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Apr 19, 2017
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Boolean logic will always captivate me. The art of manipulating a search string to retrieve results will never get old. Our use of Boolean commands has certainly changed over the years. We may not be spending hours each day refining our search and combing through thousands of results. Boolean cheat sheets now seem archaic. Memorizing search strings have been replaced by SourceHub, RecruitEm and Hiretual. This isn’t to say that “Boolean” is inevitably dying. As Glen Cathey has repeatedly stated, “George Boole is dead, not Boolean.” Learning and using Boolean commands to search is one of the fundamental concepts of a great sourcer. Each day, other curious sourcers from around the world ask for help building search strings. The creativity and the uniqueness behind each search is fascinating. Take a look at the favorite search strings from some of the top women in sourcing. Use the comment section to share your favorite search string.

Alicia Priselac

The best thing to do is use a search engine to find LinkedIn profiles. For languages, use their terms, also, it appears LinkedIn uses “Chinese” vs “Mandarin” (at least Chinese is available via the language dropdown box and Mandarin isn’t). Using the terms to describe fluency that LinkedIn offers its users to select, you can build the following string: chinese (“professional working proficiency” OR “full professional proficiency” OR “native or bilingual proficiency”) “creative director” (she OR her OR sorority)

Tangie Pettis

This is my favorite search because Steve Levy reminded that “less is more” when it comes to Boolean. This simple search string returned almost 3,000 leads with contact information. It’s exciting to run it daily and find what’s out there BEFORE it is realized by the publisher that the document is not behind a firewall.

dentist “san antonio” ext:xls

dentist “san antonio” filetype:xls

Katrina Collier

Instagram has 600 million users and a user base 2.5 times more active than LinkedIn’s, and it gives you an insight into people’s interests, which is great for starting a conversation and being human. I’ve found such a diverse range of people with all manner of skills on there over the years and, the best part, is that you can message nearly everyone on there for free! #BeHuman -jobs -inurl:company -“” [occupation] [location]

Maisha Cannon

This string is a remix of one Shannon Pritchett shared some years ago at a conference that x-rays

This one finds people with a certain title and their email listed.

Generic “job title” “name of city” “job title” ( OR

Customized recruiter “los angeles” “graphic designer” ( OR

Stacy Zapar

To help you determine the company’s email pattern. Once you know that pattern, you can simply plug in the prospect’s name and email them directly. And drive your response rate way up.

“email OR contact * *”

Sarah Goldberg

I use this string two ways: I use it in conjunction with some tech-stack specific keywords when I’m trying to find candidates who do well in hackathons for a specific job requirement, and I have a saved search set up so I get notifications whenever someone adds a new competition to their profile.

(“programming competition” OR “programming challenge” OR “coding competition” OR “coding challenge” OR “programming competitions” OR “programming challenges” OR “coding competitions” OR “coding challenges” OR “programming contest” OR “programming contests” OR “coding contest” OR “coding contests” OR hackathon) AND (selected OR won OR placed OR place)

Angie Verros

Great tech tools make it so much easier to source these days that I don’t really use boolean strings that often (thanks to Johnny Campbell), but if I have to go back to basics, I usually start with this:

(inurl:resume OR intitle:resume OR inurl:cv OR intitle:vitae OR inurl:bio OR inurl:profile OR intitle:profile OR resume.html OR “home page”) AND “whatever the specialty & location is

Why? It will bring up more resumes along with a mix of other things that I could research.

Kerri Mills

This is my favorite string to use! I just add in keywords based on what I am looking for.

-intitle:”profiles” -inurl:”dir/ ”

Susanna Conway

Setting up a Google alert with this search string allows me to expand my LinkedIn network with top sourcers (and congratulate them on earning their newest certification)! (“Social Sourcing Recruiter” OR “People Sourcing Professional” OR CSSP OR CPSC) AND (Certification OR Certified OR CSSP OR CPSP) AND Sourcing

Laura Stoker

I love this string because it’s simple, it gets to the good stuff, and it can easily be refined – in this case with lists of amazing women in a wide array of inurl:members “women in”

Amybeth Quinn

These always return interesting results but it takes a lot of work to refine them. I wouldn’t say it’s my ‘favorite’ simply b/c it’s not used often and doesn’t return as good of results as if you were to search within a more structured database and not just do a general web search.

(filetype:doc | filetype:pdf) resume -sample -jobs -careers

And then add some keywords into it like

“software engineer” (425 | 206 | 360)

Carmen Hudson

I love x-raying anything. A simple site: search is elegant, easy to remember and yields solid leads, if you know what you’re searching for.

current favorite: joined angularjs

Nicole Greenberg

Relevant for candidates:

filetype:xls(inurl:uploads OR inurl:files) name phone email -form -sample -example (attendees OR members OR applicants OR candidates)

+ Search term (i.e. Oracle DBA)

Also, when you find a juicy list, follow it with a site specific search for the same filetype.

filetype:pdf OR filetype:doc OR filetype:xlsintitle:confidential OR intitle:attorney-client -form -sample -example

Kay Kelison

I am a huge fan of image search. My style of Boolean is simplicity to strategic. With social media and understanding the talent that we are trying to engage with, finding them through articles is a sure way to compliment them, and show that you have done research.

software engineer (he | she) (women | “african american”) Pinterest

Cyndy Davis

I use words and phrases you’d find when someone is talking about themselves like “I am a”, “my project”, and also ones that would indicate there is contact information on the page. The last part is essential to filter out job postings.

“network (engineer OR architect)” AND (wifi OR wi-fi OR wireless) AND (“email me at” OR “download my” OR “I am a”) -apply -submit -job

Barbara Mendoza

Here is one inspired by Cathey. I have used it several times changing the level I need – director, manager, vp, etc. AND “product manager” “marketing” “conair” -dir -intitle:profiles -inurl:jobs “greater new york city area”

Amie Ernst

My team works on AI / ML and this is one I use a lot.

(“machine learning” AND “python” AND “algorithms” AND (“data mining” OR “text mining” OR “deep learning” OR “ai” OR “artificial intelligence” OR “data science” OR “data scientist” OR “statistics” OR “data analysis” OR “data analytics” OR “natural language processing” OR “nlp” OR “big data” OR “r” OR “neural networks” OR “classification” OR “regression” OR “nlp” OR “information retrieval” OR “pattern recognition”))

Teresa Colquitt

This is a great base string to build off when looking for general software engineers. It can be used as a base in LinkedIn or can be altered with a few tweaks for a Google/xray search.

(“software engineer” OR “software developer” OR “software development engineer” OR “senior software engineer”) AND “distributed systems” AND (concurrency OR concurrent) AND scalable AND (Java OR C++) AND “computer science”


As the Editor of SourceCon, I’ve seen many strings. Here is one I shared with SourceCon attendees at the Fall Conference in Dallas in 2015.

“(i OR my) (specialty OR specialties OR specialize) (is OR are OR in) (photoshop OR adobe OR illustrator OR dreamweaver OR html OR css OR php)”


Add your favorite Boolean search string to the comment section! 

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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