Ahh those quotation marks….

Reading Irina Shamaeva’s post about the freaky quotation mark bug on Google today reminded me that I spotted something strange about quotation marks on LinkedIn a couple weeks ago. About the same time I wrote about the strange behaviour of the AND operator I noticed that using quotation marks was reducing my results.

It’s not the same thing as on Google, as at least the reduction is in the expected direction – I am getting less results with quotation marks than without.

But there seems to be no clear logic as to why. Check these links:


Search number one shows us the whole LinkedIn population using the keyword java.


Search number two shows the same thing, but with “java” in quotation marks. The first search has 9.110.000 results, the second 8.550.000, so at this very moment I see a discrepancy of 560.000 profiles.

Now let’s run the search java NOT “java” to see what’s the difference.


First of all, this is 450.000 results. Where did 110.000 profiles go?

Secondly, why is this even happening? If you check the profiles, you will see that indeed java is present on each of them. What are these 450.000 + 110.000 people doing the differently than the rest of the 8+ million? Not entirely sure. I can tell that none of them have Java as a job title with using the filters, but other than that the keyword appears in the header section, the about me part of the profile, the skills, the courses, etc – a wide variety of places on the profile, even multiple times.

It’s also a consistent unexpected behaviour, as selecting a random person from the last link, and adding “java” as a keyword to his/her name will not bring him/her up in the search results – this is not a whim, they remain hidden if you are using a quotation mark.

Since it’s been like this for some time now it’s unlikely to be fixed shortly. This means all we can do is keep this in mind, and whenever the candidate barrel is relatively dry, aim to minimize the usage of quotation marks so we don’t exclude candidates from our results.

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