Boolean Operators, Boolean Search, Ninja style back flip search, however you want to slice it, it’s still a trending topic across many recruiting circles. Be this as it may, most recruiters are simply lacking in their ability to perform the most basic of basic searches. This post is not provided as a strategy or a “how to search” article, rather a simple introduction into the terminology you may hear being around the water cooler.

Here are the questions we hear most often:

Why should I learn Boolean Operators if my jobs are posted online and my company has an ATS with search functions?  Is it that valuable?

Leveraging Boolean Search allows recruiters to search for candidate information across a number of channels including their ATS, online search engines like Google, Yahoo!, Bing and most of the other thousands of search engines available. If you’ve never heard of Boolean Search, you can print this out and study up when you’ve got some time.

What is the real value of Boolean Search for a recruiter?

It’s ok to ask this question. Experienced recruiters debate this topic every day all over the web. Without having to feel shamed by more experienced recruiters (who think they know more then they actually do) here are the basics. Without getting deep into the woods on this question, Boolean Search allows recruiters to find things like resumes, cover letter, files, and contact information that are stored online. Sources of this information (most often for a recruiter) may be resume databases, personal websites, job boards, social networks and online files storage sites.

Learn the Basics of Boolean Search

At its most basic level (in relationship to what a recruiter needs) Boolean Search is a search allowing the inclusion or exclusion of documents containing certain words through the use of operators such as AND, NOT and OR.

The commands we have shared below tell search engines what you are looking for and help to filter results to displaying candidates / resumes / profiles of potential leads for your search.

Boolean Operators For Recruiters

AND / &

The command AND (&) will return results containing all of your specified keywords or phrases.

Software AND Designer AND Engineer will return results that include all three terms searched.

You are not required to use the operator AND when using Google. Google infers the operator AND in place of using a space between your terms.

OR / | (pipe, not an I)

The command OR (|) will return results containing at least one of the requested terms or phrases from your search.

Engineer OR designer OR architect will return results that include at least one of the terms listed in the search.


This command should be used if you are looking to see results with the exact phrases or spelling of a term. Without using the quotation marks your search will be interpreted as an “AND” between the spaces / words.

Software Engineer will return results with the term Software as well as the term Engineer.

“Software Engineer” however, will return results with the phrase Software Engineer. Placing the phrase in “” tells the search engine you are looking to see results with this exact phrase.

– / NOT

Using the minus sign or the term NOT before the keyword or phrase will tell the search engine that you want to exclude this particular set of terms.

-“Software Engineer” will return results without the phrase Software Engineer.

This will not however exclude variations of the phrase or similar phrases such as Software developer.

Asterisk or *

The * can have different powers depending on where you are searching. For example on some job boards like using the * simply truncates the term.

Manag* will return results such as manager, managing managed

However, using the * while search with Google will return a unique set of results. Google interprets the * as your request to “fill in the blank” The direct definition is “one of more words”

If you are looking for a specific job title such as a Software Design Engineer and you are unsure of how other companies might title this job internaly you can search for “Software * Engineer”.

This search in interpreted as the phrase “Software –one or more words- Engineer”.

Potential results might be:

  1. Software design engineer
  2. Software development engineer
  3. Software test engineer
  4. Software applications engineer

() Parentheses / Brackets

This command is used for grouping Boolean phrases or like words. There are many techniques as to how a recruiter may or may not use the operator.

I like to recommend that people think algebra and how you use () to prioritize your equations.

In this example (nurse OR “nurse manager”)(CHOP OR children’s OR pediatric) will return results with both sets of keywords.

Why can’t I simply add all of these terms into 1 () or an OR search?

That’s a great question. The answer is that if you did this you would be telling your search to return any results that have the term nurse or nurse manager or chop or children’s or pediatric. In reality you are really looking for a someone with the job title of a nurse or a nurse manager AS WELL AS experience with children or working at CHOP in pediatrics.


Using this operator will tell the search engine that you want to see results that have a specific term within the page title.

If you search intitle:resume then your search results will have the term resume in the title of the page.


Using this operator will tell the search engine that you want to see results that have a specific term within the page URL (The address of the website)

If you search inurl:resume then your search results will have the term resume in the address of that page.  If you were to search inurl:shoes then the URL will have the term shoes in the website address.


Using this operator will tell the search engine that you want to see results that have a specific term or phrase within the body text of the page results.

If you search inbody: “night shift manager” your search results will have the phrase “night shift manager” within the body of that result.


Usig this operator will allow you to target specific filetypes. You can tell your search that you only want ot see results that are word docs or pdf’s or excel sheets.

Filetype:doc will return results that contain word docs whereas filetype:pdf will return results that contain only PDF’s.

This is best used to narrow your search to resume documents or to target filetype:xls for lists and excel docs.

Within “X”

Using this operator will allow you to find a word within a certain radius of another word.

If you search Automation within 3 developed, you will see results that show the term Automation within 3 words or less of developed.

“Software Engineer” within 4 “Managed” will return results that show the phrase Software Engineer within 4 words of managed. Ideally this will help to identify Software Engineers with managerial experience.


Using the operator Group will allow you to specific target interest groups in your search.

If you search Group: “java Developers” you will find that most of your results will be Google groups dedicated to Software Engineers”

Related and Similar

Using this operator will find results that are similar or related to the search criteria.

Searching related:football will find all results similar or related to football.


Using the ~ operator will allow you to search 1 term and find results on similar term or synonyms of the term you are searching.

Search the term ~cold will also return results with the term freezing, chilly, tundra etc.

Country codes

If you are targeting specific countries in your search be sure to target the proer country code. You can find the entire country code list here.

You can target this in your search by using the following syntax: url:coutnry code



Get a country code list here

By Dean Da Costa

Dean Da Costa is a highly experienced and decorated staffing professional, recruiter, sourcer and manager, who also boasts outstanding experience and skills in Human Resources, Project Management, Training, and Process Improvement. He is best known for his work in the highly difficult security and mobile arena's, and the gold star winning numbers he produced. His keen insight and creation of ground breaking tools and processes, to enhance and change staffing as we know it, have proven he is a true "Staffing Thought Leader". Despite all this he remains first and foremost one of the top sourcers, staffing managers and full cycle recruiters in the industry and a true "Search Authority"