LinkedIn Splashscreen interpretation

Which LinkedIn Membership Works for Your Job Hunt?

For two months, LinkedIn has been slowly rolling out its new interface for those who use LinkedIn from their desktop (or laptop) computers via a browser. This can have a big effect on whether you can find a job on LinkedIn, or whether a job can find you.

What Changes Affect Your Job Search

The most impactful change for job hunters is that the new search tools are “more intuitive” (LinkedIn’s words) or “dumbed-down” (my words). Many of the features of the former “Advanced Search” are now gone.

What this means is that if you were using the Advanced Search feature of LinkedIn for more complex searches to locate connections, find hiring managers, connect with recruiters or network into your target employer, the new simplified system will make it a bit harder to find your search target. If you saved your searches, too bad. Saved search is gone in the new LinkedIn. (It might return later, according to some reports, but possibly only on the premium accounts.)

There are other changes, too. If you used the Alumni Search feature of LinkedIn, you won’t find it on the new menus. It’s hiding in individual University pages. So if you graduated from Indiana University you’ll need to go to IU’s LinkedIn page to search for fellow Hoosiers. It’s less convenient, especially if you are looking at more than one school. But if you are viewing somebody’s education section, you can easily click on the person’s school logo to find other alumni for that school. (You are not restricted to searching only your own alma mater.) Some University pages may also have links to jobs at the school, too.

If you were using the old CRM features of LinkedIn, adding tags to your connections, making notes and scheduling follow-up communications, that’s going away for all users. The only way to organize all your connections is to sort them by Recently Added, or by first or last name. If you have a larger number of connections, hundreds or more, this is a downgrade in functionality.

The only LinkedIn memberships that now allow you to tag and organize contacts and use all of LinkedIn’s advanced search features are Sales Navigator and Recruiter Lite. (Unless you have the vastly more expensive corporate accounts.)

But, on the bright side, the job listings portion of LinkedIn doesn’t appear to be changing much at all, at least for now.

In practical terms, does this mean you need to finally upgrade from a free account to a paid account? If you had a Job Seeker account, do you need an upgrade? Not all job searches are alike, so your needs may differ, too. Let’s look, at a few different types of job seekers.

The Passive Job Hunter

If you are already working but would be open for contacts for a new job, the free account might still be good enough for your needs. You can update and edit your profile, slowly build your network, and collect endorsements and recommendations from those you do connect with.

In other words, you’re staking out your personal territory on LinkedIn and creating an internet portal to you. This will also help people find you on Google and other search engines. You can also add links to your online media, publish on LinkedIn, join groups, and converse.

New, thrifty job hunters should consider making their profile complete and up-to-date before paying for an upgrade. Outlining a basic marketing, networking and job search strategy before paying for a more expensive LinkedIn membership wouldn’t hurt, either.

More Aggressive Job Hunters

If you are out of work or more aggressively looking for a new job, you will want to be able to contact people out of your network. That probably means you will need InMails, LinkedIn’s email messages to people you are not connected to.

Remember, you can still use Groups to contact a limited number of people per month. You can also look at each of your connections’ lists of connections to find new contacts. As we mentioned above, you can also look for fellow alumni from your school’s LinkedIn page, too. But if you don’t have a history with a potential contact, InMails may be the best way to introduce yourself.

To upgrade, there are two main options: Career (formerly Job Search Plus) and Business (formerly Business Plus, although the name still pops up here and there). Which is better for you? Let’s compare.

The Career premium membership

There are some advantages to this upgrade, which costs $29.99 / month or $299.88 / year. (All prices here are subject to change.)

  • You get access to LinkedIn Learning: a wide array of online video courses developed with This is good for brushing up on the skills necessary for a new job or for learning entirely new skill sets.
  • You get to see who had viewed your profile for the past 90 days.
  • You get applicant insights, which lets you see how you compare to other candidates. (This may be encouraging or depressing, depending on your ranking.)
  • You get a miserly three InMails per month to contact people outside your network. If you are aggressively looking for a new job, three InMails probably won’t cut the mustard.
  • LinkedIn also advertises that with a Career premium account, you get pushed to the head of the line in job applications with an employer. In real life, employers using LinkedIn’s advanced Career Solutions memberships can turn off this feature. Truly, this feature might not be worth anything.


If you are unemployed, trying to economize by paying an annual fee for the Career membership is simply depressing. Nobody wants to be unemployed for a year or more. The monthly option allows you to quit at any time: when you get a job or you decide to change your job hunting away from LinkedIn. However, if you like using LinkedIn Learning and plan on using it after you get a job, the discount might be worthwhile.

Business (or Business Plus) premium membership

This membership level costs twice as much, $59.99 / month or $575.88 / year, as the Career membership, above. What you get:

  • 15 InMail messages, or five times as many as with the Career membership.
  • Business Insights – data about companies you research. This might be much more useful to job hunters than seeing your ranking against other applicants.
  • The same LinkedIn Learning options as above.
  • See who viewed your profile for the past 90 days.
  • Unlimited people browsing from search results for up to 3rd degree level. (Which begs the question of how this differs from the Career level. I don’t know and LinkedIn isn’t advertising the difference.)


Another advantage of the Business membership is that it is still useful after you land a new job, or at least more useful than the Career level membership, especially if you pay annually to get the discount rate.

For the job searcher, the Business premium membership seems the better deal if you can afford it. If you are aggressively building your contacts, especially within your target companies, the extra 12 InMails per month should help.

If you are still working and doing a Stealth (or Silent) Job Search (see my Stealth Job Hunt series on Frugal Guidance 2.), Business premium is definitely the way to go. Avoid giving away the fact that you are job hunting with your upgrade.


Note that neither the Career or the Business upgrades appear to offer notable improvements in LinkedIn search over the free account. For now, if you want improved and unlimited search throughout LinkedIn, with all the bells and whistles, you need an even bigger upgrade.

Busy People Searchers

If money is not an issue while you search for a job, and you really, really, really want more advanced LinkedIn search, notes, reminders and the like, there are two choices: Sales Navigator and Recruiter Lite. Which to choose?

According to writer and Independent LinkedIn Trainer Mark Williams, Sales Navigator is preferable because it emphasizes relationship building, whereas Recruiter Lite is better for process management. Mark goes into quite some detail comparing the two on his post Sales Navigator VS Recruiter Lite on LinkedIn Pulse, Jan. 5, 2017.

Sales Navigator costs $79.99 / month or $779.88 / year. Contact LinkedIn for Recruiter fees.

These plans are probably overkill for most job hunters. But if you’re considering moving from a job hunt to starting your own freelance business and you need to develop a customer base, Sales Navigator is probably the most useful means of reaching out to new clients. I’ve not used it myself, but several other LinkedIn speakers and trainers have mentioned how they’ve found new clients and grown their business with the tool (and learned how to train others to use it).

However, if you are not looking for sales or clients, there are a few third-party web tools which may be able to help tag and save your contact info. It’s still unclear which of these will work with the new LinkedIn upgrade, though.

All the LinkedIn membership plans have a 30-day free trial if you haven’t already done a trial in the past 12 months. If you already had a business level account, you might be offered an extended three-month trial of Sales Navigator. This is good because it would probably take a month just to get used to all the features and workflow.



For current job hunters, you need to learn the new LinkedIn User Interface on top of all the other challenges of job search. If you already used LinkedIn on your phone or tablet, though, the new browser version is designed to be more like your phone experience.

Job hunters need to approach their LinkedIn membership like any other business decision. If money is tight, you need to balance LinkedIn’s benefits with those of other social media. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

But, in my opinion, the Business plan probably offers the best features along with InMails and business intelligence, which is all useful for the active job seeker. If you can afford the $60 monthly, it could be a good investment.

To learn more:

See the Job Hunting on FG2 and LinkedIn on FG2 tabs above to see many more articles on job hunting and LinkedIn.

LinkedIn’s own introduction to the new UI is Introducing the New LinkedIn Desktop from the LinkedIn Corporate Communications Team, January 19, 2017. It includes a no-narration video preview of the interface, complete with annoyingly cheerful music (with electronic whistling, clapping and percussion).

Victoria Ipri has several posts on LinkedIn changes, including LinkedIn’s New User Interface Arrives Today (Maybe). What Will You Do Next? dated Jan. 19, 2017.

In addition to his post mentioned above, Mark Williams (a.k.a. Mr. LinkedIn) has a series of video posts about the new LinkedIn UI on his website, WinBusinessIn. With a series of podcasts, too, Mark has a treasure trove of info about doing business with LinkedIn.

Long-time LinkedIn coach Viveka von Rosen (whose Twitter handle is @LinkedInExpert), explains the major differences between the old and new interfaces in What Is Different Between LinkedIn’s Old User Interface and the New UI.

Another LinkedIn expert, Brynne Tillman offers an extensive 26-minute tour of the new LinkedIn interface in her video, The New LinkedIn Experience 2017.


The title photo is taken from LinkedIn’s sign-in page and envisions what it might look like with paint-strokes from 1890s Paris. Thanks to Photoshop and Topaz Lab’s Impression plugin.

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