Using LinkedIn for organizational competitive intelligence

Building up an employee profile of another organization may sound like complicated information to track down. Short of infiltrating the business, how can you find out an organization’s divisional structure and recruitment priorities? The answer is, that thanks to social media, it’s surprisingly easy. You can find out a lot yourself, using nothing more than your own LinkedIn account.

LinkedIn, as we all know, is the social media site for the business community. It enables you to network, without having to do the small talk or eat the canapés. Primarily used for job searching, growing your own network of connections, and generally promoting yourself professionally, it is also a great tool for finding out more about your competitors’ staff structures and key personnel.

If you’re seriously thinking of researching your competitors through LinkedIn, subscribing to their Premium service is worth considering. However, if you have a basic account, there’s still a lot of information there that can help you. With 106 million active users, there’s an incredible pool of potential intelligence out there.

Before you leap in, you may first want to review your privacy settings. Best not to advertise to your rivals that you’re having a good look through their employees...

Here are some ways that LinkedIn can help you build a profile of your competitors.

Who works where?

It is actually quite straightforward to build a picture of an organization’s employees. If say, you want to find out more about the IT division in the US branch of a multinational, you can choose the country, then select the function. You can search further by seniority level. To drill down to this level of information, you’ll need to subscribe to Premium (although standard LinkedIn offers tantalizing grayed-out information.

For example, you can see that out of the 54,000 individuals employed by GM in Detroit (caveat – individuals that have a LinkedIn profile), nearly 5,500 work in IT. Compare this percentage with other companies, and you’ll get a general picture of the priority given to certain divisions, just from your normal account. Even though not every employee of GM will be registered with LinkedIn, it’s still a helpful guide.

What’s happening with recruitment?

This tells you a lot: your competitor’s general health, which areas of the business they are putting resources into, and what sort of talent they’re recruiting. If recruitment is static, that’s also interesting. LinkedIn tells you how many applicants there are for each advertised posts; and with a Premium account, you can dig down further and find out more about this, as well as the organization’s hiring trends. You can search by country and region, and it is very easy to get a snapshot as to where the company’s hiring budget is going.

If you have a look at Aqute’s guide to online tools, there is a list of other websites that can give you information about recruitment, including agencies.

What talent do they have?

This is a more subjective point: however, a look at the profiles of their existing team gives you an insight into their backgrounds, skills, and experience. Again, if there is a lot of talent in a particular division, what might this tell you? As mentioned above, what talents are they actively recruiting for?

Who isn’t there?

Sometimes finding out who is leaving can be as useful as who is actually there. What’s the movement like with the organization? You can search for previous employees, getting an idea of how long they worked for the company, and where they moved to. Are any divisions showing greater churn than others? Is there evidence of areas being wound down as well as built up? Is a third party luring certain skills away?

If any former employees have set up their own businesses or become consultants, they could potentially be very helpful to you (depending on what they may have signed, of course).


You may not need this “softer” stuff – but it can really help you predict the moves an organisation can make. Check out the profiles of the senior team. Are they get in, do it, move on people? If so, they may have been recruited to lead a major project... Or, is the senior team a more cautious and long-serving team? Less dynamic, but solidly establishment.

The background check may yield surprises - some unexpected past expertise that may hint at what is to come. It’s likely also that you’ll find people in common that you didn’t realise you had in common – another, informal avenue of research.

Hopefully, this will get you started in your quest to build up a picture of your competitor’s structure and recruitment priorities. If you’d like some help taking this intelligence further, please contact us.