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The power of Boolean search in recruiting

03/08/2023 2023/08

Finding qualified candidates can be challenging, especially when the requirements are specific and the candidate pool is limited. This is where Boolean search comes into play. Boolean search allows recruiters to expand their search capabilities and target candidates that meet their specific requirements. In this article, we will explore Boolean search in recruiting, understand its benefits, and learn how to create effective Boolean search queries.

What is Boolean Search in Recruiting?

Boolean search in recruiting is a structured process that uses mathematical operators such as AND, OR and NOT to broaden or narrow the search for candidates in various databases. These operators allow recruiters to search more specifically for candidates that meet your requirements and produce more relevant results.
Boolean search is based on the Boolean logic developed by George Boole, a 19th century mathematician. Boole laid the foundation for Boolean algebra, which is the basis of Boolean search.

Advantages of Boolean Search in Recruiting

Boolean search offers a number of advantages for recruiters. Here are a few examples:

  • More precise results: In the context of social recruiting, Boolean search allows you to target specific criteria and produce more relevant results. By using Boolean operators, search queries can be created in social media such as Linkedin and Xing, but also in CV databases, taking into account the exact requirements of their open positions.
  • Time saving: Boolean search allows recruiters to make their search more efficient and save time. Instead of sifting through a large number of candidates, they can refine their search using Boolean operators and find only those candidates that match their specific requirements.
  • Effective social recruiting: In times of increasing skills shortages, it is necessary to target not only active searchers, but also candidates who are not actively looking for a job, but who have the required skills and qualifications. By using Boolean operators, they can narrow their search to specific companies, industries or positions. Coupled with engaging copy in the direct approach, this increases the chances of positive feedback and successful filling of vacant positions.
  • Expanding the candidate pool: Boolean search allows recruiters to expand their candidate pool and find talent they might otherwise have overlooked. By using Boolean operators, they can search for candidates who have certain skills, experience, or qualifications, even if they are not explicitly mentioned in their resume. This allows them to broaden the talent pool and discover candidates with different backgrounds and potential.

How to create an effective Boolean search query?

An effective Boolean search query consists of a combination of keywords and Boolean operators. Here are some tips on how to create an effective Boolean search query:

Use the AND operator

The "AND" operator is used to combine criteria. For example, the search can be narrowed down to candidate:s that meet all the specified criteria. For example: "Java AND Developer" returns results that contain both the keyword "Java" and the keyword "Developer".

Use the OR operator

The "OR" operator is used to combine alternative criteria. This allows the search to be expanded to include candidate:s that meet any of the specified criteria. For example: "Java OR Python developer" returns results that contain either the keyword "Java" or the keyword "Python". The "OR" operator can be used to consider different backgrounds and skills. The result list of matching candidates is thus enlarged and allows searching for different spellings, phrases and synonyms.

Use the NOT operator

The NOT operator is used to exclude certain criteria and restrict the search to certain terms. Similarly, the NOT operator is used to limit the search to candidates that do not meet certain criteria. For example, "Java NOT Python developer" returns results that contain the keyword "Java" but not the keyword "Python".

Boolean search modifiers

Boolean search in recruiting not only provides the ability to use logical operators such as "AND", "OR", and "NOT", but also various search modifiers that provide additional flexibility and precision. 

Parentheses play a similar role in Boolean searches as they do in mathematics - giving priority to whatever is inside the parentheses. By using parentheses, you can group specific parts of the search query and control the order in which they are executed. This allows more precise control over the logical links within the search.

Quotation marks also play an important role in Boolean searches, especially when searching for exact matches of terms. This makes the number of results very narrow.

The asterisk can be placed anywhere within a word and acts as a wildcard. It allows searching for all expressions that exactly match the search term, but with any number of characters that can be placed in the asterisk's place. The asterisk extends the search by allowing all possible variations and combinations, making it an extremely flexible search modifier.

Examples of effective Boolean search queries

To help you create effective Boolean search queries, here are some examples for different scenarios:

  • Search for a Java developer with knowledge of Spring Framework: (Developer* AND "Java" AND "Spring")
  • Search for a marketing manager with experience in finance: (marketing manager* AND finance*)
  • Seeking a graphic designer proficient in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator: (Graphic Designer* AND ("Adobe Photoshop" OR "Illustrator"))
  • Search for a Project Manager with automotive experience but no manufacturing experience: (Project Manager* AND Automotive* NOT "Manufacturing")
  • Search for a Sales Representative with B2B experience: (Sales Representative* AND "B2B")

For a more comprehensive result in the Boolean search, include English terms. Since many candidates maintain their profiles in English, it makes sense to include them in the search. 


Boolean search is a powerful recruiting tool that helps recruiters optimize their search for qualified candidates. Through the clever use of Boolean operators, search queries can be created that are tailored to their exact requirements and deliver the most relevant results. 

ARTS has more than 20 years of active sourcing experience and in-depth knowledge of Boolean search. Our experts understand the intricacies of Boolean search and how to optimize complex search queries to effectively identify and target highly qualified candidates using Boolean operators. As a 360° full-service HR agency, we offer a wide range of recruiting services. Our expertise extends not only to social recruiting, but also to classic HR services such as recruitment agency services and temporary staffing. In addition, we are your reliable HR outsourcing partner and are happy to support you in your entire recruitment process - be it partially or fully. Our highly qualified recruiters are available to you on a flexible basis, either per vacancy or per hour. You benefit from our expertise and experience, while we take care of the efficient and professional handling of your recruiting needs.

About the Author
Julia Kajdasz
Recruitment Consultant

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