    There is someone making a Chrome extension that takes you LinkedIn contacts data and they seem to be planning to enable you to push it back to your CRM via Zioper. The link is below, but again, not my tool and I have no clue if the publisher is to be trusted! 🙂


    • Kasia says:

      Hi Ivan 🙂 actually I don’t think it did… just tried it again and it still works fine (at least for me). But I’ll have a look to see what that link is all about, thanks for sharing 🙂

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