How to Use Boolean Search to Find Top Talent on Google

By Jenn Steele - Sep. 28, 2014
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If you’ve read some of our “think like an online marketer” series recently, you might have noticed that we encourage companies to use marketing SEO and SEM tactics to attract candidates to their job postings and ads.

The flip side of this is that companies can (and should!) also use Google do the detective work to find top talent.

We’re not saying you should use this instead of LinkedIn, GitHub, or a good recruiter. But skipping the power of the top search engine when you’re looking for candidates would be a big mistake.

Searching Google can be a bit intimidating sometimes, however. In most cases, how you search massively influences the results you get. On the other side of typing the right words into a box on a screen is that rare undiscovered talent: the purple squirrel or four near-perfect candidates.

You have the opportunity to discover – literally – almost anyone, anywhere simply by typing. While using keywords to find the right person seems straightforward, the reality is quite different. Effectively using Boolean search and knowing how to navigate Google can separate finding good talent from being lost and floundering in the midst of search engine results.

Boolean What?

The word Boolean comes from the inventor of the method, George Boole, who proposed that most outcomes could be arrived at through a series of logical choices. Your brain naturally works this way, probably also using the terms in a Boolean search.

For example, “I want a candidate with experience in design AND management but NOT graphic design.” However, there are a couple of tricks that can exponentially improve the results a search returns. A great Boolean search requires knowing the right keywords to use and then how to separate them out with the operators.

Boolean methods can be used on any search engine: Google, LinkedIn, or even Facebook.

Boolean is a term used to define the process of combining keywords with words called “operators.” These operators tell the search engine how to use the keywords in the search. Operator word examples are AND, NOT, and OR. With the right Boolean search, an engine can cut through the profiles and websites you don’t wish to see and bring to surface that information which will be helpful in your search for your next candidate.

Why Google?

There are many good reasons to use Google instead of a job profile site’s advanced search feature. For example, when you use the advanced search feature in LinkedIn, the results are prioritized by profiles in your specific network. When you use Google, you have full access to the range of profiles.

Using Boolean in Google is different from using Boolean in job site search engines like LinkedIn because it returns results that are not necessarily people profiles. The results may be articles or webpages or reports. They could be Excel documents or PDFs with lists of conference attendees’ names. However, the wealth of Google’s information is both a curse and a blessing. Receiving results that are not about people or that are simply templates or presentations can be frustrating. That is why it’s important to know some methods of excluding unwanted information:

These parameters & tips will help you narrow down your search so that you don’t end up buried under tons of useless info.

1. “site:”

Use the word site: to limit your search to one particular domain. For instance, to access only Linkedin profiles of people in Germany use the search term “”. To search solely within a document site like Scribd, use “”.

2. “inurl:”

A powerful and little-known Boolean search term is the “inurl” function. This can be used to select only those webpages that have a specific word in the url. For instance, “resume” or “cv” will help you find anyone who has uploaded an online resume or CV. If you want to find people who went to a conference, putting the word “attendee” or “delegate” in this search will increase your chances. You can even limit the type of document you are looking for. “inurl:pdf “attendee”” will keep all your results to pdfs with the word “attendee” in the title.

3. “-“

The power of the dash (or minus sign) is very important. If you’re noticing a lot of a particular type of page come up, use the minus key to remove them in one go. If you see a ton of templates come up, add “-template*” to your search. Another common, and useless, result is site directories. Remove them using “-inurl:dir”

4. Focus on specific document sites

Scribd, SlideShare, issuu, and docstoc are examples of document websites that could provide attendee lists of industry events or CVs and resumes. Limit your search to each website (using “site:”) for more specific results.

5. Don’t use complete job titles

While it might seem natural to use a job title as the primary defining factor, narrowing your focus on a specific job title can actually exclude highly qualified candidates who, for some reason, go under a different role name. Here are ways to target them without missing out:

  1. Use the wild card *. The wild card returns results with words containing the wild card, for instance, coordinat* will return results with coordinator, coordinating, coordination, etc.
  2. Combine AND & OR inside brackets. Let’s look at the title “Marketing Manager”. Someone may also be called a Brand Manager or Marketing Director. Notice that both terms can change and combinations could be virtualy limitless. Rather than utilizing a long list of ANDs amongst quotation marks (“Brand Manager” OR “Marketing Director” OR “Marketing Manager”) separate out the two words with an AND: “(Brand OR Marketing) AND (Manager OR Director)”.

Of course, Boolean searches won’t do you much good if you don’t spend time and thought defining what kind of candidates you’re looking for. Use these methods with well-chosen terms, and you’ll find hidden candidates who might be perfect for your opening. Let us know if you have any other search tips below! We love to hear from other detectives.

Photo by Fat Les (bellaphon) from London, UK (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Jenn Steele

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