What Is Boolean Search in Recruiting? Process, With Examples for Google and LinkedIn


The number of platforms to find great candidates are many, and with job portals having every filter imaginable in place, it shouldn’t be so hard to find a candidate of choice. But it is. Enter, the Boolean search string, the savior of recruiters who have very specific candidates to look for.

With advances in recruiting with artificial intelligence (AI), methods like Boolean searches may seem challenging. But if you are yet to harness the power of AI in recruitmentOpens a new window , using Boolean searches while scouring job boards, LinkedIn, or even Google directly can be great help for you.

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What Is Boolean Search in Recruitment?

Boolean search in recruitmentOpens a new window is defined as the structured process of using mathematical operators such as AND, OR, and NOT to broaden or limit your candidate search on databases such as Google, LinkedIn, job portals, applicant tracking systemsOpens a new window (ATS), and candidate relationship managementOpens a new window (CRM) solution,.

It helps find more relevant results when you have been given a unique set of instructions for a specific type of candidate and your current pool of candidates don’t match those requirements.

Boolean search is based on George Boole’s Boolean logic. George Boole was a prominent mathematician who laid the foundation of Boolean algebra. 

Mastering Boolean searches for recruitment will take a while, but if you get it right, it can help you find a goldmine of talent that your regular candidate search may not be able to.

Let’s dive into the three important Boolean search operators and modifiers, the field codes that can help you get maximum value on Google, and how you can use these operators on other websites as well.

Boolean Search Operators

You can perform a search with three basic operators:

1. AND

The operator “AND” helps you broaden your search by adding multiple keywords to your search. For example, you can use this operator when looking for a content writer and creator. The search string would look like this:

content writer AND creator

This operator does not need to be specified when searching on Google and LinkedIn, or even on your regular job posting sites. The space works as the AND operator. Simply typing “content writer-creator” will give you the results you are looking for.

2. OR

When you want to specify alternatives for the role or skill you are looking for, use the OR search string. For example, you could be looking for a content writer or creator or developer. In that case, your search query would look like

content AND writer OR creator OR developer

This operator can also be used to identify candidates who spell certain words differently. For example

graphic design AND Adobe AND Photoshop OR Photo shop AND Lightroom OR Light Room

On Google, LinkedIn, Monster, and Bing, use the pipe character (|) instead of OR for more accurate results.

3. NOT or – (the hyphen)

The NOT operator is a great tool to limit your search to specific terms. For instance, if you want to look for a content writer/creator specifically but not an editor, then the results that show up will exclude the term “editor” from the search. Your search query will look like this:

content AND writer OR creator NOT editor

On Google and LinkedIn, use the hyphen instead of the word NOT.

content writer OR creator -editor

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Boolean Search Modifiers

Boolean search modifiers are tools to help you streamline your search further. Here’s how to use the three key Boolean search modifiers.

1. Parentheses ()

Parentheses work in Boolean searches just like they do in math – they give priority to what is within them. For instance, if you are looking for a content creator who works in healthcare, your search query should look like this:

content AND (creator OR writer) AND (health care or healthcare) -editor -freelancer

This prioritizes the search for a content creator and then for a content creator in the healthcare industry. This search string also omits individuals working as freelancers or editors, so that you can find candidates interested in full-time positions.

2. Quotation Marks (“”)

Quotation marks help you find exact phrase matches in your search. For example, just the phrase content writer will give you searches for the terms content and writer, and sometimes not necessarily together. However, searches for “content writer” will result in exact phrase matches.

Our recommendation is to experiment with quotation marks. Sometimes in specifying terms with the NOT operator within quotations, the search yields result for exactly those terms.

3. Asterisk (*) or Wild Card

The asterisk works as a wild card and is useful to look for variants of your keyword. Put the asterisk after the keyword or stem word.

For example, if you want to search for writing-related terms such as “content writer” or “content writing” or “content creation” or content creator, use the asterisk following the stem word. For example, “content writ*” or “content creat*”.

Note that the asterisk is recognized by most applicant tracking systems (ATS) and job boards, but not by LinkedIn. It is also not very effective on Google.

Avoid putting terms followed by the asterisk within quotation marks, as it tends to result in exact matches of the word.

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Boolean Search Process for Recruitment on Google

On Google, you can use three field commands along with the above-mentioned operators and modifiers to help you streamline your recruitment search.

1. inurl:

This field command helps you find results that have a specific term in the URL. For example, if you want to look at the members of the engineering team of various companies, you can build your search string like this:

inurl:”engineering team”

This will reveal search results with this term in the URL. But remember that this can also give your results like “How to Build a Good Engineering Team.” So, you will have to use some operators to remove these terms and make your search more specific. For example:

inurl:”engineering team” -inurl:”how to”

2. site:

The “site:” field command helps when you’re looking for results from a specific site. This is great when you want to find people who may not necessarily be on LinkedIn but may have an extensive portfolio to share, such as graphic designers on Behance or marketing professionals on SlideShare. In fact, a lot of people put up their resumes on SlideShare as well, and it may be a good repository to find good talent. Your search command will then look something like this:

site:behance.net graphic (“illustrator” | “designer”)

This search tells Google that you are looking for graphic illustrators or designers on the Behance website.

3. intitle:

If you want to widen your search, you can use the command “intitle:” to specifically look for words such as “resume,” “CV,” in addition to the keyword, such as “illustrator.” So your search string will look like this:

site:slideshare.net intitle:resume (illustrator | animator)

Note: For each of these commands, begin the search term immediately after the colon. Don’t insert any spaces.

Examples of Google Boolean Search Strings for Recruiters

1. In the first example, we look for a project manager or coordinator on LinkedIn. We don’t want job listings or job descriptions to show up, so we have used the NOT operator to remove them.

Site:linkedin.com project (“manager” | “coordinator”) profile -intitle:”jobs” -intitle:”job description”

Fig 1. An example of a search string used on Google to find Project Managers or Coordinators with profiles on LinkedIn

Note that in this search string, using quotation marks omitted the terms we used with the NOT (-) operator.

2. For the next example, we scour through SlideShare for illustrator resumes. To remove results that offer free resume templates, here we have used the “NOT” operator with “intitle.”

site:slideshare.net intitle:resume (illustrator | animator) profile -intitle:”template”

Fig 2. An example of a Boolean search string on Google to find Illustrator and Animator resumes on SlideShare

Note that in this search string, not using quotation marks to specify the designations we were looking for resulted in better searches.

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Boolean Search Process for Recruitment on LinkedIn

On LinkedIn, you can use all the above-mentioned operators and modifiers except the asterisk. They work exactly like they do on Google. It even accepts the operator symbols as Google does.

In fact, on LinkedIn, you get to apply additional filters such as location and company size, which help you narrow your results further.

LinkedIn Boolean Search Examples for Recruiters

LinkedIn search works similar to the Google search.

1. In our first search, we look for content creators in the healthcare field. We want to hire full-time candidates, so we avoid looking for freelancers.

“content” (“creator” OR “writer”) (“health care” OR “healthcare”) -“editor” -“freelance”

Fig 3. An example of Boolean search on LinkedIn for Content Writers in the Healthcare Industry

2. Similarly, we are looking for a marketing manager in the financial technology industry.

(“marketing manager”) (“fintech” | “financial technology”) -“freelance”


Fig 4. An example of Boolean search on LinkedIn for Marketing Managers in Financial Technology or FinTech


Key Takeaways for Recruiters

Applying Boolean search in recruiting is the key to finding specific talent, but it is a skill that is developed over time. To build this skill, keep these points in mind:

  1. Whenever you do spell out the operators, always do so in uppercase. Else, they will not work.
  2. Devising search strings takes time, so save each successful string and subsequent modifications you make to the strings.
  3. Save all your search strings in a notepad file or in an Excel sheet – because Microsoft Word with its various fonts and curly quotes can mess up your Boolean search string.
  4. Make a separate list of keywords you can use in your search strings so you can use variations to find your candidates.
  5. Consider spelling variations of words such as “DevOps” and “dev ops” or “PowerPoint” and “Power Point.” This will expand the limits of your searches.

Learn More:

How to become a smart recruitment specialist in 2020Opens a new window

False positives are common on search strings, so you have to keep refining your results until you generate results specific to your search intent and search query.

Boolean searches can make a world of a difference to your recruiting process and can help you find a good pool of passive applicants you can reach out to. Keep building on your Boolean search strategies by experimenting with search strings, making modifications where needed, until you find the perfect combination that gets you the results you are looking for.

Do you use Boolean searches in your recruitment efforts? How has your experience with this process been? Let’s talk about it on FacebookOpens a new window , LinkedInOpens a new window , or TwitterOpens a new window !