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Boolean Search Strings: 5 Essential Tips For Recruiters

Boolean Search Strings

Blindly sinking resources into hiring drives with recruiters scouring the Internet for hours looking for suitable job profiles will not cut it anymore. An alarming insight from our brand new report, 2021 State Of Developer Recruitment, shows that 37% of recruiters agree sourcing is a big challenge, post-pandemic.

Most of us barely scratch the surface when it comes to the Google search engine. Enter a keyword or a key phrase and hit search. But here’s the thing – Google search holds such power to offer highly customized results should you want it. And that’s exactly where Boolean search strings step in!

For a recruiter, Boolean search strings are a godsend. They can make your life painless, and your search exponentially more effective.

What is Boolean search?

Boolean search strings

Boolean search helps you define your search specifically to what you are looking for. Words or phrases such as AND, OR, NOT can be used to limit, broaden and determine the search results — utilize a search engine to its fullest potential.

Why is Boolean searching important for recruiting

Boolean searching isn’t just a fancy tech term; it’s the heart of modern recruitment. In an age where data is vast and candidates numerous, the power to narrow down searches with precision is crucial. Here’s why:

Precision targeting: Ever felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of profiles on LinkedIn or resumes in your database? Boolean search cuts through the noise, targeting specifics like skills, experience, and location.

Time efficiency: Recruiters juggle multiple roles – interviewing, networking, and candidate management. Boolean search speeds up the candidate-finding process, freeing up time for other essential tasks.

Diverse candidate pool: By using the NOT operator, recruiters can avoid repetitive profiles and expand their search, ensuring a diverse mix of potential candidates.

Competitive edge: In the race to find top talent, being quicker and more precise gives recruiters a significant advantage. Boolean search ensures you find the right candidates before the competition does.

Cost-effective: Every hour spent searching is an hour paid for. By streamlining the search process, Boolean logic can lead to significant cost savings.

Adaptable to different platforms: Whether you’re scouting on job portals, LinkedIn, or even Google, Boolean search strings remain applicable and effective.

Boolean search operators to the rescue

Take the most simple search query. Type out a keyword and hit enter. Now add a few additional operators and symbols to the mix and bingo! You have written your very first Boolean search string.

It is simple enough to do. You follow a recipe closely when you bake, and here you need to write the syntax correctly, for your search query to work.

Operator What it does How to use
AND Includes all keywords specified in the search


developer AND Java
OR or | Includes one or both keywords in the results Engineer OR developer
Engineer | developer
NOT or – Excludes unwanted terms from your search 


“ ” Includes results containing the exact phrase specified “Machine Learning”
“Who wants to be hired”
() Groups multiple search keywords to set priorities Developer (android OR python)
* Includes all variations of the keyword


recruit* = recruiter, recruiting, recruitment

#1 AND Operator


If you add AND operator between your keywords, the search results will show only results that include all of your keywords.

#2 OR Operator


This operator will show results that include either of the two keywords or both of them simultaneously.

#3 NOT Operator


The NOT operator excludes unwanted terms from your search. Instead of NOT, you can also use the minus symbol (-) followed by your unwanted term without leaving a space (e.g. ‘NOT sample’ or ‘-sample.’)

#4 Parenthesis ()


Brackets are used to wrap multiple keywords in OR search. This defines the priorities of each segment of the search string. This will come in handy, as most candidate searches are not straightforward and combine various keywords.

#5 Quotation Marks (“ ”)

Quotation marks are used to search for the exact phrase specified. For example, leaving a blank space between ‘product’ and ‘manager’ will provide irrelevant results that contain both of the words ‘product’ and ‘manager,’ but not necessarily together.

#6 Asterisk (*)

The wild card (*) is used to get more variations of the results for the keyword you’re searching for. For example, dev* will provide you with results for both developer and development.

A guide to advanced Boolean search strings

Hiring for rather niche positions or specific skill sets calls for using boolean strings that are slightly more advanced than the norm.

For instance, you need email addresses of candidates who are working in machine learning or data science, then the search string would be:


site: (“” OR “”) (“machine learning” OR “ML” OR “data scientist”)

Still, struggling to wrap your head around it? Take a pen and paper to note the following details:

  • Job title of the position you’re hiring for, as well as any other variations that it could have
  • Skills that the candidate needs to be proficient in, or any other industry-specific terms
  • Platforms you want to run your search on
  • Other details that you need like email address, resume, country, etc
  • Swap out the text in the below generic search string for what you’ve written down on your list!
Generic Syntax

site: (platform URL) (“The job title you’re recruiting for” OR “enter another variant”) OR “skill 1” OR “other details”

Narrow down your search by using the country name, postal code, diversity preference, company, or natural language in your Boolean search strings, for better results.

Refine your Boolean search strings further

#1 Limit your search to a specific website with the site: search syntax. It is also called x-raying or an x-ray search. It is particularly useful for obtaining profiles with specific skill sets

Syntax (“” OR “”) (“machine learning” OR “ML”) (“she leads” | “she led”)

You can directly glean the contact information of potential candidates with this search query free of cost instead of using LinkedIn’s InMail service, which is expensive. In this example, “she leads” refers to the natural language we use in a conversation. This query will yield all email addresses containing Gmail or yahoo of women developers who work with machine learning, which are tied to their LinkedIn profile.

#2 Restrict your search to a specific file type with the filetype: search syntax. It could be a resume or a portfolio in a PDF, doc, txt, etc


filetype:pdf resume (engineer OR “software developer”) Boston 2017..2020  -example -sample

This query captures the results of all resumes in a PDF format, from the location specified. The minus operator has been used to eliminate sample resumes from your search. You can also specify a date range; in this case, you don’t want resumes older than 2017 or later than 2020.

#3 Use intitle: search syntax to refine your search to websites with specific keywords in their title. Most candidates upload a resume to all job boards. That could be your keyword to scraping suitable resumes for your requirements


intitle:resume (“senior developer” | “lead developer”) India 2018..2020 -sample -example

#4 Use inurl: search syntax to refine your search to websites with specific keywords in their URL


inurl:(resume OR CV) python India 2018..2020 -sample -example

Using various combinations of Boolean search strings, it becomes a cakewalk for recruiters to source candidates for a particular job. And not just any candidate, but a candidate who exhibits all the necessary skills for that job. Isn’t that every recruiter’s dream?!

Know more about Boolean search strings for diversity sourcing in this video.

5 tips for going from good to great with Boolean search

To take your search one step further, you need to think out of the box. Talented candidates are everywhere, if only you know where and how to look. 

#1 Podcasts

Podcasts are a great way to get in touch with candidates who possess unique skill sets. Using the site: search syntax you can identify candidates and their interests depending on which podcast you find them. Tailor your pitch accordingly, and voila, you have an interested candidate in your talent pool.

Here’s an example of a query that searches for diverse podcasters.


site: “” (lgbtq OR advocacy OR ally)

#2 Github 

It is a popular developer community and a live bed for talented developers looking for work. 

  • Use Octohunt, a tool that allows you to find developers on Github, based on their location and coding skill sets.
  • The resumes uploaded to this platform are in a different format from the usual PDFs, texts, and docs. 
Syntax resume (kubernetes OR docker) “new york”

This search query will pull up all results of people in New York who have their resumes tied to their Github profile.

  • Use this search query to pull up different results from the domain when compared to the domain.
Syntax resume (kubernetes OR docker) “new york”

#3 More online communities

Communities and groups will be thriving with developers of all levels. Gathering information about them helps you personalize your cold email with an appropriate proposal for each candidate.

  • Meetup is an online community that is an amalgamation of various groups related to every walk of life. PhantomBuster is a tool that can scrape member information from groups you identify with your search query.

site: (developer | engineer) “women”

  • Medium is another vast community where identifying candidates with niche skills pays off.

site: (developer | “cybersecurity engineer”) “women”

  • HackerNews has a conversation running where developers looking for work leave their contact information in the comments.

site: “who wants to be hired”

#4 Expand your search

Don’t restrict your search efforts to Linkedin. Social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit also respond well to Boolean search strings. Utilize hashtags, and keywords being used in popular communities on there and add them to your search strings. 

Syntax (“follow me on Twitter”) (engineer OR developer) India

#5 Use tools

There are several image recognition tools like TinEye that help in conducting searches through images. Image sourcing is gaining popularity and can pull up candidate profiles from Github, LinkedIn, and so on.

Recommended read: A List Of Boolean Search Strings

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the basic Boolean operators used in recruiting?

The fundamental operators are AND (to combine terms), OR (to search multiple terms), and NOT (to exclude terms). Additionally, symbols like asterisks (*) for wildcards and parentheses () to group terms are frequently used.

Can I use Boolean searching on all job boards?

Most modern job boards and recruiting platforms support Boolean searching. However, always check the platform’s guidelines or help section to understand the specific syntax they might use.

How can I improve my Boolean search skills?

Regular practice is key. Start with basic strings and as you get comfortable, incorporate more complex operators. Attending webinars, courses, or workshops can also help.

Are there tools to assist with Boolean searches?

Yes, many tools and plugins, especially for browsers, can help craft and test Boolean search strings. These can be invaluable for recruiters looking to enhance their searching capabilities.

Is there a risk of missing out on candidates using Boolean search?

If not used correctly, Boolean search can exclude potential candidates. It’s crucial to strike a balance, ensuring the search is neither too narrow nor too broad. Regularly revisiting and tweaking your search strings can mitigate this risk.

Bonus tip

Instead of spending too much time creating customized search queries, rely on tools like NativeCurrent that curate Boolean string suggestions based on your requirements. Use these pre-built search strings on the Google search engine. Saves you a lot of time and effort!

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