How to Use Boolean Searches for Recruitment

Along with social media tools like LinkedIn, Google is every recruiter’s secret weapon.

It’s one of the best places to find candidates, and for the savvy recruiter, it offers unlimited options for finding for qualified healthcare professionals for open positions.

However, effectively using Google is more than just typing a phrase into the search box and hoping for the best.

Enter the boolean search.

Every recruiter, whether they are just starting out or expert in their fields, needs to be aware of how boolean searches can unlock the processing power of search engines to define and refine candidate sourcing. After all, without the ability to find candidates, being able to recruit and engage them is impossible.

What is a boolean search?

A boolean search is essentially a way of narrowing a search by using symbols to get the exact results you want.

It’s a structured process that uses specific elements or symbols to target specific keywords and deliver focused results. These searches are named after a 19th century mathematician named George Boole, who developed a system called “symbolic logic,” where symbols can be substituted for entire words or phrases (similar to how we use emojis today).

Beyond its history though, this kind of searching is invaluable to recruiters searching for candidates. It allows you to filter your results by nearly any criteria, so you can be more specific with the people you target.

How to use boolean search terms

Boolean searches typically rely on five elements that you can use to create complex searches. We’ll outline each of these terms (or you can refer to the chart below!), and then explain how each of these elements can be used to find candidates.

PRO TIP: When you are using these search elements, you should always capitalize them so that the search engine will recognize them as elements (rather than a normal part of your sentences) and deliver the results you want.

Basic boolean search terms

  • AND — AND can be used when you want to include more than one exact word in your search results. For example, if you want to find nurse practitioners working in Ohio, you might search something like ‘nurse practitioner AND Ohio.’ A search using the AND will only bring up results that include both the terms ‘nurse practitioner’ and ‘Ohio.’
  • OR — While using AND helps to narrow a search, OR helps you to expand it. When you use OR in your searches, it opens up your search to include result that have either one term or the other. As an example, if you search ‘nurse practitioner Ohio OR NP Ohio,’ you’ll get results that include either one of those terms.
  • NOT — Using NOT will help to exclude specific results from your searches. You can also use the minus sign when you choose this option. Going back to the example we’ve been using, if you wanted nurse practitioners in Ohio, but wanted to exclude any in Cleveland, you could enter ‘nurse practitioner Ohio NOT cleveland’ (or -cleveland) to exclude it from the cities you do want.
  • “” (quotations) — Similar to AND, quotations are great if you’re looking to get very narrow results, or you only want to find candidates using specific phrases. When you put a search term in quotations, your results will return that exact phrase. For example, if you are searching ‘critical care nurse’ you may get results that have either one or the other term. Searching ‘“critical care” nurse’ will help you get results that have the phrase ‘critical care’ together.
  • () (parentheses) — Using parentheses in your searches is a way to prioritize the way you get results, and when you start to build more complex candidate searches, can be invaluable. For example, you might use something like this: (physician assistant OR nurse practitioner) AND geriatrics, meaning that geriatrics is a “must have” for both results. Alternately, you can try something like physician assistant OR (nurse practitioner AND geriatrics), meaning that geriatrics is only important for nurse practitioners, not physician assistants.

easy guide to boolean searches (1)

How to use boolean searches to find candidates

Using a combination of these search strings in conjunction with each other can help you to recruit better and to find more candidates.

PRO TIP: Once you’ve created a strong search string that delivers the candidates you want, make sure that you’ve bookmarked your search and results. Then you can return to it any time and make modifications as needed.

If you’re not familiar with creating boolean strings, here are some tips to make the most of them. To start, let’s assume you’re looking to find an ICU nurse in Ohio. Here’s how you could filter your results.

site: You can use this before your search to only search a specific site. For example: “nurse” “icu” or (nurse OR icu nurse) ohio

asterisk You can use the asterisk when you need more results. For example, nurs* might give you results related to nurse, nurses, and nursing

intitle: You can use this element to search for specific phrase in a title. A lot of recruiters use this to find resumes, since (perhaps obviously) people will use the word “resume” in the title of their resumes. A sample search for this might be (intitle:resume OR cv) icu nurse ohio NOT jobs In this example, you’re asking Google to find documents with either resume or CV in the title that contain ICU nurse Ohio, but does not have the word “jobs.”

filetype: Like “intitle,” filetype is useful for finding resumes online. You might use it in a search like this: (intitle:resume OR cv)(filetype:docx OR doc OR pdf) icu nurse ohio

PRO TIP: When creating your search strings, pay attention to spacing. If you’re using an element with a colon, there shouldn’t be any spaces. Double checking your formatting makes sure that you’re getting the formatting you want.

This is just a quick overview of some of the most useful commands for creating boolean searches when recruiting.

If you’ve tried some of these elements and have already found great candidates, we have the perfect job for them. Head to our jobs page to make a referral today!

Molly Powers