What is Boolean search in recruitment?

Boolean search, also known as X-ray search, is an advanced type of online search where recruiters can create filters using a combination of keywords and operators, and then run it on search engines, social networks, or other resume databases to find high-caliber candidates.

For instance, the below string can be used to search for CTOs on LinkedIn.
site:Linkedn.com (CTO OR “chief technology officer”) 

On this page, we will show you how to create and customize such strings from scratch.

12 basic Boolean search operators

 

AND: When you use the AND operator (or the symbol ampersand &) between two keywords in a search string, the search shows results that include both the keywords. Google automatically assumes an AND operator between keywords, so you don’t have to use it while X-ray searching on Google. You can reserve it for other websites.

Let’s say you want to find profiles of software engineers with web development experience on LinkedIn, here’s what your search string would look like:

"software engineer" & "web developer"

And tada, a list of software engineers with web development experience will pop on your screen.

Boolean search for Linkedin Recruiters

OR: When you use the OR operator between two keywords, the search will show results that match at least one criterion in your search string. The OR operator precedes the AND operator when used in the same string.

Let’s say you are looking for employees of specific companies, this is what your search string would look like:

(“Netflix” OR “ESPN” OR “LEGO”)

The string will return LinkedIn profiles of people who have worked at least one of the three companies.

Boolean search cheatsheets

NOT: You can use the NOT operator or the symbol minus (-) when you want to exclude certain results from your search.

Let us show you an example.

(intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) “Content writer”

The above search string will return resumes of content writers, but it will also fetch content writer job ads that have requested resumes, sample resumes, and similar. You can use the NOT operator to exclude them. Here’s how:

(intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) “Content writer” -sample -templates -jobs -job -job-descriptions

The NOT (-) operator will now exclude all the sample resumes, resume templates, and job ads from the results.

Parentheses (): You can use this operator to group search terms in your string. The operator doesn’t work on Google, you can play with its powers on other websites. You could also use Google for your benefit, for better readability of your strings.

Here’s an example:

(intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) “Designer” (“Dallas" OR "Texas") -sample -templates

The search string will return profiles of designers from Dallas or Texas.

X-ray search for recruitment - Parentheses

Quotation “..”: The operator searches for results that exactly match the keywords within.

Here’s another example. Let’s say you want to find designers who work for Amazon on Facebook, your search would look like this:

Site:facebook.com “Designer” “profile photo” “amazon”

The search would fetch people on Facebook who had or are still working in Amazon. The keyword ‘profile photo’ will help exclude all pages and groups from the results.

Boolean serach strings for recruiters

Asterisk *: The operator can be used to search for multiple variations of the same keyword. It’s also called the wildcard symbol.

To give you an idea, here’s a string:

intitle:resume (Engineering AND manag*) -job -jobs -sample -templates

The string will return profiles of engineers with some kind of management experience. The advantage of using manag* is it covers for all keywords starting with ‘manag’ such as management, manager, managing, manages, managed, managerial, etc.

X-ray search in recruitment

Inurl: The syntax helps look for urls that have the search criteria.

Most sites have a structure with URLs functioning as their organizing folders. For Example, Flickr, the site has events, photos, people profiles and more. Their URLs look like this:

https://www.flickr.com/photos

https://www.flickr.com/events

https://www.flickr.com/people

Now when you are looking for people, you can simply add the inurl syntax to include only people profiles that match the search criteria in the results.

site:flickr.com inurl:people "designer" AND "Italy"

For more tips on sourcing the world’s best designers through Flickr check out our Candidate sourcing Bible.

Boolean search for recruitment

Site: The syntax channels the search to a particular site.

Let’s say you want to search Flickr for videographers from France, then the search string will be preceded by the site syntax like in the example here:

site:flickr.com "videographers"  "France"

The search will pull out Flickr profiles of vidéastes from France.

Intext: This syntax can be used to focus your search on websites with a specific keyword in their page text.

For instance, if you want to search for LinkedIn profiles of people who are working in Freshworks or have worked with Freshworks in the past, here’s you string:

Site:facebook.com intext:Freshworks

Boolean search for recruitment

Intitle: The syntax looks for pages with the specified keywords in their titles.
For example, let’s say you are looking for resumes of software engineers. Here’s how you can use the intitle operator in the search string:

(Intitle:resume or intitle:CV) software engineer -job -jobs -job-descriptions

The string will fetch resumes of software engineers, while the NOT operator removes all job ads or sample descriptions which may also include the same keywords.

Boolean search strings for recruitment

 

Filetype: When you want to narrow down your search to a specific file type, you can use this operator.

Let’s say you use an  ATS like Freshteam to parse resumes and screen faster, so you would like to look for resumes of marketing analysts that are downloadable, using your search prowess. Here’s the string you’d be typing out:

(intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) Marketing analyst (filetype:pdf OR filetype:doc)  -job -jobs -sample -templates

The string will fetch resumes of Marketing analysts which are in PDF or DOC formats.

 

Boolean search in recruitment

Near: When used between two keywords, the operator checks if those keywords appear close to each other (within a distance of 1-20 words), if they do, it shows such pages in the result.

intitle:resume (Engineering NEAR manag*) -job -jobs -sample -templates

The above search string will return resumes of engineers with any kind of management experience. It will search resumes to see if ‘engineering’ and any variation of ‘manag*’, that is, management, managed, manages, managing, etc appear near each other (within a distance of 1-20 words from each other). 

Recruitement Boolean search strings