Recruiters use Boolean search to find job candidates, but it’s surprising how few people use it for the opposite: to find great roles! If you’re having a poor job-search experience, it could be because you’re entering keywords that make your search results too general. When conducting more advanced searches (whether on Dice or other sites), understanding Boolean logic will make you more efficient.
What is Boolean logic?
Boolean logic refers to the logical relationship among search terms, and is named for the British-born Irish mathematician George Boole. Basically, it allows you to combine words or phrases to find information. Most online databases and search engines support Boolean searches.
To use Boolean logic, you need to understand the operators and modifiers.
Common Operators are AND, OR & NOT. To create more complex strings, you use Modifiers: “ “ ( ) , *
AND is the most common operator, and narrows searches by combining terms. Any search terms that follow an AND command must appear in the result. For example:
develop AND test
All search results will include both words in the results. If the document only has the word ‘develop,’ it will not be included in results.
OR will expand options in your search.
To find all jobs that fit your interests, you may need to broaden your keyword search. This is where the OR command comes in, as it will allow you to create a list of possibilities for which only one match is important. For example, the following search phrase will give you results that contain one or more of the stated words:
engineer OR developer OR programmer
If the description only has the word ‘engineer,’ it will show up in your results. If it has all three words (engineer, developer, programmer), it will also show up in your results.
If you are receiving too many results, you may want to refine your search. Using the NOT command can help with this, as it will narrow your search and exclude certain terms.
If you are searching for closely related terms that mean very different things, then using the NOT command can prove very helpful. An example could be as follows:
java NOT python
This would give you results that contain the word java but leaving out any that use the word python.
evergreen NOT tree
This will search for an evergreen that isn’t a tree. If you chose to remove the NOT, you would be getting results for evergreen trees.
Quotation marks are used to capture a phrase in the precise word-order it is used.
Choosing not to use “” around a phrase will mean that each word is treated separately, usually with the assumption of AND in between each one.
would give results that contain ‘chocolate‘ and ‘cake‘, but not necessarily in the same sentence or paragraph;
would give results that only contain the phrase “chocolate cake”
Parenthesis are necessary to create complex search strings and are most commonly used with the operator OR. A good example of parenthesis would be a list of similar technologies, company names or job titles.
(Amazon OR Google OR Facebook)
(Linux OR Unix OR Solaris OR “red hat”)
(test OR QA OR “quality assurance” or “quality analyst”)
The asterisk, also known as the wildcard symbol, can be used to replace one or more letters at the end of a word.
For example, if you are looking for a Web Developer role and you want to find documents that also contain words such as ‘developing’ or ‘developed,’ you can use the wildcard like this:
Web AND develop*.
You can also use the wildcard in a phrase like “web develop*”
Mastering these Boolean basics will increase your accuracy and help eliminate results that don’t apply to you. It’s also worth noting that various websites will customize Boolean logic. For example, Google has its own variation, as does Bing. Whether you are searching on Dice or another search engine, start to master Boolean and see your search experience change dramatically.
Angela Stugren is the VP of Career Development at Coding Dojo, a 14-week coding bootcamp in Silicon Valley, Seattle and Los Angeles, and founder of Cloutera Consulting Group, a Seattle-based recruitment consulting firm helping start-ups compete for world-class technical talent.