HR 101: Boolean Searches

When hiring a new team member, we recruiters often cast a wide net to ensure we capture as many qualified candidates as possible. Although that increases the odds of finding the right talent along with that comes sifting through tens to hundreds of resumes only to find the majority of them to be unqualified. Now imagine instead of sifting through every resume you could do a quick search to find only those applicants with the exact skills, knowledge, and experience you are looking to fill. This is where a Boolean search can help. 

How do you say Boolean?

Pronounced: Boo-Lee-Uhn

What is Boolean search exactly? 

Boolean search is an advanced method of online search that consists of modifiers (quotation marks, asterisks, and parentheses) and operators (OR, AND, NOT must be used in all caps) that recruiters can use to find better candidates faster. 

This is a proactive sourcing method and one that all recruiters should learn to master. 

Where can I use Boolean search methods? 

Essentially anywhere that has a search function you can apply the Boolean search to such as:

  • Search engines like Google

  • Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter

  • Your applicant tracking system or any resume database that you have

How does Boolean search work? 

Boolean search is a process of combining keywords with modifiers and operators in order to narrow down the search.

What are modifiers? 

Modifiers are symbols that you can use to modify your search operations.  There are 3 basic modifiers.  

Quotes “ ” 

Quotation marks are used when searching for an exact phrase that consists of more than one word.

For example: “Early Childhood Education Director”

Without the quotation marks your search would bring up anything in your database that has any of those words.  The quotes modifier only brings up candidates that have all three words in that order.  

Asterisk *

Put an asterisk at the end of your keyword if you would like to include all of its variations. 

For example: recruit* = recruiter, recruitment, recruiting

Parentheses ( )

Parentheses are used are most commonly used to wrap OR search. 

For example: Human Resources (Advisor OR Analyst)


What are operators? 

There are three basic operators.  Operators are case sensitive and must be used in all caps or you can use the corresponding symbol.  

AND or &

If you add an AND operator between your two keywords, the search results will show only results that include both of your keywords.

For example: Typing Warehouse Production Manager Vancouver will return results for Warehouse or Production or Manager or Vancouver. However, if you type “Warehouse Production Manager” AND Vancouver you will only get results for Warehouse Production Managers in Vancouver.

OR or | (vertical bar symbol)

If you add OR operator between your two keywords, the search results will show results that include either of the two keywords or both of them simultaneously.

*Pro tip - Search engines default to this even if you don’t type the word OR.  Combine this operator with parentheses to maximize your results. 

For example: Project (Assistant OR Advisor).

NOT or - (minus symbol)

If you add NOT operator between your two keywords, the search results will show only results that contain the first keyword, but not the second one.  

For example: Vancouver BC NOT WA

Here’s a chart of all the modifiers and operators for quick reference:

Screen Shot 2019-06-28 at 12.34.03 PM.png

When applied properly Boolean search will help you find the right candidate faster.  Happy searching! 


Keira Roets