How to Incorporate Boolean Search in Your Recruitment Process

Many recruiters have never even heard of Boolean search, so if you haven’t, you’re not alone. The Boolean search offers a method for you to find candidates who meet your criteria more quickly. No more sifting through CVs and cover letters for keywords – just use a Boolean search.

What Is Boolean Search?

Getting your shortlist of candidates down to a manageable number to interview is one of the hardest tasks you face as a recruiter. If you choose to use a Boolean search, you can turn talent acquisition into a breeze.

The Boolean search was created from Boolean logic. This mathematic theory suggests that any variable can be categorized as ‘on’ or ‘off’, or ‘true’ or ‘false’. This theory comes from the mathematician George Boole – hence the name Boolean search. Digital devices were created from this logic, which is still relevant today in computer coding.

It involves using keywords to find the type of job seekers you’re after in the search results. Boolean uses just 5 pieces of syntax, alongside your unique keywords. These are:

  • AND
  • OR
  • NOT
  • “”
  • ()

AND, OR, and NOT are known as ‘Boolean operators’. If you can learn the skill of Boolean search writing, this can help you to determine who the best candidates are. Use these 5 elements and your keywords to completely change your recruitment strategy. You can use it to sift through top talent on many job boards, search engines, and LinkedIn, amongst others.

Why Use Boolean Search?

Using Boolean search in your recruitment process comes with numerous benefits. Find more potential candidates, save time, and open up your talent pool.

Diversity and Inclusion

There are many discriminating factors that are inherently present in the hiring process, which may prevent people from applying for a job. From the wording of the job ad to selection methods used, unconscious bias can come into play. When you use Boolean search, this method of finding candidates does not discriminate. People either meet your criteria or they do not.

Target Passive Candidates

One of the best things about using Boolean search is that it helps you to uncover passive candidates. Did you know that almost three-quarters of job seekers are passive candidates? That’s a whole lot of untapped potential if you can’t find a way to reach these people. By using the Boolean search method, you just might be able to contact some of these passive job seekers and turn them into your next new hire.

Find Qualified Candidates

Finding candidates who meet your required qualifications is never easy. Using a Boolean search can make it simple. If you search by what you’re looking for, it will only come up with qualified potential candidates. It couldn’t be easier to get more applicants who are suitable for the role.

why use boolean search

How to Use Boolean Search

Don’t worry, a Boolean search isn’t hard to do. You can start by using Google and typing in a few keywords that are relevant to the candidates you’re looking for. Then you just need to learn how to use the Boolean operators and modifiers to make your search.

Using Boolean Operators


If you put the word ‘and’ between your keywords, then only search results come up which show both words. You can also type an ampersand (&) instead of ‘and’.

For example – IT AND Manager will only show results containing both words.


The ‘not’ term is one of the most useful for getting relevant search results. For example, if you type IT manager into Google right now, you will likely just find a ton of job listings. To turn this into a search where you will find IT managers, not jobs, you could add ‘not’ to your search. Alternatively, you can use a minus symbol (-) instead of ‘not’.

For example – IT AND Manager NOT jobs will not show results containing the word ‘jobs’, which should cut down your results from job boards.


Sometimes, your keywords will be interchangeable. If you are looking for someone who may be an IT manager or an IT consultant, you could use ‘or’ to help you see people who are either.

For example, Manager OR Consultant.

Using Boolean modifiers

Quotation marks

Quote marks can be used to search for an entire phrase that includes multiple words.

For example – “IT consultant”


Add an asterisk after your keyword if you want variations of this word automatically included.

For example – manager* = manager, management, managing


Parentheses are a useful tool to search a few combinations of phrases. So, if your keyword is IT, you can add two options to come after IT by using parentheses.

For example – IT (manager OR consultant)

How to Incorporate Boolean Search in Your Recruitment Process

When you’re looking for job candidates, you can use the Boolean search on social media, LinkedIn, Google, and more. It’s a method where you will have to reach out to the candidates directly to let them know that you have a job they may like to apply for.

Have your pitch ready for when you come across a suitable candidate. Write a message before you start that you can personalize and send to qualified candidates. This will save you time as you contact many candidates.

You might need to play around with your keywords and modifiers before you start getting some useful results. Don’t get frustrated, just try combinations of things that are logical by thinking of similar words to find the candidates you’re seeking.

Using Boolean search can help you to expand your own network as a recruiter by making personal connections. You will also greatly widen your talent pool to gain excellent new applicants for the available roles you have coming up. So, why not give it a go and see who turns up in your results?



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