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Post by Rich Moy on Dec 7, 2015 12:00:00 PM

When used correctly, Boolean search strings can have a dramatic impact on the quality of candidate search results recruiters find on any platform. However, things can get frustrating pretty quickly when you make a subtle recruiting mistake. Here are three common recruiter mistakes with Boolean search terms, as well as three easy ways to correct them. 

Missing Quotation Marks

Let’s say you’re looking to find a mobile developer who knows C# like the back of their hand, with bonus points going to candidates who also know Objective-C or C++. You could simply type the following search string into a candidate search tool: mobile developer c# objective-c c++. If you do, odds are you’ll find a lot of candidates. The only problem is that most search engines assume there’s an AND between each term when you don’t use any Boolean search operators. Since we don’t want to rule out developers who don’t know Objective-C or C++ yet, this is an especially troublesome recruiting mistake. 

The good news is that fixing this keyword search to accommodate these parameters isn’t very challenging. Start by adding quotation marks around each term, which would give us “mobile developer” “c#” “objective-c” “c++.” Once you’ve done that, add a few operators to make this even more specific. Your final keyword search looks should look like this: “mobile developer” AND “c#” AND (“objective-c” OR “c++”).

Ignoring the Importance of Parentheses

Although Boolean searches are fairly simple to build, they can start to look complicated as you add more modifiers. Often times, recruiters tend to skip adding parentheses to avoid additional confusion. However, similar to the order of operations most people learn about in week one of algebra, parentheses have a huge impact on the search results your Boolean searches return. Let’s take a look at our earlier search for a mobile developer and remove the parentheses around the languages we established aren’t necessarily required.

“mobile developer” AND “c#” AND “objective-c” OR “c++”

Try using the above Boolean search string in a candidate search, and compare the results to what you see when you use the string we used earlier. Without any parentheses, this search tells search engines that you’re looking for mobile developers who need to know C# and Objective-C, with C++ being a bonus. Since we established that Objective-C and C++ aren’t necessarily requirements, the parentheses are an easy way to wrap those two into a “nice-to-have, but not mandatory” grouping.

Settling for Basic Searches

All too often, recruiters put in a lot of work to learn Boolean search, only to settle for very basic searches. Let’s go back to our search for a mobile developer. To illustrate, try entering the following “search string”: “mobile developer” AND “iPhone.”

There are a few problems with this search string, even beyond the fact that it’s fairly generic. The first problem is that our original list of requirements didn’t ask us only to look at candidates who specialize in iPhone app development. However, the bigger challenge is the sheer number of results you’ll find. No matter where you search for candidates, you’ll likely find a large number of candidates. However, these search results will be so broad, you’ll need to spend hours sorting through them to find the right ones for your open role.

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