Do You Speak Boolean?

Posted by Vincent O'Donoghue,
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When we train people they tend to get quite excited about the tools and techniques that we show them; quick cheats to find private LinkedIn profiles or how to find anyones email address, but to me these are just the standard weapons in any good recruiters armoury. This is being able to ride the bike. But it is where and how you ride the bike that makes you stand out. See image for reference!

When was the last time that you looked up a phone book? Held it’s weight in your hands and allowed it to fall open roughly at the point in the alphabet that you expect to find the M’s or the S’s and then refined your search by working your way to the Murphys or the Smiths? The simple alphabetical nature of it, something we learn from our earliest school days, makes it something anyone that can read can very easily use. It is a simple indexing system that we can all appreciate. But no gold stars for finding a name in a phone book – big deal, right? Sooner or later finding people online will be as second nature as this, what we do once we find these people is what will differentiate recruiters. Being able to find everyone should become a given.

I was reminded of the phone book when an Argos catalogue was proffered to me through my car window while stopped in traffic. I like paper but it seems weird and wasteful in todays world to get such a large volume of paper thrust at you, particularly as it is such a disposable item.

Regardless, 15 minutes later I confess I was leafing through this bulky tome while sitting on the toilet (the last refuge of a married man with two young kids and one of the last places where paper is probably safe from digital replacement). After some absent minded flicking through electrical items I went to the index. How quaint, an index of the books contents, suggestions on how I might refine my search, ideas to lure me towards a purchase. I miss indexes (or is it just index, like sheep? Or indices?) they take some of the work out of search and remind me of things that I need or often don’t need.

What the phone book and the Argos index offer people is a good old fashioned way of finding what they want. Sourcing is not so simple, unfortunately we are not trained as toddlers to think about Boolean search with it’s AND’s, OR’s & NOT’s in the way we are with the alphabet and the web is not always structured in the way we would ideally like it to be. We need a way to tame it.

Also for recruiters people have the highly inconvenient habit of describing what they do for a living in an inconsistent way, take the “Java Developer” who calls herself a “Java Guru”, “Coder Monkey”, “Coding Wizard” or “Java Junkie” and you start to get an idea why we need a system of making sense of search. Add the fact that in this example Java could also mean Coffee and you will appreciate why understanding how search works and how you can bend the webs underlying index into your own needs is essential. To do this, currently at least, you really need to be fluent in Boolean search. Speaking Boolean and understanding how it is applied within Google, LinkedIn and other databases is the minimum requirement for a recruiter today.

But being fluent in English does not make me a poet and being great at Boolean won’t make someone a great recruiter. The same attributes that made someone a great recruiter 20 years ago are just as applicable today. Understanding your industry, being seen as a trusted advisor, building a personal or employer brand, having the ability to sell opportunities to clients, line managers and candidates are all still crucial requirements. But not speaking Boolean in the digital world in which recruiters find themselves today, is like looking up a phone book that is not in alphabetical order. You may, possibly, still find the person but you will spend all day at it and your great recruiter attributes won’t matter because you are interminably stuck searching. Sourcing is not about being online all day, it is about being so comfortable with the tools that you forget that you are riding the bike and get on with getting where you need to go to.

But if you are NOT fluent in Boolean all is not lost, there is plenty of free information online, use it! Or if you want to take a shortcut check out our Black Belt In Internet Recruitment training programme.

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