Boolean Search in Recruitment

Updated May 3, 20248 min read

Something is as true for recruiters in 2024 as it was in 2010.

Yup, you guessed it - using booleans.

Whether we are using Linkedin or Google, we use booleans everyday without realising it . Mastering it is a competitive advantage though - it helps you find the ideal candidate faster and beat the competition.

Effective use of boolean operators can reduce your effort, eliminate the need a sourcing tool and fill open positions faster. It’s really simple, you need to understand the basics well and practice.

In this guide, you’ll learn :

  • What is a boolean operator?
  • What are the 4 boolean operators
  • How to use boolean in recruitment
  • Boolean operators on Linkedin

What is a boolean operator?

Boolean operators are simple words like AND, OR, NOT which can used in your search string. They can be used to include (AND / OR) or exclude (NOT) important keywords from the results of the search. Using them well can lead to a much focussed search with only relevant results.‍

What are the 4 boolean operators?

1. AND: Using the AND operator with 2 keywords means that you want both keywords to be present in the documents returned. A document having just one of the two terms would not be shown. AND operator is typically used to narrow the search by putting the most important keywords required in the results in the boolean search string.‍


2. OR: Using the OR operator between keywords means that you want at least one of the keywords to be present in the documents returned. Any document which has one or all the keywords will be shown and typically documents matching both keywords are shown first. OR operator is typically used to expand the search by putting any relevant keyword in the boolean search string.


3. NOT: Using the NOT operator means to exclude the documents matching the keywords provided. The NOT operator is typically used to narrow the search by removing documents, which although similar and not exactly the same. A great example is when searching for frontend engineers, you’d like to exclude


4. Parenthesis / Brackets: ( and ) are used as modifiers to the search changing the order in which the operators are applied. The search engines typically evaluate the expression within the parenthesis first before applying the ones outside the brackets.

How to use boolean operators in recruitment?

Now that you know what the different operators are, using them is very simple, just add them to your search string between the keywords. The basic idea is as follows:

keyword1 OPERATOR keyword2

Check out a few examples below:

staffing AND recruiter

talent acquisition OR hr

java NOT javascript

(python OR java OR ruby) AND (javascript OR react)