Boolean Search in Recruitment

Today’s careers and jobs are highly competitive, and the job roles demand an extremely specific skill set from the candidates. To select the correct candidates for the correct job, especially candidates with a great quality of work and high caliber, is a feat in and of itself. Studies show that recruiters spend an average of 13 hours looking for candidates for one single job role. How can this task be simplified? By using the Boolean Search Algorithm!

What is the Boolean Search Algorithm?

Boolean search, in simple terms, provides a filter of sorts that narrows down the search results according to your specifications using tools called the ‘operators’ which will be discussed further in this article. This query methodology was invented by George Boole who was an English mathematician and has greatly influenced the evolution and optimization of search engines such as Google.

Boolean Search allows a recruiter to effectively identify candidates best fit for a certain job role. It functions as an advanced search wherein you can include or exclude specific words and tags using the boolean operators to select candidates fit for a unique work position. Using the operators creates a ‘complex search string’ through which the recruiter/ employer can pick the ideal candidate over a range of relevant ones. This streamlines and optimizes the recruitment process.

Basic Boolean Search Operators that every Recruiter should know about

To create the aforementioned complex search strings, 6 basic operators come in extremely handy. They can be used multiple times in a search query and have to be written in the upper case. This separates the operator from other keywords in your query string. 

Operator 1: AND

AND is an operator that is used when you want to include multiple criteria all of which need to be fulfilled by the candidate for whom you are looking. For example, if as a recruiter you are looking to recruit a graphic designer, you could use the AND operator to search for ‘graphic AND designer’ which would imply that your vacant job role is for someone who is proficient in graphic editing and is a trained designer. 

Operator 2: OR

OR operator is also used when you want to include multiple criteria in your search query but you only need one of the criteria to be satisfied in your ideal candidate. For example, if you wish to recruit somebody for handling equipment in your clinic you would either look for a clinical technician or a biomedical engineer using the OR operator- ‘clinical technician OR biomedical engineer’. This will show you a list of candidates who are only clinical technicians, or only biomedical engineers, or are qualified for both posts. 

Operator 3: NOT

The NOT operator is used to exclude results that include unwanted criteria that you look for in a candidate. This operator helps you filter your results to a great extent, and is perhaps has the most common and frequent applications from among all the boolean operators. One of the best examples to illustrate the use of the NOT operator is to filter new candidates looking for open positions in organizations from existing job seekers wishing to change their current job roles by applying to these vacant positions. Here’s how the not operator is used in such cases- a (-) sign  is used before the keyword without any space when searching on Google or LinkedIn; 

NOT jobs= -job

NOT HIRING= -hiring 

Operator 4: Brackets/Paranthesis

Much like mathematics, the bracket/ parentheses operator is used to provide an order of importance to your keywords in your search string. They help in grouping and prioritizing the criteria using which you are looking to recruit candidates into your organization. This operator mainly comes into play when you use other operators in your search query. 

For example, if you search for something like- ‘computer AND engineer OR developer NOT hiring’ this sends your search engine into a tizzy of confusion as it does not have clear instructions as to what results should be signified before others. This could lead to unsatisfactory scouting of recruits. 

So if you add a bracket around one of the operator queries, like ‘computer AND (engineer OR developer) -hiring’ the search engine algorithm will look for candidates who are either engineers or developers, both of whom are proficient in computer sciences. 

Operator 5: Quotes/ Quotations

The quotes or the quotations operator is only used when you want an exact phrase or word or criteria included in your search results verbatim. This operator is very prevalent among other general searches, like looking for a specific interview on the internet but you only remember a snippet of it or a song to which you only remember one or two lines of the lyric.

In recruitment specifically, this operator is used to scout candidates for a niche job role. However, recruiters are advised to use this operator for scouting only when they know exactly what to search for, or else it is an open invitation to unwanted search entries which will take more time to filter down. For example, if you are looking only for a software engineer, not a developer, this is how your search string would look: ‘“software engineer”-developer’. This would show you candidates who are only specifically software engineers without any developing background. 

Operator 6: Asterisk

The asterisk operator is used to look for the different variations of a root word. For example, ‘develop*’ would show you search results including developer, development, developed developing, etc. 

In the field of recruitment, if you are looking for somebody to occupy a managerial position, enter ‘manag*’ into the search engine for which the results will show candidates who have listed words like manager, manage, managed, management and managing. The tricky part with this operator is to know the root word. If you enter ‘manage*’ in your search engine, results including managing will not be shown.

Advantages of the Boolean Search algorithm

  1. It speeds up the recruitment process to a great extent as the recruiters don’t have to sort through applications manually.
  2. The algorithm is cost-effective. It is virtually free and can be accessed or applied from anywhere on the planet.
  3. This algorithm gives the recruiters a great amount of control over the applications and can customize their search to fulfill the job role in the vacancy. 
  4. Through the Boolean search algorithm, recruiters don’t need to wait for viable candidates to come and apply for the job. Here the employers themselves can reach out to the ideal candidates for the work position in mind. 
  5. It helps the recruitment team narrow down and streamline the applications of ideal candidates without having to go through tedious paperwork and interviews. 

The Boolean search algorithm is a technological revolution. It has numerous applications, one of them being a tremendous aiding tool in the recruitment industry. It saves time and improves the quality of the candidates that you wish to induct into your organization. 

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