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The Sourcer’s Apprentice – To “OR”, “AND,” or “NOT”…that is the Question


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Boolean searches… at first look I wanted to find any and all methods of sourcing that could eliminate the need of these strings from my tool box.  My only knowledge had been from reading the blog posts of Glen Cathey, seeing the pre-constructed strings in the comments from sourcing challenges, and finishing wondering how they could so easily find results from three simple ingredients.

So, my questions became:

  1. What exactly are Boolean searches?  How do I do a Boolean Search?
  2. What are the basic search meanings for OR, AND, NOT?
  3. What sites can I use these searches on?  Do they each need their own?

With a defined list of questions, I began to do what I do best … search and source until I could find the answers that I was looking for. 

Sourcing through Google I found out that Boolean searches allow you to combine words and phrases using the words AND, OR, NOT and sometimes NEAR to limit, widen, or define your search.  AND is equal to the “ + ” symbol, NOT is in turn equal to the “ – “ symbol, and OR is the default setting of any search engine (i.e. it will return all the words you type in the string).  For the final question, I simply performed basic Boolean searches in Google, Yahoo, and Bing.  It was exciting to see the wide list of results come in with only a few terms to work with.

My basic lesson had been learned and it was on to continually build off of the lesson on a larger scale by incorporating intitle:, site:, I to separate key terms, etc.  The best part of Boolean search strings is the fact that you can add, subtract, and build off of any and all of the ones that you create and if they do not work… it is just a game of trial and error.

I have created a list in my tool box that are my “go-to” search strings and I am always trying to share with others to see if they can add anything to them to make them better or more specific for special searches.  So… below is a list of some of my favorites that I have built up, added, and subtracted from and am always looking to work on.

AND, OR

(skill OR skill OR skill) AND (“job titlte” OR “job title”) AND (st OR state OR city)

Facebook Searches

linkdomain:facebook.com (group OR association OR organization) software developer “Atlanta”

Organization Searches

site:org “member directory” (“orgname” | “orgname” | “orgname” | “orgname” | “orgname”) (phone | email | contact)

Biography Searches

(“keyword” OR “keyword” OR “keyword”) (intitle:”about me” OR inurl:”about me” OR intitle:bio OR inurl:bio OR intitle:profile OR inurl:profile OR intitle:homepage OR inurl:homepage)

Boolean searches are still a struggle and yet the benefits of them have been undeniable in helping to dig up candidates that I had not been able to uncover prior.  As with anything that is a challenge to you … “if at first you do not succeed…try again.”


The Sourcer’s Apprentice series is a personal look into the life of a new sourcer’s ups and downs in conjuring the best tricks to help discover those hard to find “perfect” candidates. Each article will contain the lessons that I (the sourcer’s apprentice) experience while learning from the masters and developing my own spells to work on becoming a master myself one day — one lesson at a time!
Samantha Kosko is the Sourcing Strategist for eHire in Atlanta and a “newbie” to the world of sourcing. Being an early adaptor, she is able to formulate sourcing plans and strategies including new social media tools mixed with the old reliable. Kosko began her recruiting career in 2010 and has never looked back! She sources top talent mainly in the IT space, concentrating on Software/Database Developers with heavy focus on technologies such as: C/C++, (Windows & UNIX/Linux), .NET, Java/J2EE, SQL Server, and Oracle. To see her at work, follow her on Twitter.
  • Cbayle

    Sooo it’s a type of logic that deals with the values of “true” or “false” and performs operations on them. There are similar functions in Flash. Not that I totally understand them. :)

  • Samantha

    I will teach you… it can be a lesson to you before I leave the A

  • Jlanghan

    i <3 sam
    gingers FTW
    great article, as always!!

    ~jer

  • http://www.recruiting-online.com Glenn Gutmacher

    Check out Shally’s cheatsheets (aces.arbita.net/products/cheatsheets) that I helped out with – they cover booleans and special commands in the context of real recruiting examples for various search engines, social networks, blogs, etc.

  • http://twitter.com/selllikesybok Dave Galley

    As a minor quibble – I believe the default is actually AND for most search engines.

    The assumption is that while researching the works of Johann Strauss, you would not be equally interested in results like the lyrics to the Mailbox Song or a list of tributaries for the Volga’s shorter cousin.

  • Samantha

    Thanks so much … you are GREAT

  • Samantha

    Glenn — super cool Shally has some killer ideas in that link!

  • Samantha

    Tomorrow this post will be featured on Yahoo! Developer Networks weekly Tech Thursday …