A little background first, for those that are not familiar. 

Boolean searching uses the functions of Boolean algebra to deliver the most relevant results. Boolean algebra was developed by George Boole in 1854. Instead of using numbers like traditional algebra, Boolean algebra uses truth values or equivalency to deliver the results. See more on the history of Boolean algebra here.


The Basics

  • Quotation Marks " " - This requires words to be searched as a phrase, exactly how you typed them. If you need to find a candidate who previously worked as project manager, enter "Project Manager" in your search box to find exactly the phrase or title you are looking for.
  • And, Or, And Not - These words, when entered in between your keywords, can really help pull out the variations in how they might be listed on a resume. You may need to find a developer who has experience with Ajax AND Java. Another good application would be to find synonyms and abbreviations. You might try a search like blog OR blogging OR blogger OR weblog, or Search Engine Optimization OR SEO to find a marketing candidate. Lastly, use AND NOT to exclude results that may otherwise show up, e.g. "Project Manager" AND NOT Coordinator. Use quotations and exclusive terms together to really filter down your results.


Slightly More Advanced

  • Near - Joining words with NEAR will deliver fewer results than AND because it requires the words to be close in proximity to each other. Use this when you want to find terms that appear in the same sentence or paragraph. Think of it like a context search. Plenty of candidates will have certain words in their resume, but the NEAR function will only bring them up if they are actually next to each other.
  • Nesting (  ) - Here is the ultimate Boolean tool to create long, complex search strings. For example, ("HVAC" NEAR "Project Manager") AND (California OR "Pacific Coast*") will give us results for HVAC Project Managers in California or along the Pacific Coast. Notice that Pacific Coast also has the wildcard tag *.


Think of all the combinations you can put together to find exactly what you're looking for! Which of these functions delivers the best results for you? What other Boolean tricks do you use?


Louis Bina is the marketing manager at CATS Software, Inc.

Views: 1322

Comment by Bagus Hendrayono on August 12, 2011 at 4:20am

Hi Louis,

Thanks for the Tips, its really useful. we use Agencydb with thousands cv inside and this boolean system will definitely help me a lot

Comment by Louis Bina on August 12, 2011 at 10:07am
Hi Bagus, I'm glad it's helpful. I learned a thing or two while writing it!
Comment by Julie on August 12, 2011 at 10:44am
Thank you - very interesting!
Comment by Mark Lynch on August 12, 2011 at 10:50am
I could have used "near" yesterday.  Thanks!  Very helpful
Comment by Tim Spagnola on August 12, 2011 at 11:00am
Louis - I echo the sentiments in saying thank you for sharing this with the RBC. There are new recruiters  joining the RBC every day and some of those individuals are early in their recruitment careers. So although some might think 'been there done that', this post is great information and helpful to many.
Comment by Louis Bina on August 12, 2011 at 11:02am
Thanks a lot Tim, I really appreciate that! @Mark, "near" was new for me too. I had no idea you could search for words by their proximity to each other.
Comment by Christopher Perez on August 12, 2011 at 11:42am
Good tips, Louis. I use Boolean search as a regular part of my sourcing bag of tricks. There are a lot of powerful applications and advanced techniques out there for those willing to do a bit of self-development. FYI, I'm also a fan and everyday user of CATS as my preferred ATS. Nice work!
Comment by Louis Bina on August 12, 2011 at 11:48am
Right on Chris! I think we'll do another webinar on boolean searching one of these Thursdays.
Comment by Tom on August 12, 2011 at 12:14pm
Louis, you hit on the head.  By using Boolean you really open up a lot of other alternatives to the usual hunting grounds for finding great talent or great referrals.  The one thing to remember is it is a very dynamic set of paramters.  You are limited by your own imagination of how you want to structure it. 
Comment by Louis Bina on August 12, 2011 at 12:25pm
Totally Tom. You can make it as simple or complex as you like, but there are still rules you have to follow to get the right results - it's still math after all!


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