What is the Commercial Use Limit on LinkedIn Search?

It is early January so you may not yet have noticed any change to LinkedIn, but in the background there have been several key changes implemented for 2015. Two of these changes are very significant for recruiters and have the potential to force those that are currently getting by with the LinkedIn Basic account to upgrade to Premium.

The primary reason recruiters tell me that they don’t upgrade their LinkedIn account is that they get most of the functionality they need from a Basic account and therefore see little benefit in paying for the service (on the whole I tend to agree with this sentiment). These latest LinkedIn changes are in my view primarily LinkedIn’s latest attempt at addressing this well-known product sales issue. They are changing one of the most important Premium account features (although some, including me would argue its value is fast fading) and at the same time limiting key LinkedIn Basic functionality.

The Changes


At the start of January LinkedIn launched a changed InMail structure, providing premium accounts with more InMails and also adjusting how users are credited for non-responsive InMails. This change is largely positive, in-short instead of being credited for InMails that don’t get a response (around 70-80%) you are now credited for the InMails that do get a response (normally 20-30%). LinkedIn is trying to get users to focus on better quality InMails, by rewarding us for success instead of failure. The negative impact is that primarily due to a lack of LinkedIn user engagement and platform over use, it is very hard to achieve an average InMail response rate of 80%. Therefore this change will also result in less available InMails for all Premium Account holders. This may force users to either upgrade to a higher level plan or purchase separate InMail packages. For those that wish to know more about the InMail changes Glen Cathey goes into much more detail here.

Commercial Use Limit on Searches

The second significant change has been rolled out slightly covertly, under the announcement that any user is now able to see the full names of 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections. This headline change won’t affect most experienced recruiters, because it was previously very easy to get around this restriction with X-ray search and through an even easier method that didn’t involve leaving LinkedIn. It is the second paragraph of this announcement that has however got the potential to really disrupt the hordes of recruiters who still rely on LinkedIn Basic.

Right or Wrong

The key here with the above statement is what LinkedIn hasn’t said, which is what this search limit is and how it is measured. If it is 60 searches a month (as has been suggested) then most recruiters will be forced to operate differently and I would suggest LinkedIn will cop a lot of stick from both recruiters and users from other industries. If it’s 300+ then I think the majority of us will agree that, providing the pricing remains fair (see below), we should probably be operating from a Premium account.

This is because LinkedIn Premium has become like any other sourcing tool, all of which we have to pay for (Office 365, ATS / CMS systems, job boards and resume databases). The biggest challenges for LinkedIn are that recruiters are used to having full system functionality free of charge and these charges are being implemented even though results in general are declining.


What is the Commercial Use Limit?

LinkedIn hasn’t announced what the commercial search limit is. I suspect this is dueto the actual limit varying depending on the user search patterns and history. It is also possible that the limit may even vary depending on the specific user profile. For example those of us who are identified as belonging to the Staffing & Recruiting industry could have less searches available than those who are in Performing Arts.   

In the spirit of knowledge, I spent some time trying to hit the commercial search limit (on a colleague’s free account). The 30% of searches remaining alert is displayed when you only have 30% of your monthly searches remaining. We conducted 800 unique searches without hitting this limit, although at 600 the account was restricted for 24 hours due to an unusually high volume of daily searches, but full search functionality was reinstated the next day.

The next test tried was to run a search and click a user profile from the results (which is a significantly longer process!). We managed to get to 81 before we reached the same excessive daily search restriction, but we still didn’t hit the 30% alert.  

Whilst we will keep this test going, my conclusion from our current results is that most recruiters who use LinkedIn as part of their sourcing solution will not be affected by this change. In case this proves incorrect, below we have included the current cost of upgrading and also several methods you could use to bypass this restriction.

If you experience different results with the search limit, please share them in the comments below.


For those of you that aren’t familiar with LinkedIn’s pricing structure here is what it will cost you if you do overrun the commercial use limit and decide to upgrade.

The cheapest plan would be the Job Seeker package at $29.99, however it is unclear if this has unlimited searches. Please let me know if anyone has tried this out? The cheapest package LinkedIn promotes as not having a search limit is Business Plus, which is $59.99 a month. This is more than double the price it was this time last year (my Business Plus costs $24.94 USD a month) but at the annual discounted cost of $575.88 I suspect this is still affordable for most commercial users. If you need advanced filters, 20 more InMails (you may well need these now!) and the recruiter designed platform then Recruiter Lite is $119.95 a month or pay annually and it is $1,278.56.

Alternative Solutions

  1. This solution is the easiest way around the commercial use limit, but will make even the most basic search quite laborious. View the profile of the person lowest on your visible list and then once on their profile use the Next Profile button to move through the remaining search list (thanks to Trevor Smith for this one).
  2. By officially opening up full name visibility of all third degree connections, LinkedIn has somewhat reduced the value of having a large network. Although it remains important to have a reasonable number of connections, once an account reaches around 200 contacts it is probable that most local relevant connections will be within 3 degrees of connectivity and therefore visible. This means that it is now far easier to use a secondary account that doesn't have many connections. This solution is for the real system dodgers, I would be very wary about the amount of effort you are having to put in to avoid a comparatively minor cost. 
  3. The third way around this change is to X-ray search LinkedIn from Google or Bing. X-ray still works, you can run as many searches as you wish and see up to 1000 results.


I’m sure everyone knows what X-ray search is, if you don’t check out this article from Shane Bowen, our desk side cheat sheet or use our Google Customised Searches below (no need to enter any site codes, just input your search string):

If using X-ray remember to take into consideration that only 88% of user profiles show up in X-ray search and the results are never as accurate as searching directly from the LinkedIn Advanced Search tab.

For those of you who are using X-ray search as a solution my advice is to enjoy it whilst it lasts. LinkedIn are obviously tightening access to their system. There are an increasing number of rumours circulating that they will soon shut off access to public profiles. The counter argument is that LinkedIn needs public profiles to exist in order to continue getting traffic to the site, so how and if they will tighten this access point is somewhat unknown.


This turned into a long article, if you have made it this far, kudos to you, I hope you found it helpful. My thoughts are that the majority of the recruiters who are heavy platform users will take the not so subtle hint and move to a Premium plan. I’m hopeful LinkedIn will also soon find a happy medium between revenue generation and product functionality, so they can begin to invest their energy into developments that improve or at least maintain user engagement levels.  

As always it would be great to hear your thoughts, particularly if you experience different results from the new LinkedIn search commercial use limit.

UPDATE - Check out the update on these LinkedIn changes in our second blog post

About The Author

Chris has worked in the recruitment industry for 8 years, where he has been fortunate enough to spend considerable time getting to know the inner workings of three different recruitment sectors construction, technology and energy.

Most recently whilst recruiting high end technical professionals for the oil and gas industry in Houston, Chris was exposed to one of the most challenging labour markets in the world. The sourcing solutions he learnt to apply were far ahead of those that he had been exposed to back home, so he decided to return to New Zealand and share these insights with the local recruitment marketplace.

Now at Prominence Chris focuses on working with both agencies and employers to up-skill recruiters on social recruiting and also to advise on social employment branding. Through Prominence Chris also volunteers at tertiary education facilities to provide real world advice to students and career counsellors on how best to utilise social media for job search purposes.

Chris can be found on Twitter @findsouth

A note from the RecruitingBlogs.com Team:

Our LinkedIn CSE search tool is also an option for getting around these new restrictions. 

Get The LinkedIn Search Engine Here

Views: 10699

Comment by Matt Charney on January 12, 2015 at 9:58am

This is an awesome post, Chris, and it's never too long when it's great information. Thanks for taking the time to break this down for all of us; appreciate your insights and expertise. Keep the good stuff coming!

Comment by Chris South on January 12, 2015 at 2:45pm

Thanks Matt, glad it was useful. Happy New Year to you. 

Comment by Bert Shimabukuro on January 13, 2015 at 4:30pm

Chris, Thank you for researching this. It was only a matter of time for LinkedIn to start looking for higher revenue streams.  I've told more than a few LinkedIn sales people that I wouldn't upgrade beyond my personal plus account because I knew I could still reach out to candidates. I didn't need their inmails or greater search capacity. I've hit 80% of my search limit this month and I'm only an HR guy who is only a casual recruiter. I'll have to upgrade to business plus.  Worth the money.

Comment by Chris South on January 14, 2015 at 5:47pm

Thanks for your input Bert, interesting you have already hit 80%. I like you attitude, once it made sense to pay, you are prepared to do so. Hopefully the cost doesn't grow disproportionately to the benefit! 

Comment by Reb Blanchard on January 23, 2015 at 12:17pm

Hi Chris,

Outstanding review with excellent details and context. Very much appreciate the effort. Totally agree, LI needs to concentrate on user involvement and the revenue stream will be a river. Com'on LI, team up with Starbucks or somebody to give rewards to candidates that respond or are active. never underestimate the motivating power of a good latte:)

Comment by Chris South on January 23, 2015 at 5:44pm

Thanks Reb, bribery could be a great solution, I've yet to hear a recruiter turn down an offer of a free coffee....

Comment by KellyStaffingExpert on February 27, 2015 at 12:00pm

Excellent article Chris!  As an individual recruiting consultant this really impacts me as I personally will have to pay for the premium service. I was wondering how long it was going to take Linkedin to start charging the individual recruiters to pay for the service as we are now very dependent on using Linkedin to source candidates.  I reached my commercial limit my first week into the month. I using the x-ray searches on Google as a go-around but I much rather just do my search on Linkedin and work from there. I'm desperately searching for other means to source candidates that won't cost me $. I'll have to raise my consulting rates to pay for Linkedin. 


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