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A LinkedIn user asked “Why can’t I search for C++?”, and after I answered the question on the LinkedIn Q&A section, I figured that my readers might like the answer as well…

Special characters

The LinkedIn system has rules about searching just like every other search site – but doesn’t publish a reference guide explaining what they are…

One of the basics of a search is that you’ve got to give some characters a special meaning. On google, not only does the system load meaning onto certain characters, it eliminates common words from search activity.

Star / asterix / “*” – is often a “wildcard”, matching anything.

Quotes are used to keep words together.

Case is ignored.

Plus is used (by google) to require a word – check the Google Guide to Searching here.

So the search portion of the system never even sees these special characters as they are stripped out.

While I can’t comment on how LinkedIn treats every special character in a search, I have discovered that searches with and without a plus sign have the same results – so I can say that the plus is ignored.

Searching for a single letter

LinkedIn does not allow one to search for a single letter of the alphabet – it just bounces the request. (I’m not sure why, though it is possible that the results are simply too large for the system to handle)

So when you combine that behavior with the plus sign, you can see that LinkedIn treats a search for C++ as a search for C – and disallows it.

Padding the search

But here’s where you can re-arrange things – I’ll give you a work around;-)

Don’t search for a single letter like C, search for “programmer” and then also add a “C” to the end of the search.

In my network, I find 418 individuals that live near my zip code with “programmer” as a keyword. When I add the C and make “programmer C”, the results drop to 68, and I have narrowed the field as expected.

(So while it isn’t a search for C++, it does reduce the field and include everyone that mentions C++ and programmer on their profile)

Search creatively…

Because searching is easy but and not as well defined as you might like, I suggest you overcome it with creative solutions. Try things out – experiment (that’s how I found the solution above).

And if you happen to be a recruiter who often needs to find individuals with a programing background that know C, C++ or C#, let me know how this works out for you;-)

Best success with LinkedIn.

steve