Boolean search strings can be tricky to create, especially when you're just getting started. Even after you get the hang of it, you still might be disappointed by the limited number of candidates your keyword searches return when you use Boolean syntax to power your keyword searches.
If this resonates with you, there's actually good news. In many cases, a Boolean search string that reduces results is an indicator of a good keyword search. This might be hard to believe, but here’s why a Boolean search that’s working harder for you doesn’t necessarily guarantee it will return lots of results.
There are typically a number of things about every open role that even the best technical recruiter simply cannot control. While it’s always a good idea to be flexible about certain requirements when it comes to finding great developers, there are times when hiring managers will simply need candidates who have a handful of specific languages under their belts, or are located in a certain city or two.
Using Boolean search terms allows recruiters with even the strictest limitations to identify top programmers online. With that amount of control over a keyword search, two things will happen to your search results. The first thing you’ll notice is that each candidate that appears will fit your criteria very well. The second thing is that you’ll see fewer candidates, which is not necessarily a negative outcome.
Let’s say that your company needs a Python developer in New York City who knows Ruby and has contributed to OpenStack. If we were to type (“Python” AND “OpenStack”) into a keyword search on Stack Overflow, we’d only find 10 results. However, considering that experience with OpenStack isn’t very common, there’s a much higher likelihood that one of these ten candidates could be exactly the type of programmer your company is looking for.
Because Boolean search terms can be customized as much as a recruiter’s heart desires, it’s easy to spend a lot of time tinkering with keyword searches to make sure they’re working exactly the way you want them to. In fact, a good portion of the heavy lifting should happen at this phase of your candidate search.
Glen Cathey, owner of the Boolean Blackbelt Sourcing and Recruiting blog, says that he has the most success sourcing candidates when he does the majority of his work at the front-end of his search. He continues, “You should always take time to analyze your search criteria to assess the possibility that your search terms may not find all qualified candidates, and in fact might actually be eliminating viable candidates.” Considering that the average developer does not stay on the open market for very long, it might seem counterintuitive for a technical recruiter to spend too much time building strong keyword searches. However, the time you spend planning your search for great tech talent will ultimately pay dividends when you’re able to move quickly with a developer who fits your needs.