Using Boolean Searches to Find Candidates

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Admittedly, Boolean is a funny word.  Most of us know it applies to a search technique but we don’t have any idea how.  Likewise, since the mid-1990’s, many of us use Boolean searches daily to find information on the Internet and have no idea that something so mundane has deep mathematic roots.

In the late 19th Century, George Boole, English mathematician, philosopher, and logician, made significant strides and discoveries in the fields of differential equations and algebraic logic.  He is best known for authoring The Laws of Thought.  So how do we get from algebra to Google?  And more importantly, how do Boolean searches enable recruiters to find the best candidates both active and passive?

Math and logic put into plain English, “Boolean Logic” is the process of combining certain concepts and excluding others when searching databases.  Thus, when you put the words “and” or “near” or “or” in a search engine along with keywords, you are effectively using Boolean Logic—and conducting a Boolean search.  Likewise, in modern non-mathematical use, keeping phrases together with quotation marks adds to the specificity.

While this might be as second nature as finding an Arby’s in your hometown of Arlington, TX or a solution for “poison ivy” and “toddler,” Boolean searches can be fine-tuned as sharp search devices.  Recruiting agencies use this technique to find the best and brightest candidates for positions.

Active candidates for jobs are low hanging fruit for recruiters.  Sites like LinkedIn.com, Monster.com, and Careerbuilder.com are full of resumes with searchable terms regarding the positions they are looking for.  Searching for a Project Manager in a sea of resumes where those keywords abound can result in thousands of hits.  But what about those passive candidates out there who aren’t searching for their next job opportunity?  Their contact information isn’t neatly attached to a list of their qualifications searchable online.  How do recruitment agencies source those people?

Here is where skill and ingenuity in choosing the right combination of words for the Boolean search come into play.  A skilled recruiter knows how to find ancillary words to obvious search terms that carve out and highlight paths to the candidates’ information.

As an example, let’s look at our Project Manager search.  Say the head of an ad agency wants to create such a position to head the creation of a new digital department.   He approaches a savvy recruiter who heads to the Internet.  While common sense makes this search seem easy, this is a situation where uncommon sense is employed.

The recruiter breaks down the position into a list of keywords.  Keywords can be found in the job description.  Let’s look at the keywords “project” and “manager.” The words themselves have many meanings and uses and therefore fairly useless. But when put into quotation marks, “project manager” has a more concise meaning.

The Boolean search can be further honed by adding “digital agency” and the words “and” or “or” to the search.  Likewise, depending on the search engine, the recruiter can use the word “not” to exclude terms.  So, for example, if the company does not want a candidate who comes from the software programing industry, he can add “not” and “software” to the search bar.   Some search engines, like Google, read over small words and instead use the + and – signs, respectively.

The more terms added, the more narrow the results. But which terms?  A location is always a sure-fire term.  As is a list of names of existing digital ad agencies.  While companies in a certain area may post their employees’ information publically, many choose not to for privacy.   So where are the names of currently employed Project Managers hiding out?

Each recruiter has his own secret weapons but a good start is searching for online articles containing keywords regarding honors, awards, civic involvement, and news events.   Did a competing ad agency just have a presence at a local job fair?  Were the employees of another agency featured in a press release regarding a new digital product?  These are there types of publications a good recruiter looks for.

Another avenue is social media.  Facebook, Instagram, and other sites have warehouses of information searchable online.  Simply tagging a Boolean search with “status update” can result in dozens of leads.  Likewise, image and hashtag searches can yield even more candidates who are simply mentioning their qualifications.  #bossdigitalmanager might be a lead to just the candidate the agency needs.

The genius is in the details, however, and recruiters have their own talented people who offer this edge to companies looking to find passive candidates. Boolean searches may be the mathematic tool, but the creativity of the recruiter is the real resource.   By using the formulas and strategies they have tested and perfected—as well as thinking outside-the-box—a recruiter can be invaluable to a company looking to fill an important position.

About ARC Group©

ARC Group©, the parent company of Recruitment Intelligence™, has been an industry front runner in the last 30 years in the full-time, contract and temp-to-hire staffing and consulting industries.  Awarded to the South Florida, Jacksonville and Minnesota’s Business Journal’s collection of “Top 25 Executive Search & Consulting Firms” we have a national presence, and provide a service throughout the US, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Chicago and Washington.

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