How To: Effective Boolean Searching

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 JavaAnother good application would be to find synonyms and abbreviations. You might try a search like blog OR blogging OR blogger OR weblogor 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?