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Why Every Recruiter Should Utilize Boolean Search

In today’s candidate-driven market with low unemployment, recruiters have to think creatively and utilize every method for reaching qualified candidates. More recruiters are finding ways to work smarter and harder by utilizing recruitment marketing and social media, but one way to fully embrace the web and all of its advantages is to use boolean search.

Accessing the entire pool of talent that meets a search’s specific criteria is vital when the most qualified candidates are passive. With boolean search, recruiters have the ability to customize search results on search engines, social media platforms, resume databases, and applicant tracking systems to show only candidates who meet the specific criteria they are seeking. By using a set of modifiers and symbols, recruiters have more control over search results—resulting in higher efficiency and reaching the candidates they are seeking faster. This tactic is imperative when looking for resumes that include a very specific level of education, a particular set of skills, and are located in a certain location.

How to Perform a Boolean Search

Understanding Modifiers

When using any of the following 3 modifiers, they should always be typed in uppercase—they will not work otherwise.


Placing the word “AND” in between keywords optimizes the search results to include only entries that contain both, or all, keywords. There is no limit on how many modifiers can be used in boolean search so if there are 10 keywords that must be included in a search entry, all 10 of those keywords can be entered in the search box. The ampersand symbol “&” can also be used in lieu of the word “AND.”

For example: Audit AND “Big 4” & SAP

Boolean search


Using the word “OR” in between two keywords pulls up results that include either of those keywords. The vertical bar “|” also works as a replacement for “OR.” This modifier is extremely helpful when recruiters do not want to exclude one of the many variations of job titles, such as representative OR associate, or manager OR supervisor.

For example: MBA OR “Masters of Business Administration”

boolean seach


Adding “NOT” before a keyword eliminates any results that contain that keyword. The minus symbol “-” can also be used for this function. The “NOT” modifier can be helpful if recruiters have a specific skill, industry, or company that they want to avoid seeing in search results, but it is most commonly used to filter out any results that do not lead to resumes of real candidates. Searches for candidates on search engines often result in resume templates for that specific job title.

For example:

  • resume NOT template -example -sample
  • Director -executive -vp -vice -president
boolean search

Understanding Symbols

Quotes “”

When searching for an exact key phrase of more than one word, that phrase should be enclosed with quotation marks.

For example:

  • “Accounts payable”
  • “Marketing director”

Parentheses ()

For complex searches that combine many modifiers and symbols, parenthesis keep the search organized. Parentheses are most commonly used to enhance an “OR” search.

For example:

  • Software AND (developer OR programmer)
  • Marketing AND (director OR manager)

Search smarter and improve sourcing efficiencies by utilizing boolean search on Google, Linkedin, resume databases, and more.

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