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Boolean Strings with Irina Shamaeva: truLondon Live Blog

The great sourceress Irina Shamaeva is leading this highly anticipated track on Boolean Strings with legend Glen Cathey joining her. We open with a quick chat about how each person here is using Boolean in their jobs.  There is an obvious mix of skills, some using only basic operators whilst others are quite sophisticated.

Some basics first; Boolean consists of “And”, “Or” and “Not”; it has been around a long time, long before searching and computers.  It comes into play when combined with boolean logic including modifiers, field commands, special characters etc.  Boolean is not hard, its the other stuff that can be difficult. Google and Bing are different and accept different characters.  You can use Boolean on Monster and your own ATS.

Boolean syntax is not rocket science; you can start with the basics and do loads with it. Glen offers that he is kind of sick of talking about Boolean. He prefers to talk about Information Retrieval as that is what we are really talking about. What are you looking for and how relevant are the results?  There are no right or wrong strings, you have to approach each search differently. You can however have the wrong syntax but the search engine will not necessarily tell you that it is wrong.

The documentation is available on the advanced sections of Google and Bing etc and trial and error is your best way to experiment. You cannot say that too many results is wrong; you need to look at the relevancy of those results before you can make such a call.  800 results might be right if they are all relevant. “* * works at Google as a software engineer” is a great string and doesn’t require you searching LinkedIn or looking for CVs etc.

Glen responds to the question as to why he is a great sourcer; he responds by saying that he has an inquisitive mind and he likes to solve problems. There are no top 25 strings, you can’t just write a string and walk away, the search is a living, breathing thing and you need to be prepared to change your tact based on your results and their relevance. Simple is often much better than using complex strings. Glen rarely goes to the web, his company have a rich database and they have access to Monster and Dice so he finds he spends most of his time mining that information. The length of the string is relevant, the components are usually quite simple.

You need to be playful and experiment. Irina starts her searches with broad syntax, not specifically looking for people but when she sees patterns that produce people results, she will modify her string to see more of these types of results.

Glen quotes Abraham Lincoln “If you give me 6 hours to chop down a tree, I will spend 4 hours sharpening my axe”; you need to be resourceful and be willing to experiment but you need to look and learn. Recruiters like Irina and Glen share their strings freely; you can find free inspiration on the web.

Will LinkedIn ever remove the ability for search engines to index their public profiles?  Irina and Glen both believe that it may happen but there are SEO benefits to LinkedIn to remain indexable and it would be very difficult for them to take it down. Also things like the Wayback Machine site will always store the data that was available up until the day it gets taken down.

Irina believes that LinkedIn is over-rated, sometimes she searches for links to LinkedIn from blogs but she is looking at the results on the blog and not the LinkedIn profile.  You need to take information from multiple sources. You also can’t ignore old school skills; you need a blend of new tech and old skills.  Good recruiters are investigative; they don’t always look for the suspect, they look for people who may know the suspect or have seen the suspect (to borrow a crime analogy!).

What about productivity tools?  There are tools available that can make you faster such as parsing tools. When searching Google you can highlight extra words such as “email” as it may pull out the email addresses in the quick view in the search results so that you can access large chunks of data quickly.  “Contact Capture” from Broadlook and “Down the Mall” are other productivity tools that you can use. So what tools would you use first  Irina recommends “Contact Capture” as it extracts info into Excel tables easily plus “Audit Pager” etc that crawl things for you. Glen recommends Bing and LinkedIn. He does not pay for LinkedIn and refuses to do so for as long as possible.  Bing has some great proximity strings that allow you to . Sovren is anther resume parsing tool and contextual search tool that Glen recommends to build your own database. Dextra allows you to set up nightly paid searches.

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