The Basics of Boolean Search for Sourcing

The Basics of Using Boolean Search for Sourcing

boolean searchOnly 12% of people are actively looking for jobs, according to TalentLyft and global LinkedIn research. This is the reason why it’s been essential to pay more attention to passive job seekers. So, chances are you’re on the hunt to find qualified candidates, like yesterday.

You know that you may not initially get the best results. But, using a more advanced method with the fundamentals of an effective boolean (search) string will enable you to find better results, and when searching for the ideal candidate…to source better candidates faster.

Generate Your Sourcing Search Terms

Generating a list of effective search terms, or keywords, from the job description, hiring company, and industry will save time and make you a more efficient Sourcer. Taking time to do this in the beginning will help you improve search results by finding more relevant or suitable candidates right away. By the end of your search, you’ll likely have new search terms to add (or replace), further refining your search.

With your initial set of search terms, you can then begin to combine them in ways to develop a search, or boolean, string.

Boolean Operators

Three tiny words will make a huge difference in your search results. They tell the computer to do very specific things with your search terms. Combining them with your search terms creates effective search strings and puts you in control of your candidate results.

These 3 words, or operators, act as commands:

AND – using AND between two search terms tells the system that every search result must include BOTH words.

If you initially get too many search results, adding a second term with the AND operator can help you narrow your search results by focusing on just one aspect of your topic or search. This will remove all of the findings that do not use both terms, resulting in far fewer (and more aligned) search results. Once you find what you need, you can then modify your search string using all the required skills and keywords of the job description.Using the boolean operator AND can also help you avoid getting results that have nothing to do with your topic. This narrows your search results by clarifying what you’re looking for.

Example: sales AND marketing

OR–using OR between two search terms tells the system to include results that have ONE term, the OTHER term, OR BOTH.

Using OR broadens your search to get more results. OR gives you more.

Example: sales OR marketing

NOT–using NOT tells the system that you want one search term and NOT the other in your search results. NOT is sometimes denoted as (-) in a boolean search.

If you are getting a lot of false positives or results that have nothing to do with your topic (role), use a second term with NOT to eliminate some results that mention the second term. This narrows your results.Example: sales NOT marketing

Example: sales NOT marketing -sample -template

boolean operators

The operators AND and OR are basically opposites. AND narrows a search, while OR broadens it. NOT narrows your search by eliminating results you do not want.

Always type these operators using CAPITAL LETTERS or it won’t work.

Boolean Modifiers

Quotes–use when searching for an exact phrase that consists of more than one word.

Example: “content writer”

Asterisks–put an asterisk at the end of your keyword if you would like to include all of its root word variations. Or in the middle of a word for a boolean wildcard/fill in the blank.

Example: recruit* = recruiter, recruitment, recruiting

Example: c*o = CFO, CTO, CEO, COO, etc;

Parentheses–most commonly used to wrap an OR search.

Example: executive assistant (to the CEO OR to the CTO)

intitle- find a certain word (or words) in the title

Example: profiles

inurl- looks for certain criteria in a URL

Example: resume

Example Boolean Search String

Let’s say you’re beginning your search for a Product Manager.


You’d build your string just like this, and then keep building as needed to narrow your results:

(intitle:resume OR inurl:resume) “product manager” -job -jobs -sample -templates -example


If you need them to have a technical background. You could build your string like this:

(intitle:resume OR inurl:resume) “product manager” “technical product manager” -job -jobs -examples -sample -templates -hire -indeed

Or this:

(intitle:resume OR inurl:resume) “product manager” (developer OR engineer OR programmer) -job -jobs -sample -templates


You need them to be in the Seattle area:

(intitle:resume OR inurl:resume) “product manager” (Seattle OR Washington) -job -jobs -examples -sample -templates

(intitle:resume OR inurl:resume) “product manager” “Seattle” -job -jobs -examples -sample -templates


Just paste those into Google and voila, results…good ones. Take your pick or modify as needed to get the results you’re after.

Where to use Boolean Search

  • Search engines like Google, Yahoo, or Bing
  • Social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
  • Resume databases, professional directories, and hiring databases like Flexjobs, Behance, ZipRecruiter, Indeed, HireEZ, or Signalhire
  • An Applicant Tracking System to find forgotten resumes

Google automatically uses the boolean operator AND between search terms. So all terms that you enter in the search box will be included in your results. To use the OR commands, you must enter the word OR between two terms. and Google uses the minus sign (-) for NOT.

Check the search tips and/or help menus to see how any search engine, social network, resume database, or ATS uses boolean.

Boolean search can be tricky to get your head around at first. But it can certainly be beneficial during the recruitment process. It takes time to perfect your hunting techniques but as you do, you stand a better chance of finding the right people for your roles.


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