Time is money, and the more time you spend sifting through irrelevant candidate results, the more opportunities you miss. 

Enter Boolean search–the recruiter’s secret weapon for more effective candidate sourcing

This complete guide will walk you through the ins and outs of Boolean search for recruiters across multiple platforms and for more relevant candidate search results. 

Get ready to revolutionize your recruiting process!

Understanding Boolean search: What it is & why it matters

In a nutshell, Boolean search is a technique that allows you to create more specific search queries using a combination of keywords and operators. 

Named after the mathematician George Boole, Boolean search has become an essential tool for recruiters to find relevant candidates faster and more efficiently.

Here’s why so many recruiters love using Boolean search for candidate sourcing:

  • You can a lot of save time by narrowing down search results instead of sifting through stacks of profiles
  • Ability to source higher quality candidates
  • Offers targeted and highly relevant search results
  • Helps uncover hidden talent of job boards
  • Target passive candidates who may not be actively looking for a new job
  • Customize search queries for specific roles, industries, or locations

The beauty of Boolean search is that it is versatile and can be used on almost any online platform. For example, you can use it for:

  • Online search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. 
  • Social media platforms. Recruiters mostly use Boolean search on LinkedIn, but you can also use it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. 
  • Resume Databases. Platforms like Indeed and Monster aren’t just job boards. They house massive databases of resumes that can be accessed using Boolean search. 
  • Applicant tracking systems. Over time, your agency has interviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants. You can quickly rediscover those lost candidates through a quick Boolean search.

Here’s the bottom line: If there’s a database, you can use Boolean searches to quickly and effectively find the exact candidates you are looking for.

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How does Boolean search work?

A person searching on their laptop how to use boolean search for recruiters

At its core, Boolean search relies on three primary operators: AND, OR, and NOT. These operators help you combine or exclude specific keywords to narrow your search results. 

Modifiers, including quotation marks, parentheses, and asterisks, help further refine your search. If that’s not enough, you can get even more specific by using advanced searches.

Mastering the Boolean operators

Now that you’ve understood how Boolean search works, let’s dive into Boolean operators and how they narrow down results to find what you’re looking for. 

After going through each operator and modifier, we’ll create our own Boolean search at the end using what we’ve learned.

Note: All operators MUST be typed in as uppercase; otherwise, the system will not recognize it as a Boolean search.

1. AND operator

The AND operator in your search query will return results containing all the specified keywords. For example, “Java AND developer” will show results containing both “Java” and “developer.”

2. OR operator

The OR operator returns results containing any of the specified keywords. For instance, “Java OR Python” will show results containing either “Java” or “Python.”

You can also use the OR operator to pick candidates from a search query that lists their skills using synonyms and different spellings. For example:

JAVA OR Java OR PYTHON OR Python OR Py AND developer OR programmer OR engineer

This query will return results that contain either “JAVA” or “PYTHON” along with the keyword “developer.” This helps you find candidates who have experience in either Java or Python programming and are developers.

3. NOT or hyphen (-) operator

The NOT operator helps you exclude specific keywords from your search results. For example:

Java AND developer NOT Python

This search string will return results that contain both “Java” and “developer” but exclude any results containing “Python.” This helps you find candidates with Java development experience, not Python development experience.

Keep in mind that Google doesn’t recognize the NOT operator, so use the hyphen (-) symbol instead. 

4. Quotation marks

Using quotation marks around a phrase ensures that the search engine will return results containing the exact phrase. For example, “project manager” will yield results with that specific phrase and not “project” and “manager” as separate criteria. The phrase “become a project manager” would yield even more specific results.

5. Brackets/parentheses

Parentheses or brackets allow you to group terms and operators, giving you more control over your search query. For instance, “(Java OR Python) AND developer” will show results containing either “Java” or “Python” along with the keyword “developer.”

To make this list easier to understand, here’s a table to help you remember all the Boolean search operators:

Boolean operator 



AND Results include all keywords linked with AND Java AND developer
OR Results include either one or all specified keywords Java OR Python
NOT / Hyphen (-) Excludes a keyword from your search Java AND developer NOT Python
Brackets () Group multiple search strings and set priorities (Java OR Python) AND developer
Quotation Marks “ “ Search for exact phrases or keywords “project manager”

Now let’s put these operators to the test to see what kind of results we get from Google.

If we want to search for a Project Manager with experience as a developer and skilled in Java or Python who is based in San Francisco, you can use the following search query:

“Project Manager” AND developer AND (Java OR Python) AND “San Francisco”

Here’s what you’ll get on Google:

How to use boolean search for recruiters

Just look at how much you can narrow down your search results just by applying some Boolean logic! You’ll even come across results containing the name of some potentially fit candidates.

If you want to get much more granular and relevant results, you can keep going by adding more conditions and applying some advanced tricks. 

How recruiters can optimize Boolean for Google, LinkedIn search & other platforms

1. Mastering Google search techniques

Google is the go-to search engine for many recruiters, and with good reason. It offers a wealth of information and an extensive database of potential candidates

Here’s how you can optimize Boolean search for Google:

Utilize site-specific searches: Use the “site:” operator to focus your search on specific websites, such as LinkedIn or GitHub. For example, “site:linkedin.com (Java OR Python) AND developer” will return results only from LinkedIn with candidates skilled in Java or Python development.

Take advantage of file type searches: If you’re looking for resumes, use the “filetype:” operator to search for specific file formats like PDF or DOC. For example, “filetype:pdf (Java OR Python) AND developer resume” will yield PDF files containing resumes of Java or Python developers.

Exclude irrelevant terms: The hyphen (-) operator can help narrow your search by excluding unwanted terms. For example, “Java AND developer -intern” will return results for Java developers, excluding internship-related results.

2. Leveraging LinkedIn search

LinkedIn is a recruiter’s go-to treasure trove, offering access to millions of professionals and their detailed profiles. 

But how effectively are you using the platform to dig-out hard to find candidates? Here’s how you can make the most of Boolean search to maximize your LinkedIn sourcing results:

Make use of the Advanced Search feature: LinkedIn’s Advanced Search allows you to input various Boolean operators and keywords in different fields, such as job titles, company, location, and skills. This helps you create highly targeted searches for your desired candidates.

Combine keywords with job titles: You can find candidates with specific job titles and skill sets by combining keywords using AND and OR operators. For example, “(Java OR Python) AND (developer OR engineer)” will return job seekers with Java or Python skills who hold either a developer or engineer job title.

Target specific industries or locations: Use the AND operator to include industry or location-specific keywords in your search. For instance, “(Java OR Python) AND developer AND (finance OR fintech) AND New York” will display results for Java or Python developers in the finance or fintech industries based in New York.

Tap into LinkedIn Groups: Join relevant industry or skill-focused LinkedIn Groups to access a pool of potential candidates. Use Boolean search strings within group discussions or member lists to find professionals with the desired skill sets. This is another great way to build a diverse talent pipeline.  

3. Enhancing CRM and ATS Boolean search

Understand your platform’s capabilities: Each CRM and ATS may have different features and search functionalities. Familiarize yourself with your platforms’ specific Boolean search capabilities to maximize their search features.

Use custom fields and tags: Many CRMs and ATS’ allow you to create custom fields and tags for candidates. Use these features to categorize candidates by skills, industries, or other relevant factors. When searching, combine Boolean operators with these fields and tags to narrow your results.

Filter by status or activity: You can even refine your search results by filtering candidates based on their status, such as “active,” “placed,” or “inactive.” This helps you focus on candidates most likely interested in new opportunities.

Save your searches: A lot of CRMs and ATS’ enable you to save your search strings for future use. By saving your most effective Boolean search strings, you can quickly run them again when you have new positions to fill.

Hacks to master Boolean search for effective sourcing

Now, let’s talk about how to further enhance your Boolean search experience for sourcing the best candidates on different platforms, including Google, LinkedIn, CRMs, and applicant tracking systems.

Here are some best practices to fine-tune your search strings to yield better results: 

  1. Test different search strings: Experiment with combinations of keywords, operators, and search parameters to find the best results for your needs.
  2. Keep refining your search: As you review results, note any irrelevant terms or phrases you can exclude using the NOT operator or additional filters in your next search.
  3. Stay updated on platform changes: Google and LinkedIn may occasionally update their search algorithms or features. Stay informed about these updates to maximize your Boolean search experience.

Finally, with the emergence of ChatGPT, recruiters can take their Boolean search one step ahead by asking the AI to give you ready-to-use Boolean string templates

Just imagine how recruiters and hiring managers can significantly improve their candidate sourcing process!

Take your sourcing game to the next level! 

By mastering Boolean search techniques on Google, LinkedIn, and other platforms, you’ll be able to find relevant candidates faster than ever before. 

If you’re looking for more ways to fast-track your candidate sourcing efforts on LinkedIn, our powerful Chrome extension is what you need!

Recruiters across 100+ countries are taking their sourcing game to the next level with our intuitive and easy-to-use Chrome add-on that lets you automate candidate sourcing on platforms like LinkedIn and Xing. 

Leave it to Recruit CRM to source the perfect candidates! 

So go forth and conquer the world of recruitment with your newfound Boolean search expertise–and our sourcing extension!

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

1. Can you use Boolean search in Linkedin Recruiter?

By accessing the Advanced Search feature, recruiters can use Boolean search in LinkedIn Recruiter to enhance their candidate sourcing. 

All you have to do is enter Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to combine or exclude keywords, job titles, or skills. 

You can experiment with different search strings and refine search parameters to target specific candidate profiles. Don’t forget to save your searches for future use and stay informed about platform updates to make the most of your Boolean search experience on LinkedIn Recruiter.

2. How do I use Boolean Search in Google for recruiters?

To use Boolean search in Google for recruiting purposes, combine keywords, job titles, skills, and locations with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) in your search query. 

This helps you find relevant candidate profiles, resumes, or portfolios. 

For example, “software engineer” AND (Java OR Python) AND “resume” -job -apply will return results containing resumes of software engineers with Java or Python skills, excluding job postings and application pages.

Keep in mind that Google doesn’t recognize the NOT operator, so use the hyphen (-) symbol instead. 

3. What is a Boolean expression?

A Boolean expression is a statement that evaluates to either true or false. 

A Boolean search uses a combination of variables, constants, and operators in programming languages and search queries. In search engines, Boolean expressions are used with operators like AND, OR, and NOT to include, exclude, or combine specific keywords, thus refining the search results.

4. What is the difference between Boolean and Boolean operators?

Boolean is a binary logic system developed by mathematician George Boole where values are represented as true or false. 

Boolean operators, on the other hand, are the logical connectors (AND, OR, NOT) used within Boolean expressions to combine or exclude search terms. These operators allow you to create complex search queries to refine and target specific results, especially in search engines and recruiting platforms.