Boolean Search for Recruiters [Actionable Guide]

By understanding and applying Boolean search principles, recruiters can streamline their search process, pinpoint ideal candidates more efficiently, and optimize their recruitment efforts for better outcomes.

This actionable guide is designed to equip you with the knowledge and tools to effectively use Boolean search techniques across the most popular platforms. You will find concrete examples of doing a boolean search on Google and LinkedIn, along with some great sample boolean search strings for recruiters. Let’s get started!


How to Use Boolean Search

In the quest for top talent, we all understand the need for recruiters to dig deeper than the active job market. The real game-changers are often those not actively seeking new opportunities, the so-called passive candidates. 

So how do you find them without having to scroll through hundreds of profiles all over the Internet? The answer - boolean search.

Imagine finding at least five or ten perfect candidates in just half an hour. By mastering a few simple operators and modifiers, you can dramatically cut down on search time, making your recruitment efforts more efficient and effective.

Let me show you a few tips and tricks that will help you uncover hidden gems in no time.

3 basic Boolean search operators

Boolean search revolves around three fundamental operators: AND, OR, NOT. Here’s how they work:

Useful tip: You can use a vertical bar symbol (|) instead of typing in the word OR.
Useful tip: You can use a minus symbol (-) instead of typing in the word NOT.

3 Boolean Query Modifiers

Modifiers add another layer of precision to your searches. Here’s how to use them:

5 Secret Tips for Boolean Search Strings

Here are 5 more useful tips and tricks that can help you create advanced Boolean search strings: 

Tip #1: Use filetype syntax

Use file type syntax if you want to limit your search to specific file types.

For example, you can search for Word, text of PDF document formats.

Here is what the filetype syntax looks like:

Tip #2: Use site search syntax 

Use site search syntax if you want to limit your search to a specific website.

For example, if you want to search only a certain social network, you should type in the site search syntax before you enter your keywords:

Here’s what it looks like when you want to search for marketing specialists in New York and you want only LinkedIn to appear in the results:

Using a site search syntax in a boolean search on Google

Tip #3: Title search syntax

Use title search syntax if you want to limit your search only to websites with certain keywords in their title.

Type in this syntax before entering your keywords: 

For example, if you want to search for websites that have the keywords “resume” or “bio” in their title, you should type in:

Tip #4: Text search syntax

Use text search syntax if you want to limit your search only to websites with certain keywords in the text on the web page.

Type in this syntax before entering your keywords: 

For example, if you want to search for websites that have keywords “resume” or “bio” in the text, you should type in:

Here’s an example of looking for interview questions templates containing the word “leadership”:

An example of using a text search syntax in a boolean Google search

Tip #5: URL search syntax

Use URL search syntax if you want to limit your search only to websites with certain keywords in their URL.

Type in this syntax before entering your keywords: 

For example, if you want to search for websites that have keywords “resume” or “bio” in their URL, you should type in:

In the following sections, we’re going to go over a few examples of how to use boolean search to find exactly what you’re looking for. 

Google Boolean Search

By utilizing Boolean search operators and modifiers in Google, recruiters can uncover resumes, portfolios, and profiles across the web. 

Let’s say we are sourcing a sales representative in London. We’ll type in “sales representative resume London” in Google. 

example of using boolean search on Google to look for a sales representative in London

What did we get? A bunch of resume templates and examples, recruiting agency websites, job ads, etc. This search is useless for our needs. 

But what happens if we apply our boolean search skills? 

Let’s type in a simple boolean search string, giving instructions to exclude certain terms from the search results like “agency”, “hiring”, “template” etc. so that we could get as relevant results as possible. 

An example of a more advanced boolean Google search used in recruitment

Now our search results almost exclusively show resumes of potential candidates. Let’s do another one and get a little more specific. 

This time we are looking for a senior software engineer with knowledge of Java or Python programming languages (or both). Just like in the previous example, we are going to exclude terms like “job”, “apply”, ”template”, “example”, “hiring”, and “career” to make sure only potential candidates’ resumes come up in the results. Here’s the search:

senior software engineer resume AND (Java OR Python) -agency -example -template -career -hiring -job -apply

n example of an advanced boolean Google search used in recruitment

As you can see, all the results are resumes from senior software engineers, just like we wanted. 

LinkedIn Boolean Search

Just like with Google, you can use these techniques in the LinkedIn search bar to filter candidates by location, industry, current company, and more. 

Implementing Boolean search strings like (developer OR engineer) AND (java OR python) NOT junior in LinkedIn's search can significantly refine search results, making it easier to find suitable candidates.

Here’s how to do it:

Let’s do an example search. 

Say we want to extend our search for a senior software engineer from Google to LinkedIn. Just like in the previous example, we want our potential candidate to know Python or JAVA (or both). 

An example of using boolean search on Linkedin to find a candidate for a software engineer job

As you can see, there are over 950,000 people that fit these requirements. 

Let’s try to narrow down our search. We want to filter only those who are located in the United Kingdom and are currently working at Meta. The search string we typed in is: 

“senior software engineer” AND (java OR python) AND Location: United Kingdom AND current: Meta.

Here are the results:

An example of an advanced LinkedIn boolean search for a software engineer

There are only 26 people that match our exact search query. This can be done for almost any type of search you want. 

Ready for something cool now? Let me show you another way of doing this which is even easier. 

I’m gonna log into my TalentLyft account and go to the source module.

Using TalentLyft to source a senior software engineer on LinkedIn

I set the main parameters on the type of candidate we’re looking for - job title, skills, industry and location. Now let’s click on “Search on LinkedIn”. 

The search result of using TalentLyft's sourcing feature on LinkedIn

The search leads me straight to LinkedIn search results with the filters already set. As you can see, there are 1100 potential candidates that fit my criteria. Now that I’ve found them, I can take it a step further and add them directly to my database, without needing to copy or rewrite the data.

Out of the results we got in our search, I found a person I believe would be a great candidate. Once I go to their profile, all I need to do is toggle the TalentLyft Hire extension in the Extensions tab on Google Chrome. On the right, a window with all the relevant data about the candidate will pop up, offering to source the candidate to my database.

The process of sourcing a job candidate from LinkedIn using TalentLyft's Hire extension.

When I open my TalentLyft candidate database, I now have this person saved with full candidate profile information. 

A job candidate profile in TalentLyft

The best thing about this is, it’s not limited to LinkedIn. I could also go to Dribble, Stack Overflow, Github or any of the most popular professional networks and do the same thing. 

Try the Hire extension for free!
Find the best candidates on the most popular networks like LinkedIn, Github, X and Stack Overflow and source them to your database in seconds. Try for free for 14 days, no credit card required!
 Start sourcing 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Boolean Search and Why is it Important for Recruiters? 

Boolean search is an advanced method of online search that allows recruiters to find better candidates faster. By using specific operators and modifiers, recruiters can create targeted search strings, enabling them to source candidates on search engines, social networks, resume databases, and professional directories more effectively.

How Do Boolean Search Operators Work in Recruitment? 

Boolean search operators like AND, OR, and NOT are used to refine search queries. The AND operator shows results including both keywords, OR displays results with either keyword, and NOT excludes the second keyword from search results. These operators help recruiters narrow down their search to more relevant candidates.

What Are Some Basic Boolean Search Modifiers Used in Recruitment? 

Basic Boolean search modifiers include quotation marks for exact phrases, asterisks for keyword variations, and parentheses for grouping keywords in an OR search. Using boolean search in recruitment helps in refining the search to be more precise, ensuring that the results are more relevant to the specific requirements of the job position.

Can Boolean Search Techniques Be Used on Different Online Platforms? 

Yes, Boolean search techniques can be applied across various online platforms. Recruiters can use them on search engines like Google, Yahoo, or Bing, social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, X, and Instagram, and in searching resume databases and professional directories. This versatility makes it a powerful tool in the recruitment process.

What Are Some Additional Tips for Effective Boolean Searching? 

Additional tips for effective Boolean searching include using the filetype syntax to search for specific document formats, the site search syntax to limit searches to a specific website, and the title, text, and URL search syntaxes to find websites with certain keywords in their title, text, or URL. These advanced techniques allow for even more precise searches, making it easier to find the best candidates.

backgound backgound
The Ultimate Guide to Finding Qualified Candidates in 2024

The Ultimate Guide to Finding Qualified Candidates in 2024

Download this guide for sourcing job candidates, and learn the most effective ways to find high-quality job candidates.
Get your eBook

Further reading

55 Best Job Boards in 2024 (Free + Paid) 55 Best Job Boards in 2024 (Free + Paid)
Welcome to the ultimate cheat sheet for navigating the jungle of job boards! At this time, the space of job boards is almost endless, ranging from widely recognized...
How to Create a Hiring Plan That Works How to Create a Hiring Plan That Works
Imagine working in tourism, and you start posting ads for seasonal jobs a month before the beginning of the season? We all know it will be a disaster. Because we...

By topics

Attracting Candidates
Best HR Blogs
Candidate Experience
Careers Page
Collaborative Hiring
Conducting Interviews
Coronavirus (Covid-19)
Company Culture
Employee Management
Employee Onboarding
Internal Recruitment
Employer Branding
Hire planning
HR Software
HR Tech Trends
Interview Questions
Job Advertisement
Mobile Recruitment
News & Updates
People Analytics
Recruiting Stats
Recruitment Agencies
AI in Recruitment
Recruitment by Industry
Recruitment Content
Recruitment Marketing
Recruitment Process
Recruitment & HR Software
Recruitment Trends
Remote Work
Resume Screening
Candidate Assessment
Social Recruiting
Talent Sourcing
Successful Recruiter
Talent Acquisition
Tech Recruiting
Employee Retention
Video in Recruitment
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Your hiring teammate

TalentLyft is an intuitive recruitment app made for successful hiring.