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Post by Rich Moy on Oct 26, 2015 2:50:59 PM

Finding great tech talent online is tough. While it’d be nice if you could simply search candidate databases for “best developer ever” and immediately find that person, the reality is that sourcing technical candidates takes a little bit of work. Many recruiters turn to what’s known as Boolean search to refine their keyword searches, which allows them to use special syntax to to tell a search engine exactly what they’re looking for in candidates.

To help you get started with Boolean search, we’ve taken 3 common job titles and built search strings that you can copy and paste right into a candidate database to find and hire developers.

boolean example.png

Front-End Developer

Before we go any further, it’s important to review the method by which we’ll build our Boolean search strings. In general, when in doubt, start by creating lists of must-haves and helpful-to-haves, then plug each of those qualities into the following formula.

(“Must-Have” AND “Must-Have”...) AND (“Helpful-to-Have” OR “Helpful-to-Have”...)

With this formula in hand, we can move on to using Boolean search strings to help us find great front-end developers. We previously discussed how to attract and recruit front-end developers in great length, but if you’re just beginning your search for someone to work on your website, here are a few examples of qualifications a hiring manager might ask you to identify in candidates:

  • Must-Have (x)HTML, HTML5, CSS, jQuery, Wordpress, Python
  • Helpful-to-Have git, subversion, mercurial, LESS, SASS, ExpressionEngine

Based on these qualifications, here’s a search string you can use to find candidates who have your hiring manager’s must-have languages, as well as his or her helpful-to-have languages.

("xHTML" AND "HTML5" AND "CSS" AND "jQuery" AND "Wordpress") AND "Python" AND ("git" OR "subversion" OR "mercurial" OR "LESS" OR "SASS" OR "ExpressionEngine")

It might look like there’s a lot going on here, and to some degree, there is. However, when in doubt, use the formula we outlined earlier to combine your “must-know” and “helpful-to-know” lists into a Boolean search string that will work harder for you.

Mobile Developer

Now, let’s assume the same hiring manager came to you and asked you to find a mobile developer. He or she might send you a list of requirements that looks something like this:

Using the plug-and-play formula we discussed earlier, here’s a Boolean search string that will take into account the languages we need candidates to know, as well as which ones we’d like to see, but won’t be as strict about.

("ObjectiveC" AND "ios" AND "Android") AND ("JSON" OR "HTML5" OR "Javascript")

Full Stack Engineer

Finally, let’s walk through a scenario in which your tech team really needs someone who can work on every layer of your company’s technology stack. Of course, technology stacks will look different at every organization, but let’s use the lists of languages below as our example.

  • Must-Have Javascript, PHP, SQL, HTML, CSS, linux and CSS3
  • Helpful-to-Have Tomcat or Apache

While identifying great full-stack engineers is a tall task, you can still rely on our trusty formula to plug in your must-haves and helpful-to-have languages, which would yield a Boolean search string that looks like this:

("Javascript" AND "PHP" AND "SQL" AND "HTML" AND "CSS" AND "linux" AND "CSS3") AND ("Tomcat" OR "Apache")

This is a lot to take in, but don’t worry. Even some of the most experienced recruiters need help writing effective Boolean search strings. However, spend a little time experimenting with how you use Boolean search terms to build keyword searches. With enough practice, you’ll be able to whip up keyword searches that will return great candidates and allow you to hire developers faster.

boolean search guide


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