Boolean search

Don’t be scared: You probably already know what Boolean searches are, even if the name doesn’t ring a bell.

But in any case, here’s a refresher: Simply put, Boolean searches include both keywords and operators—words like AND, NOT, and OR. You can also modify these searches with quotation marks, which search exact phrases (e.g., “Python programmer”); asterisks, which return words containing the root of the word truncated by the asterisk (e.g., “rep*” would return rep, represent, represented, representing, representative, etc.); as well as parentheses, which can be used for more specific searches, like:

  • “copywriter” AND (“New York” OR “Boston”), to search for a copywriter who lives in New York or Boston
  • “dev*” AND (“front-end” NOT “back-end”), to search for a front-end developer

For example, if you’re looking for a web developer who’s in the San Francisco area, you can search “web developer” AND “San Francisco.” Or if you’re looking for a marketer who hasn’t worked for Google, you can search “marketer” NOT “Google.”

If that’s sounds confusing to you, take a deep breath and relax. This infographic presents Boolean logic in a series of three easy-to-digest Venn diagrams that you’ll have no problem understanding.

Simply put, in terms of sourcing, Boolean searches—which are named after mathematician George Boole—help recruiters quickly identify the candidates who meet some of the more critical criteria they’re looking for. And that’s important, because recruiters need to be able to weed through the scores of resumes in their applicant tracking systems and find the best candidates as quickly as possible, lest one of their competitors secure them with an offer first.

Feel like you need a little more help? Check out this great resource compiled by LinkedIn which can serve as a sort of cheat sheet for Boolean searches.

So how about some hypothetical Boolean searches to get your blood flowing? (That’s what really gets your blood flowing, right?) Without further ado:

1. Boolean for IT

Many of today’s businesses act like chickens with their heads cut off, so to speak, whenever their systems get knocked offline. As such, it’s imperative that recruiters source and hire the best IT candidates on the market—a tall task, considering how in-demand such professionals are. Since you can’t afford to prematurely exclude any qualified candidates from your search, you might want to conduct a Boolean search as follows:

“systems administrator” OR “network administrator” OR “system admin” OR “network admin” OR “systems engineer” OR “network engineer” OR “IT specialist”

2. Boolean for Design

The world of art, illustration, and design is a large one. Some designers are great at front-end web development. Others can use Photoshop to transform a slice of pepperoni pizza into a model. Still others can whip up logos and infographics that’ll knock your socks off. So what kind of designer are you looking for? If you’re recruiting for a marketing agency that needs an artist to produce infographics for clients, you might want to conduct a search as follows:

“artist” OR “infographics” OR “illustrator” OR “graphic designer” OR “designer” NOT “development”

3. Boolean for Project Managers

You might not want to hire someone who has 10 years of experience as a project manager for a construction company to take the reins of software projects. While such a candidate certainly has relevant experience, chances are he or she wouldn’t have a strong command of the tech world, for example. Assuming you’re hiring in the tech space, consider the following search:

“project manager” AND “software” NOT “construction”

4. Boolean for Sales

You can put 10 people who work in sales in the same room and there’s a very real chance they’ll have 10 different job titles. In order to increase the likelihood you find the top candidates on the market, consider conducting a Boolean search as follows:

“account executive” OR “account manager” OR “sales associate” OR “sales executive” OR “sales manager” OR “sales representative” OR “sales rep”

Just like anything else, Boolean searches take time to master. But take our word for it, once you get closer to that mastery, you’ll quickly find that it’s easier and faster than ever to land top talent.

Still thirsty for more Boolean knowledge? Check out this resource we compiled that should help you become a subject-matter expert sometime soon. Good luck!

  • Daniel Mccartney

    Hi Justin Reynolds,

    Like your article, worth a good read!!
    Nowadays as the hiring trend is growing faster and so does the staffing agencies and recruiting firms. So a complete web based recruiting software choice proves to be a worth option for making profit as well as growing the quality hire for the firm. Have been using iSmartRecruit ( for few years and it has already raised the hiring quality upto 70% along with the profit of the firm.