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Boolean Search for Recruitment & Sourcing

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It’s safe to say that mastering Boolean search in recruiting really has become part of many recruiters’ secret sauce to success. However, with the multitude of things to learn about Boolean search and more importantly – how to get it right, it can be a daunting prospect to actually incorporate it into your everyday recruiting processes.

But it’s also never been more important to use every tool at your disposal to gain an edge over the competition in talent acquisition. Before we go any further, let’s start by understanding the nuts and bolts of what it is and the importance of Boolean search for recruiters on the front lines of talent sourcing.

What is Boolean Search in Recruitment?

Boolean search in recruiting allows users to insert words or phrases such as AND, OR, NOT to limit, broaden or define search results, transforming how recruiters navigate vast candidate pools.

Originating from George Boole’s 19th-century symbolic logic, Boolean Search enables recruiters to craft sample Boolean search strings for recruiters to filter out applications that don’t meet their requirements and zero in on the most promising candidates. Read more about the basics of Boolean Search in our blog post ‘Why Use Boolean Search in Hiring’

The first three elements of a Boolean Search are the words AND, OR and NOT. But in this case, they’re Boolean Search Operators. The remaining two elements aren’t words, they are symbols – parentheses and quotation marks. These are called Boolean Search Modifiers.

Before we do a deeper dive into Boolean Search in recruitment, let’s take a closer look at why it’s such a valuable tool for recruiters.

Why is Boolean Search important for recruiting?

In today’s cutthroat talent market, learning how to use Boolean search in recruitment is vital. With an average of 250 applications received for every corporate role advertised. Of those applications, 73% are passive candidates. (Candidates who are not actively looking for a new role.)

The chances of keeping passive candidates engaged through the recruiting lifecycle are slim. Of the remaining candidates who are actively seeking jobs, the top prospects will be off the market in just 10 days. That makes quickly identifying the best candidates a crucial step in the recruiting process.

Boolean search examples for recruiters demonstrate how this technique can sift through large volumes of applications efficiently, and with a higher degree of accuracy getting you to the talent you need before your rivals.

Best Boolean Search Strings for Recruiters

Boolean Search Operators

  • AND: The AND operator allows you to narrow down a search by including two or more keywords. For example, if you were looking for a web developer with HTML and CSS experience, you could use the AND operator to narrow your search to include only those two skills.
  • OR: The OR operator allows you to broaden a search by including multiple keywords. This operator is useful for when you want to include a variety of skills in your search, such as “web developer OR engineer.”
  • NOT: NOT operator allows you to exclude certain words from your search, such as “web developer NOT Python.” This operator is helpful when you’re looking for candidates with specific qualifications and experiences but not with others.

Boolean Search Modifiers

  • Quotation marks “”: When a user doesn’t want any other results except the exact phrases or keywords they are looking for, they can use quotation marks and the search engine will provide results that match that exact request. Here is what a search string with quotation marks will look like – “photographer” “wildlife photographer” “amazon wildlife photographer”
  • Parentheses (): The operator allows you to group multiple keywords together, such as “(web developer OR engineer) AND (HTML OR CSS).” This operator can be used to refine a search further and make sure that all the criteria you have listed is included in the final result.
  • Asterisk (*) or Wild Card: An overlooked element in Boolean search is the Boolean asterisk, acting as a wildcard to capture variations in terms like ‘UX writer’ and ‘UX writing’. The asterisk element can prove to be quite handy for creating search strings as well.

It acts as a wild card and will look at points of parity within search terms. For instance, while searching for the term ‘UX writer’, a user will also be able to see the results for phrases like ‘UX writing’.

Google’s Boolean Search Recruitment Process

Boolean search is versatile across various platforms, including Google and LinkedIn. Each platform has its nuances, like LinkedIn Boolean search examples, which leverage additional filtering options unique to the platform.

Recruiters can leverage any or all of the Boolean Search Operators and Modifiers to conduct a Boolean Search on Google. However, recruiters can add three more commands along with their search operators and search modifiers to further narrow and refine their search on Google.

1. Using ‘inurl’

By using the ‘inurl’ command, recruiters can look for specific terms mentioned in a uniform resource locator or a URL. For example, recruiters on the lookout for the term ‘interior designer’, will be able to narrow down the search to URLs that mention the specific search term. A disadvantage of this command is that it will also show results where the term is mentioned in URLs that might not be in the same context.

Fortunately, this issue can be resolved by adding some modifying operators to the search string. Recruiters can simply use ‘inurl:interior designer’ (with a colon) or ‘-inurl:be an interior designer’ (with a hyphen) to restrict certain results.

2. site:

Another command that is popular among recruiters using Boolean Search for recruitment through Google is “site:” This command helps recruiters look for specific search terms within a website. The spider will crawl only through the specific website and nothing else to show the user the desired search results.

This command is very helpful for recruiters who want to comb through specific websites for leads. It also helps recruiters look for people who might not necessarily have their profiles listed on job portals but on other websites. Here’s an example to better understand this search command.

If a recruiter keys in the term site:slideshare.com B2B (“illustrator” | “designer”). The search terms will let the search engine know that the recruiter is looking for designers or illustrators with experience in B2B designing.

3. intitle:

A recruiter can expand the realm of their search by using the command ‘intitle:’ to zero in on specific keywords that will help pinpoint the results to exact terms in the search results. For instance, if a recruiter keys in the command ‘site:slideshare.com intitle:portfolio (documentary editor)’, the recruiter will be able to look at results which have a portfolio in the title for that particular website.

Making sense of all of the above can be a bit overwhelming, so here are some practical examples tailored for the healthcare, finance, and IT sectors.

1. Healthcare Sector

When looking for healthcare professionals, specificity is key. You might be seeking a seasoned professional in a niche area of medicine, like a cardiologist with expertise in echocardiography.

Google Boolean Search Example:

intitle:resume OR intitle:CV (cardiologist OR “heart specialist”) AND echocardiography -jobs -sample -template

This search will return resumes or CVs containing either “cardiologist” or “heart specialist” and mention echocardiography, while excluding job listings, sample resumes, and templates.

2. Finance Sector

In finance, recruiters often look for candidates with particular qualifications and experience with specific financial software or practices.

Google Boolean Search Example:

intitle:resume OR intitle:CV “financial analyst” AND (CFA OR “Chartered Financial Analyst”) AND (“risk management” OR Bloomberg) -job -sample -template
This string aims to find resumes or CVs for financial analysts who are Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) and have experience in risk management or with Bloomberg software, excluding job listings and sample documents.

3. IT Sector

Recruitment in the IT sector requires pinpointing candidates with specific technical skill sets, programming languages, and sometimes, experience with certain projects or industries.

Google Boolean Search Example:

intitle:resume OR intitle:CV (developer OR programmer) AND (Java OR Python) AND (cloud OR AWS OR Azure) -job -example -template

Here, the search is set up to find resumes or CVs of developers or programmers with experience in Java or Python and cloud technologies like AWS or Azure. It excludes job postings, example CVs, and templates.

For each of these sectors, the common theme in these Google Boolean search examples for recruitment is the use of specific job titles or skills, coupled with industry-related keywords, and the exclusion of irrelevant results like job postings or sample documents. This targeted approach enables recruiters to find the most relevant candidate profiles for their specific sector needs.

Boolean Search Process for Recruitment on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a little more user-friendly in terms of Boolean Search because of its’ ability to narrow the search by filtering things like country, state, and city. As well as job environment (remote, hybrid, on campus), job duration (full-time, part-time and contract), level of work experience (entry level, executive, mid-senior, senior etc.), educational qualifications and so on. But this search can be further optimized by creating search strings.

If a recruiter were to use Boolean Search for recruiting through LinkedIn, they would be able to use the Boolean Search Operators and Search Modifiers, as well as all the additional elements used in a regular Google search.

Unfortunately, the wild card – the asterisk, doesn’t make the cut using Boolean Search on LinkedIn. Here is a quick simulation to explain how to use Boolean Search on LinkedIn.

Let’s explore some practical LinkedIn Boolean search examples tailored for recruitment in the healthcare, finance, and IT sectors. These examples demonstrate how to effectively use Boolean logic to refine your search and pinpoint the most suitable candidates on LinkedIn.

1. Healthcare Sector

When searching for professionals in the healthcare sector, recruiters often look for specific qualifications, experience in certain medical fields, or certifications. Here’s an example of how to structure a Boolean search for a Registered Nurse with experience in pediatric care:

Boolean Query: “Registered Nurse” AND (pediatrics OR “child-care”) AND (BLS OR “Basic Life Support”) NOT (manager OR director)

This search string will find profiles that have the exact phrase “Registered Nurse,” include either “pediatrics” or “child-care,” have the BLS certification, and exclude those who are in managerial or director roles.

2. Finance Sector

In the finance sector, recruiters might seek candidates with expertise in specific financial services or software. For example, if you’re looking for a Financial Analyst experienced in risk management and familiar with SAP software, your search might look like this:

Boolean Query: “Financial Analyst” AND (“risk management” OR “risk assessment”) AND SAP NOT intern

This string will return profiles with the title “Financial Analyst,” expertise in either risk management or risk assessment, experience with SAP software, and exclude profiles with the word “intern.”

3. IT Sector

For IT roles, recruiters often need candidates with specific technical skills and programming languages. Suppose you’re searching for a Software Developer with experience in Java and cloud technologies. The search could be:

Boolean Query: (Developer OR Programmer) AND Java AND (AWS OR Azure OR “Google Cloud”) -junior

This string is designed to find profiles with either “Developer” or “Programmer” in their titles, who have Java skills, and are experienced in at least one of the major cloud platforms (AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud), while excluding those labeled as “junior.”

What are Some Advanced Boolean Search Techniques for Recruiters?

Taking your Boolean search game to the next level means getting a bit crafty with your search terms and strategies. Here’s the lowdown on some slick moves for fine-tuning those searches:

  • Truncation: Throw an asterisk (*) at the end of the root of a word to catch all the different endings. Searching for “manag*” will snag manager, managed, managing, and all other variations.
  • Hunt for Phrases: Wrap those exact phrases in quotation marks to find specific titles or qualifications. It’s like telling the search engine, “Don’t bring me anything unless it’s exactly this.”
  • Close the Gap with Proximity Searches: Some search engines let you play matchmaker with words. Tell them to find you candidates where “programmer” and “Python” are no more than three words apart, and voila, you’ll get just that.
  • Zero in with Field Searches: Dig into specific sections of a profile like the headline or job title by directing your search right there. Searching “title:(CEO OR President)” homes in on the top brass.
  • Sidestep Unwanted Terms: Sometimes you get terms you didn’t invite to the party. Cut them out by using a minus sign. Look for “developer -Java” when you want developers who aren’t Java-jugglers.
  • Nested Searches: You can nest multiple conditions within parentheses to create complex queries. For example, “(sales OR marketing) AND (director NOT manager)” would find profiles that mention sales or marketing at the director level, excluding those that contain manager.
  • Mix and Match Operators: Blend AND, OR, NOT, and parentheses to filter your candidate list down to perfection.
  • Utilizing LinkedIn’s Advanced Search Filters: These filters can work in tandem with Boolean searches. After conducting a Boolean search, you can refine the results further by applying filters like location, industry, past company, school, and more.
  • Break the Mold with Pattern Interruption: If you keep seeing the same faces, shake things up with less obvious terms or industry slang that your perfect candidate would use.
  • Broaden Your Horizons with Search Expansion: Use Boolean search to expand your search when you’re not getting enough candidates. For instance, if “software engineer” is too narrow, expand with “developer OR programmer OR coder”.

By mastering these advanced tactics, you’re setting yourself up for targeted search results that get right to the heart of what you’re looking for. Just remember, different platforms have their own quirks, so what works like a charm on one might need a tweak on another.

Arya’s AI + Boolean Search: Best of Both Worlds

While Boolean search offers recruiters a way to sift through extensive databases using specific keywords and logical operators, a talent sourcing platform like Arya by Leoforce takes it a step further by automating and optimizing the entire sourcing process.

The only AI Recruiting Platform on the market using 7 multidimensional data points, and 300+ attributes to score and rank talent for compatibility, Arya empowers you to quickly source, and rapidly engage the talent most likely to succeed in every open role, reducing candidate review and shortlisting time by up to 50%.

With Boolean and AI-assisted search built-in, Arya makes finding the right candidates easier, quicker, and more accurate. Book a demo today to see how Arya can simplify the sourcing process.

Key Takeaways for Recruiters

Mastering Boolean searches in recruitment has become an indispensable skill for recruiters looking to tap into the best talent pools. By incorporating operators like AND, OR, NOT, as well as modifiers like parentheses and quotation marks, recruiters can navigate the vast seas of candidates with unparalleled precision.

In industries like healthcare, finance, and IT, where the demand for specialized skills is high and the market moves rapidly, the real magic of Boolean search in recruitment lies in its power to sift through the overwhelming number of applications, including a high percentage of passive candidates, to pinpoint top talent swiftly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Boolean search operators case-sensitive in recruitment searches?

Yes, Boolean search operators are typically case-sensitive in recruitment searches and most search engines. Operators like AND, OR, NOT, and NEAR (or their respective symbols) usually need to be capitalized to be recognized as operators that structure the search query, rather than as search terms.

How do you find diverse talent using Boolean search in recruitment?

Finding diverse talent using Boolean search involves creating search strings that target a broad range of candidates while also including synonyms and variations of diversity-related terms to widen your search. Example: (diverse OR inclusion OR “equal opportunity” OR multicultural OR “underrepresented groups”) You can also include names of organizations, universities, or groups known for their diverse memberships or affiliations.

What are the common mistakes to avoid when using Boolean search for recruiting?

Common Boolean search errors in recruiting involve not capitalizing operators, crafting search strings that are too complex or vague, not using quotes for exact matches, and failing to tweak searches after reviewing results. Also, overlooking regional language differences and not checking the context of keywords can hinder finding the right candidates.

Can Boolean search be used with applicant tracking systems (ATS) in recruitment?

Yes, Boolean search can be effectively used with applicant tracking systems (ATS) to streamline recruitment efforts. By inputting precise Boolean search strings, recruiters can quickly sift through large volumes of resumes to find candidates who match specific criteria allowing for targeted candidate searches within an ATS database. Even more powerful is an AI recruiting tool that like Arya that not only seamlessly integrates with 70+ ATS / CRM /VMS, it also has powerful Boolean search and AI-assisted search built-in to the platform.

How do I refine Boolean search results to reduce false positives in recruitment?

To reduce false positives in Boolean search, refine your search by using precise keywords and including additional qualifiers that closely match the job description. Utilize quotation marks for exact phrases and the NOT operator to exclude irrelevant terms. Continuously tweak and narrow down your search based on the quality of the initial results and consider using advanced operators like NEAR to ensure the keywords are in the correct context on candidates’ resumes or profiles.

Is Boolean search suitable for all types of recruitment, including healthcare, finance, and IT?

Yes, Boolean search is suitable for all types of recruitment, including sectors like healthcare, finance, and IT. Its versatility lies in the ability to tailor search strings to specific job requirements, qualifications, and skills relevant to each industry. By adjusting the keywords and operators used in the search, recruiters can effectively pinpoint candidates with the desired expertise and background in these diverse fields.

Find more compatible candidates with Talent Intelligence.

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