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The recruiters guide to Boolean search

boolean search

The recruiters guide to Boolean search

 Sourcing for the right candidate for a role is as important to the recruiter as the urgency to fill that role.   To achieve both, recruiters need to understand how to perform a Boolean search. If this sounds new to you do not worry, I have put together a detailed yet easy to understand guide to help you master the art of Boolean search. Let’s dive directly in to why Boolean search is so important to you as a recruiter  

Why is Boolean search so important me as a recruiters?

  Imagine finding 20 best candidates for a role in less than 30 minutes! When I mean best, I mean candidates with the right skills and experience.  Yes, I mean real hidden talents. Most time as recruiters it is easy to be comfortable with the active job seekers market forgetting that there are outstanding candidates who are likely to be happy with the compensation you offer and passionate about your company’s mission and vision.

The benefits of Boolean search for recruiters are numerous:

  • Saves time and effort spent manually sifting through stacks of information.
  • Optimizes the effectiveness of in-house HR technologies.
  • Extends the reach and possibilities of free search platforms and websites.
  • Helps find otherwise hidden talent.
  • Gives the ability to craft powerful, but customizable, search strings to meet every job requirement and open position.
  • And provides more targeted and relevant search results and candidate pools.

Its   too good to be true right, well let me blow you mind.

Let’s go and find those top talent fast.

 Why you should master the art of Boolean search

 Being able to do a Boolean search will help you find top candidates  even when  it   seem impossible.

In recent times only about

  • 12% of people are active job seekers
  • 15% are satisfied with their present jobs
  • 73% are passive job seekers

That means you must really be proactive in sourcing passive candidates in order to fill open job positions. And boom, this is where Boolean search sets in.

Now the question you will be asking what is Boolean search?  do not worry we are getting to that right now.

What is Boolean search ?

Boolean search was invented by English mathematician George Boole in 1847. He laid out the concept and underlying principles in his seminal work entitled The Mathematical Analysis of Logic. Since this groundbreaking piece, Boolean has been the tool of choice for virtually all libraries, virtual databases, and search engines

Boolean search is a structured search process that uses keywords, or operators, to limit, broaden, or define the desired search results. Booleans search is an advanced method of searching online.

As a recruiter   Boolean search can help you find better candidates faster.  You can use Booleans search to:

  • Source candidates on search engines like google, yahoo or Bing
  • Source candidates on social network such as LinkedIn, Facebook, twitter, and Instagram, etc.
  • Search resume database and professional directories more effectively
  • Retrieve forgotten resumes from an applicant tracking systems
  • Your ATS, or Applicant Tracking System. Over time, your agency has interviewed thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of candidates. Eventually, some will fall through the cracks. You can effectively find them again using Boolean searches.

 The above sources can be huge resources to find potential candidates. Instead of sifting through hundreds of resumes and potential candidates’ profiles. with Boolean search you can filter out suitable candidates faster.

Booleans search

 Summarily Boolean search is a process of combining keywords with  other words (called operators) and symbols (called modifiers) in order to narrow down the search

How to perform a Boolean search?

It’s quite simple actually. You go to Google, type in your keywords and add a few additional words and symbols to get more relevant results. 

These additional words (called operators) and symbols (called modifiers) make up the foundation of the Boolean search. 

Basic Boolean search operators

1.    AND

2.    OR

3.    NOT

4.    BRACKETS ()

5.    QUOTATIONS “ ”

6.    ASTERISK *

Boolean operatorUse
ANDResults include all keywords linked with AND
ORResults include either keyword or all of them
NOT / minus symbol(-)Excludes a keyword from your search (When using the minus symbol don’t leave a space before the unwanted term) *Google doesn’t recognize the operator NOT, so use the minus symbol, instead.
Brackets ()Group multiple search strings and set priorities
Quotation marks ” “Search for an exact phrase (Consider keywords in quotation marks as a whole word)

Boolean search operators are used to combine or exclude the keywords.

These are Boolean search operators:

1. AND

The AND operator is used when you want to include two or more search criteria. It’s generally used to narrow search results by adding an extra variable that must be present in the search result.

For example, if you’re looking for somebody who works in marketing, who also has manager-level experience, then you may type the following string into your search engine or ATS.

marketing AND manager

Tip: You can an ampersand (&) instead of typing in the word AND.

Naturally, the next step here is the OR operator.

Booleans search

2. OR

Using OR in your search string indicates that you want to see multiple entries or variables in your results. This operator acts to expand your search results to include a wider range of information.

OR can be used when different words or job titles say the same thing, and can be used alongside AND to refine your results.

For example, you can use this string to refine your marketing manager search.

marketing AND manager OR leader

Again, this logic leads to the next operator: NOT.

Tip: You can a vertical bar symbol (|) instead of typing in the word OR.

3. NOT

As you probably guessed, NOT is used when you want to exclude specific terms or requirements.

For example, if you’re looking for a mid-level manager, you’ll want to exclude executive titles that might be caught up in the above search strings. You can do so like this:

marketing AND manager OR leader NOT executive

NOT also works if you use a minus symbol, followed by your term with no space, like this:

marketing AND manager OR leader -executive

Tip: You can a minus symbol (-) instead of typing in the word NOT.


If your math brain is going off and asking: “wait a minute: how is the search engine supposed to know which operator takes priority,” then you’re ready to hear about BRACKETS. Brackets in Boolean search work in a similar way as the BODMAS principle in math, which dictates which parts of an equation are calculated in what order.

BRACKET operators are used to specify which parts of the search take priority over other elements. They specify which sections you want to emphasize, compare, or exclude.

So, if you’re looking for someone who is a marketing manager OR leader, but not an executive, your string would look something like this:

marketing AND (manager OR leader) -executive

As your strings get more complex, brackets will become your best friend that keeps thing organized and logical.


The next basic Boolean operator – and one you likely use often – is QUOTATIONS. This operator is used to search for an exact phrase that you’re looking for. This is a good option if you know exactly what search result you’re hoping to find, and want to exclude anything that doesn’t include that term.

Booleans search

Adding quotes around a single word, or multiple words will treat that string as one search term. For example, if you only want to see people who have Marketing Manager on their resume, and don’t care about any synonyms, then your string would look like this.

“marketing manager”

The opposite of QUOTATIONS, which keeps your result sharply focussed, is ASTERISK, which aims to expand your search.


ASTERISK is used to widen your search to include variations on your keywords or phrases. Think of this operator as a tool for finding a pool of candidates who use a variety of different words to describe similar tasks or skills.

By placing an ASTERISK next to the root of the word you’re searching for, the search results will be expanded to include any possible word containing that beginning.

For example, the search string:


would bring up results for administrator, administration, administer, etc.

ASTERISK is a great operator to add onto a search string to find complementary skills. For example, a marketing manager with administration skills:

“marketing manager” AND admin*

Advanced Boolean operators

1. URL: & SITE:

The last Boolean search operator we’ll cover is the URL: and SITE: functionality.

These operators let you search for skills and experience within a specific website or URL. This is an incredibly powerful way to quickly scan niche websites where your target candidates typically congregate.

Booleans search

The key to success with this operator is to know your candidate intimately. You should understand which sites they go to, the terminology they use, and the skills and experience they’re likely to have. Armed with this knowledge, you can search specifically for people you know will have the requirements you’re looking for.

Let’s say you’re looking for a software developer on LinkedIn who has experience in FinTech. Your string could look something like: ~CV OR Resume “software developer” AND “fintech”

It’s important to note when using Boolean search for recruitment that the more operators and layers you add to your strings, the narrower your results will become. This can, and likely will, exclude candidates that may be qualified for your position.

It’s important to regularly tweak and test your Boolean search strings to ensure that they’re giving you the most useful results possible. Keep a number of ready-made strings handy to save time, but also be aware that a qualified candidate may slip through the cracks.

Just incase you need help with boolean search , you can reach us via our Now

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