Strategic Talent Acquisition: The Power of Boolean Search Techniques

Jun 7, 2023

4 min read

One of the stages of the hiring process is Sourcing! 

In a previous article, “The Art of Sourcing: Effective Strategies for Attracting Passive Candidates” we shared where to find potential candidates.

Now, we will explore how Boolean search operators can refine our talent search, enhance candidate sourcing, and help us uncover hidden gems in the tech industry.

Discover how these operators, such as AND, OR, NOT, parentheses, quotation marks, and the asterisk (*), can supercharge our talent acquisition efforts. 

But wait, there's more! We won't stop at the fundamentals. We'll also explore a few advanced search operators that will supercharge our candidate-sourcing strategies. 

Let's start our journey!

What is Boolean Search?

Boolean search is a technique used to combine keywords and operators to create specific search queries and to define logical relationships between terms in a search. It is named after the mathematician George Boole, whose work in logic laid the foundation for this approach. 

By utilizing operators such as "AND," "OR," and "NOT," along with parentheses () and quotation marks “”, we can narrow down or expand our search results, making our talent acquisition efforts more targeted and efficient.

The best part? Boolean search works on various search engines, including LinkedIn and Google.

Fundamentals Boolean Operators

Now, let's start by exploring the core Boolean operators that support the search for candidates.


The AND operator combines multiple keywords and retrieves results that include all of them. For example, searching for "developer AND Python" will find results that mention both "developer" and "Python." 

In some search engines, a space between keywords is automatically interpreted as an AND operator, simplifying the search process. On certain platforms, we can also use the ampersand (&) as the AND operator.

AND has precedence in search over OR


The OR operator combines search terms so that each result includes at least one of the terms. For instance, searching for "developer OR engineer" will generate results containing either "developer" or "engineer." 

We can use the pipe symbol (|) on Google as an alternative to OR (e.g., developer|engineer).


The NOT operator excludes specific keywords, ensuring that search results do not contain the terms that follow it. For example, "data scientist NOT machine learning" will yield results related to data scientists but exclude those involving machine learning.

At this time, Google doesn’t recognize the operator NOT, we can use the minus symbol (-) instead of the NOT operator, without leaving a space before the unwanted term.

AND and NOT are considered multiplication and are processed first, followed by the OR clause which is addition.

() Parentheses

Parentheses help groups search terms with an operator and control the order of operations. For example, "(backend OR software) AND Java" will retrieve results that mention "Java" and either "backend" or "software." 

Information within parentheses is read first, followed by the ones that are outside.

"" Quotation marks

Quotation marks allow us to search for an exact set of words or phrases. For instance, "full-stack developer" in quotes will return results that include that precise phrase. 

Keywords within quotation marks are treated as a whole words, ensuring more accurate search results.


The asterisk serves as a wildcard operator, enabling us to match variations of a keyword.

Using  "front-end develop*" will retrieve results that include "frontend developer," "front-end development," and other related terms.

Note that while many search engines embrace the asterisk, LinkedIn does not currently support its usage.

Advanced Search Operators

As we gain mastery over these operators, we don't stop there. 

Here are four advanced search operators on Google that can further optimize our search queries. 


The “site:” operator allows us to search for results from a specific website or domain. 

Adding "" to our search query will limit results to LinkedIn profiles, facilitating targeted candidate sourcing.


The "inurl" operator enables us to search for keywords specified in the URL of webpages. For instance, searching for "inurl:resume Java developer" will retrieve results that have "Java developer" in the URL, which can help find resumes or portfolios.


The "intitle" operator focuses on searching for keywords specifically in the titles of web pages. 

For example, searching for "intitle:software engineer jobs" will retrieve results that have "software engineer jobs" in the title, allowing us to find job listings or relevant pages.


The "filetype" operator allows us to specify the file type or format of the search results we're looking for. We can narrow down our search to specific file formats, such as PDF, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and more.

This operator is particularly handy when we're searching for resumes, case studies, or other specific types of documents.

Searching for "software engineer resume filetype:pdf" will retrieve the resumes of software engineers in PDF format.


We could ask ChatGPT to create a Boolean string for our search by giving a specific command, such as “write boolean string for finding React developer in London”

There's more! I have a special treat for you. 

Recently, I’ve discovered BooleanStrings Bank, a powerful tool that will help you in your searches. 

Try it out and share your thoughts with me 😉


By combining these operators with others like AND, OR, NOT, quotation marks, parentheses, and the asterisk (*), we can create highly targeted searches to find the most relevant candidates. 

Whether we're looking for specific skills, job titles, or candidates on particular websites, Boolean search empowers us to source and connect with top-tier talent efficiently.

For a deeper understanding of this topic, I highly recommend reading the Full Stack Recruiter book by Jan Tegze where you can explore new and innovative ways of searching for candidates.

Did you know that you can find your candidates’ details by Googling specific emojis? 🤓

Get ready to embark on an exceptional talent sourcing adventure, fueled by the incredible power of Boolean search techniques! 

See you in the next article 👋🏻

Your Friendly TA Ivana


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© 2023 Ivana Evola

Made with 💙 by Daniele

Let's connect!

© 2023 Ivana Evola

Made with 💙 by Daniele