Last year, my sister Holly and her husband were preparing to move to a new state. Holly had recently graduated and was in the market for a job, preferably one that played on her skills and new degree as a graphic designer.
She applied to many jobs using sites like Indeed and LinkedIn’s job board, following the best practices she learned from professors, friends, and parents. But when I caught up with Holly on the phone about her job search experience, she was disappointed.
With every application and tailored cover letter she sent, Holly felt as if she was competing against hundreds of other graphic designers — only to be met with silence or a generic thanks-but-no-thanks response from prospective employers. She couldn’t catch a break.
There have been many moments in my freelance career when I felt similar. What do you do when the work and inquiries suddenly dry up? Over the years, I've found several places to turn when I need to quickly find new freelance clients. One of my favorite methods, which I've come to call "The LinkedIn Backsearch Method," seemed like it might also help Holly find a full-time job.
The LinkedIn Backsearch Method
I asked Holly if she‘d tried the LinkedIn search feature. She said she hadn’t.
“Avoid the job boards,” I said, “They’re too competitive. Every day, people post job openings to their network on LinkedIn, looking for referrals from their personal networks. These open roles are published as standard LinkedIn posts — not official job board postings — so there's often no competition.
“Here's where it gets interesting: You don’t even have to be in someone’s network to see their posts. All you have to do is search LinkedIn for phrases that someone looking for a graphic designer might use to describe the open role. For example: ‘We’re hiring a graphic designer’ or ‘Job opening: Graphic designer.’"
Here are the exact steps:
Type the keyword phrase into the LinkedIn search box and click enter
Sort the results by ‘Posts’ and by ‘Latest’ instead of ‘Relevant.’
Scroll through the posts and find the opportunities that fit your interest
Apply to the job by sending a DM, emailing the person directly, or following any application instructions that the original job poster included
Holly thanked me for the tip. I didn’t know if she’d actually use it, but I wanted to help if I could. We caught up about a few more things and eventually said goodbye and hung up.
A few weeks later, Holly texted me about her new job. She landed a graphic design role at an agency that allows her to work fully remote. I texted back my congratulations and asked all the normal questions like how she liked her colleagues, and so on. I didn’t think to follow up about how she’d found the open position.
I finally heard the full story this past weekend. Holly and I sat in an airport together and I got to ask a lot more about her new role. In between stories about colleagues, clients, and exciting projects, Holly mentioned that she’d found and applied for the role using my LinkedIn search trick.
She even added, “After I started at the new job, a college friend reached out for job-hunting advice. I told her the advice you gave me. She quickly landed a graphic design job.”
Reverse engineering content marketing
The power of the LinkedIn Backsearch Method is content marketing.
Today, it seems everyone creates content. But readership on the internet is not evenly distributed. There are people who rake in tens of thousands of views every time they click publish. And there are people who generate almost no views at all.
The catch is that the people receiving almost no views often still offer a lot of value — including potential job opportunities and (in my case) freelance projects. By using LinkedIn’s search feature, you can find these hidden gems and take advantage of opportunities that fewer people are applying for. It's like a digital treasure hunt.
The best part is, the treasure is reburied each day. As more people post new jobs and freelance opportunities, you can reuse this method every day to uncover the latest career opportunities on the internet.
Happy treasure (job) hunting!
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