What Is Boolean Search In Recruitment?

What Is Boolean Search In Recruitment?

oolean search in recruitment is not a modern concept. In fact, as a recruiter, it is probably something you use everyday without even realising it. The laws of boolean search were invented by English Mathematician George Boole in The Mathematical Analysis of Logic (1847) and have become a fundamental building block for all digital devices. It is an astonishing thought but, without his laws, Google would never have existed in the way we know it today. That is why Google paid its own special tribute in 2015 to mark Boole’s 200th birthday, demonstrating how his laws work:

Google Boolean Animation

But before losing yourself in the never ending animation, let’s explain what boolean search is in recruitment and how it is used effectively.

What Is Boolean Search In Recruitment?

Boolean search in recruitment is the act of leveraging large databases, such as your recruitment CRM, LinkedIn, Indeed or Google to perform specific searches in order to find relevant candidates quickly. Using Boole’s laws, recruiters can refine their search results in a number of ways which can be particularly effective for finding a range of active and passive candidates for your open vacancies.

Once you have exhausted your standard CV and profile searches, conducting more specific boolean searches can be a dynamic alternative that may unearth hidden talent that isn’t easily accessible through common search function.

Boolean literate recruiters can perform incredibly complicated search strings to meet your every job requirement. Below is a real life example of a search string constructed to search for a Senior Financial Analyst:

Analy* NEAR Financ* AND (Retail* OR e-commerce OR ecommerce) AND budget* AND Plan* AND forecast* AND risk* AND Excel AND (PowerPoint OR “Power Point” OR Tableau OR SAP) AND (Access OR SQL OR “BO” OR “Business Objects”)

Although this looks complicated, by breaking it down into its individual components, it only utilises the 6 basic laws of boolean search. So what are they?

The 6 Basic Boolean Search Strings For Recruiters

1. AND

The AND search function is the most common and one you’re probably already familiar with. By inputting a search for Recruitment AND Manager, you are telling Google, or your recruitment software, that you only want to see results with both Recruitment and Manager in it. It is usually used to narrow your search results.

Eclipse 4 Boolean Search

2. OR

When inputting an OR function, you are telling the search engine that you want to see either entries in the results, So a search for Recruitment OR Manager will return any results containing Recruitment and any results containing Manager.

Boolean Search on LinkedIn

The OR function can be particularly useful when used in conjunction with the Brackets function, for example:

Recruitment AND (Manager OR Consultant OR Agent OR Advisor OR Guru)

The OR function is usually used to widen your search and capture variations of the same search so you don’t miss out even when someone has called themselves Recruitment Guru.

3. Brackets ()

Brackets are used in a very similar way to the rules of the BODMAS acronym that you might still remember from your high school maths lesson. The important rule being that the calculation inside the brackets always comes first. In boolean search, it is similar in that, the section inside the brackets always takes priority over the other elements.

For example, if you input the search Recruitment AND Manager OR Consultant, are you asking the search engine to prioritise Recruitment AND Manager or Manager OR Consultant? By using brackets, you can easily explain to the search engine how you want the search string to be read. So the search becomes:

Recruitment AND (Manager OR Consultant)

Boolean 3


This search string will return any results with Recruitment Manager and any results with Recruitment Consultant.

4. NOT

As you can probably estimate, the NOT function is used to exclude specific terms. So, if you wanted to return results without Director, your search might be:

(Recruitment AND Manager) NOT Director

5. Quotations “”

Quotations are used to search for an exact phrase. By adding quotations around two or more words, you are telling the search engine to treat it as one keyword. Therefore a CRM search including “Recruitment Guru” would only include CVs with that exact phrase in the body of the text. Quotations are only used if you are 100% certain of the exact phrase you’re looking for.

6. Asterisk *

The asterisk function is usually used to widen your search. For example if you wanted to do a general search for anything related to Finance i.e. Financial, Finances, Financier you could input a search for Financ*. By inputting the stem of the word with an asterisk afterwards, you’re telling the search engine to include all words related to that stem.

Google Boolean Search - Finance

Boolean search is an effective way to leverage large databases to refine your search results and can be used in recruitment software CRMs as well as search engines and LinkedIn. By becoming boolean literate and combining the basic rules of boolean search, you can perform complex searches that would otherwise seem impossible, saving you time in searching through thousands of CVs and providing you with more targeted and relevant candidates.

Now you’ve honed your recruitment skills, it might be time to invest in new recruitment software. Find out by downloading our free eBook.

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