Not sure what a Boolean Search is or how it’s used in recruitment? Look no further! Our handy blog post will tell you how they work and why we use them – aren’t you lucky?


What are they?

Boolean searches are related to concept of mathematics and symbol logic developed by George Boole, a mathematician in the 19th century (don’t I sound smart). They basically allow the combination of five different elements to conduct a search. These elements limit, broaden, or define a search, depending on how they are used.


Why are they used in Recruitment?

In recruitment these searches are used when resourcing candidates, which is when a Resourcer searches on one or more job boards for specific skills and/or experience in order to find and attract more candidates to a role.

By using this type of search, Resourcers can really narrow down the pool of candidates they are presented with by specifically looking for what is required in that role.


How is it done?

As I said earlier, there are five elements to a Boolean search, which all work in different ways.

These elements are:

  • OR – this broadens the search, and the results will contain either of the key words you are searching for.
  • AND – this narrows down the search, by combining two words or phrases and only showing results with both.
  • NOT – this also narrows the search, but by exclusion; some search engines recognise the subtract symbol (-) as NOT.
  • “ ” – while this does not narrow or broaden the search, speech marks are wrapped around keywords in order to capture the entire phrase; not using “ ” will mean that each word is seen separately.
  • ( ) – brackets are used in more complex search strings, and can be used to separate and combine two commands into one search, telling the search engine that these are separate conditions.

Let’s see them in action…

We know that these searches may still seem pretty complicated, and honestly, practice makes perfect, so here are some examples which might help when wrapping your head around how to combine the different elements:

A simple search string would be something like…

  • Sales OR Telesales

OR (Boolean pun)

  • “Care Assistant” OR “Support Worker” – notice how the speech marks have to be kept around each key word

Getting slightly more complex, a search string with more elements could be…

  • (“IT Technician” OR “IT Support”) AND JavaScript – when running this search, the search engine would know that the IT Technician or IT Support would also need to have skills in JavaScript


Hopefully by now you have more of an idea of what a Boolean search is and how it works within recruitment. If you are interested in the applicant tracking systems we (recruiters) use to conduct these searches, we are now offering free demos of our system!