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Boolean Searching

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

Boolean is the logic that online databases speak in order to focus a search. Boolean searching is a search process that allows you to expand, limit, and define a search by utilizing different boolean operators. It is what we believe to be one of the most important skills that any sourcer, researcher, recruiter, or headhunter needs. Someone can be the best cold caller or negotiator but if they are unable to locate the candidate or client to talk to then they are SOL. The ability to look at a job description or research a target client and create a boolean search string and tweak it as you go based on the results is pivotal. Online databases such as indeed, careerbuilder, monster, and linkedIn have made massive strides with their filters in order to help producers through all walks of life find their target, but nothing trumps the specificity and accuracy of speaking the same language that the search engine or database that you are using speaks. In this article we are going to go over different boolean operators in detail in order to help you gain an understanding of how we do our jobs.


AND-

The operator, AND, is extremely powerful. For example, if you are looking for a software developer, you can’t just type in software developer into a search bar and expect it to pull all of the relevant resumes and profiles needed. You have to be more specific. What kind of software developer are you looking for? If you are looking for a python developer, the results would be more specific if you were to put the word python into your search:


python AND software AND developer


This search above would help narrow the results. However, even this search is often times nowhere close to the specificity that we need when searching.



OR/Parenthesis-

The operator, OR, is used to broaden the results and include multiple keywords. Utilizing the same search as before, if we wanted to find someone skilled in javascript or python, the search string would read:


(javascript OR python) AND software AND developer


Adding the parentheses into the search will group the two programming languages enabling the sourcer to pull results containing either one of the languages along with the words software and developer.


NOT

NOT is a search function that allows the sourcer to exclude certain word(s). Adding this operator into the search can help narrow results even further. If the person searching for the software developer wanted to exclude people with a financial background for instance, the sourcer could write something along the lines of:


(python OR javascript) AND software AND developer AND NOT financial


This tells the tool being used to essentially include an exclusion.


NEAR/Wildcard*/Brackets

These can be tricky to include into a search string but it can be done nonetheless. We have found candidates with these search functions and they actually can be very useful in a variety of ways. One way is to target a certain experience level. The function NEAR draws the words or phrases surrounding the function together. If you wanted to find someone who graduated school in 2014 or 2015, check this out:


(python OR javascript) AND software AND developer AND NOT financial AND [(grad* NEAR 2014) OR (grad* NEAR 2015)]


The NEAR function will include results where grad* and the dates mentioned are relatively close together. Furthermore, the wildcard* will tell the search to include endings of a specific word in different tenses, graduated, graduation, grad, etc. The brackets simply segment the search further allowing the inclusion of larger pieces of search strings.


Quotation Marks

Ah the bread and butter of any true boolean blackbelt’s arsenal. The issue with all of the searches above is that you can be pulling non software developers into the search results! What?! You are telling me that all the search strings previously mentioned are not that specific? Yes, that is exactly what we are saying. This is because the search is going to pull every profile containing the words you told it to include. This can be software developer managers, directors, or even people not in the industry entirely who for some reason have those words mentioned in their profiles. You can say, wait why can’t I just put NOT manager, director, etc., and you can! But you would be in jeopardy of the search not including important results because a developer simply had on his or her resume that they were the manager of a charity event or a Taco Bell at one point. That is why search is a fluid process that you need to keep tweaking and refining as you go. It is a PROCESS! Just like all of staffing and recruiting…a PROCESS! In regard to quotation marks, if you wanted to pull into the search someone who calls themselves a python developer or javascript developer, simply put quotation marks around the phrase:


(“python developer” OR “javascript developer”) AND software AND NOT financial


This is a much more specific search than previous ones listed because it will include the exact phrases and will likely pull the titles you are in search of. Of course, no search is perfect, but it is all about narrowing and broadening the search results until you find the candidate pool needed. For instance, someone could call themselves a software engineer rather than a developer:


[("python developer" OR "javascript developer") OR ("python engineer" OR "javascript engineer")] AND [(grad* NEAR 2014) OR (grad* NEAR 2015)] AND NOT financial


you get the picture.


Closing it out

All in all, boolean searching is about the strategy and creativity of the sourcer utilizing the operators. Creativity and strategy are so important because it can separate the average sourcer from the exceptional one. Examples of being creative with search strings could come in a variety of forms. Just to name a couple without giving away all of our secrets, one can include the area code into a search. If you have called through and reached out to many of the qualified candidates in a certain area without any luck of getting one interested in the position you are recruiting on, then you will be forced to expand the geographic parameters. Including the area code into the boolean search can possibly find someone from the area that moved away who may be interested in moving back. Another tactic could be to put “open to relocat*” into the search. This could bring in candidates who have open to relocate or open to relocation in their profiles or resumes.

We utilized the software industry with the examples above but the same concepts and operators can be applied to any industry. Please remember that no search string is perfect and it is all about refining the search as you go based on the results the database is providing. These simple boolean operators allow search experts like us to consistently find the needle in the haystack. We source through a variety of online databases filled with millions of profiles everyday in order to find the talent that our clients need.

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