Sourcing on the Web: Two Key Areas to Master

I wanted to share some notes with those who are interested in improving their skills in web sourcing. This is based on my experience with the "Boolean" community. I host the "Boolean Strings" group here on RBC and a large group "Boolean Strings" on LinkedIn. I ran the "Worldwide Boolean Contest" in December (together with Glen Cathey) and currently lead a paid Study Group. I have noticed two key areas where one could improve his/her skills so that their web sourcing becomes productive, less frustrating and more enjoyable.

The first is learning the syntax. It's important to understand that Google syntax is different from Boolean syntax on job boards like Monster; also, different search engines have different syntax. Here are a couple of examples explaining why I think it's something to pay attention to.

* The Boolean Contest Quiz was mainly about search syntax. 165 people took it. If you take a look at the Contest statistics, you will see that for many syntax questions way less than 50% of the answers were correct.

* I recently got an email from a recruiter who was unhappy about my post on how to search for email addresses. He writes: "Your string is "grammatically" incorrect. Also mathematically incorrect, yet, it works." It was hard for him to believe that he could drop the symbol @ from a Google search for email addresses. The idea of using @ to search for email addresses also shows up on our discussion boards quite often. But in fact, Google ignores special symbols and that includes @.

Here are a couple of aspects of Google syntax I posted about some time ago.
Two Common Misconceptions about Searching Google for Resumes

How do you master your knowledge of syntax on Google?

1) Use Google help to get information
2) Use the advanced search page (which seems counter-intuitive).
3) Try running examples if you have a guess about the syntax and verify whether your guess is correct.

Review more detailed guides: Berkeley Guide and Google Guide
Keep an eye on good sourcing-related sites such as Jim Stroud's and

Learn from experts such as Andrea Mitchell.

The second aspect is practicing and learning the process of playing with the search string, changing it and collecting results. It's a harder thing to explain, I guess. But I met quite a number of people who attend webinars, bring home cheatsheets and are not sure how to apply this knowledge to their case. (This makes some go back to more webinars.) Sometimes there's an assumption that there's "the right" string that will have only relevant results and will collect everything there is. In fact, there's nothing wrong with your string if some results are irrelevant. You can collect the relevant results or modify the string adding some words with a minus sign to exclude them. It's not that you keep working on your string until it's "the best". The search process is all about adding and removing keywords and modifying the string and collecting results that come up. When I do my web sourcing I change the strings every few seconds and keep going until I have collected enough material to process. I will try to better explain what I mean in a future post.

Many sourcers believe that they would make progress if they search using some new advanced techniques and sites. Adding tools to your kit is great, but learning how to use the basic tools (like good old Google) and practicing them is essential.

Please join the"Boolean Strings" group on RBC and the the "Boolean Strings" group on LinkedIn and post your questions and thoughts.

Irina Shamaeva

Views: 91

Comment by Faisal Javed on January 12, 2009 at 1:16pm
Nice info Irina, thanks for sharing...
Comment by Peter Cabaniss on January 12, 2009 at 1:59pm
Irina is among a handful of ture Boolean masters. However, she has an insight that sets her apart.

How masterful is it to recognize the hidden information contained in the answers from the particpants in her Boolean Contest? Like a true professor of her craft, she saw the answers as a guage that measured the quality of her students. She then pinpointed some trends and now she has an indication of where our deficiencies lay. Then as a good professor she wrote us a note, to help us understand better.

What a class act you are.

Thanks Irina


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