In the previous blog bost about Boolean Search I covered the main operators you can use to narrow down your search: AND, OR and NOT. But this is just the beginning when it comes to using Boolean Search for sourcing.
The full list of Google operators is obviously much longer. I like to visit the Boolean Strings blog that I linked to if I need to refresh my memory. The author, Irina Shamaeva, is my number one authority on Boolean Search. Whenever a search string I’m trying doesn’t work, I visit her blog to see what I may have missed.
Before we move on, let me remind you that the list of operators you can use will depend on the search engine you’re using for your search. Pay close attention to what browser you’re using, as entering your search in the top bar may lead you to various search engines. If anything isn’t working, check again if you are definitely using Google.
I like to use Google because it’s easier to remember one set of operators. The alternative is having to remember different sets of operators for different platforms.
Keywords will determine whether your search string allows you to find what you’re looking for. Sometimes you won’t be looking for a single word, but for an entire phrase. For example, if you’re looking for a Java Developer. You could of course use this string:
java AND developer
Remember that if you’re using Google, the AND operator is actually expressed as a space. The correct search string in Google will look like this:
But if you remember how the AND operator works, you’ll know that this search string will merely look for results where both these words appear on the same page. There’s no guarantee they will appear in this order and so the results may actually be relevant.
Let’s imagine someone says on their profile:
This is a made up example, but I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. The result is not what you were looking for at all.
If you want to find both keywords on the page, appearing one after another exactly as they do in the job title, you’ll have to use quotations. The search engine will then get a signal that you’re looking for the specific phrase and return more relevant results.
You can use the same operator whenever what you’re looking for is a phrase rather than a single word. You can also use quotations when you’re searching with natural language . This means looking for a phrase someone might write down on their profile, like in this example:
“I have 3 years of experience”
Of course if you were to use the AND operator instead of the quotations you’d get much more results. That’s because a lot of them would not really be relevant. So stop looking through results that are not really of interest, narrow down your search and save some time 🙂
Sometimes you may find yourself looking for an unknown keyword… it sounds counterintuitive, but let me explain.
Let’s choose an example that has nothing to do with sourcing first. Imagnie you’re in a bar and you overhear a song you like. You heard a whole line of text, but missed one word. You could of course look for a result that has all of the words you did here in it, but that doesn’t guarantee the most relevant results.
Instead, you can look for a phrase, the entire line you heard, and simply replace the word you didn’t hear with an asterisk:
“I’m unstoppable. I’m a * with no brakes”
“OK that’s great, but what does that have to do with sourcing?” you ask. Well, let me show you 🙂
Imagine you’re looking for a developer. Instead of trying to fit all these different titles in one search string:
“senior c# developer” OR “senior .net developer” OR “senior software developer”
You can simply write it down once:
“senior * developer”
Of course what’s missing here is narrowing your search down by the programming language the developer should use. Simply add it to your search string:
“senior * developer” (c# OR .net)
As you see you can combine different elements of your search string simply by using the AND operator. Of course if you’re searching in Google, use a space instead.
You may have noticed that in the search string above I used brackets, which I haven’t yet mentioned. Using brackets in Google will not influence the search results, but I still use them anyway for one simple reason. They give me clarity, making it very easy to read longer and more complex search strings. That allows me to modify them and to spot mistakes quickly.
Keywords (or key phrases) inside the brackets all constitute one element of the search string. In the example above it’s clear that within the brackets you find synonims, terms that could be used interchangeably on a potential candidate’s profile:
(c# OR .net)
Different job titles your potential candidate could currently have would also be one element of a search string:
(“software engineer” OR developer)
The next step would be to combine the two:
(c# OR .net) AND (“software engineer” OR developer)
Remember to write the search string using space instead of the AND operator if you’re using it ot search in Google:
(c# OR .net) (“software engineer” OR developer)
I hope these few tips will help you narror down the search results to get to what you’re looking for even faster! Let me know how it goes 🙂