Using Boolean Search for Software Developers Recruitment

Time to Read: 5.1 minutes

Updated: May 8, 2023

Software developers are an integral part of most IT companies. With many emerging technologies in the market, it can be challenging to find the right person for the job.

Boolean search makes it possible to find dozens of suitable candidates for any position. It matches the candidates with the required skill set, education, and experience and eliminates the need for manual search. The results are relevant, accurate, and it’s easier and faster to eliminate irrelevant candidates.

In this article, we will explore the boolean search technique and the application of mathematical operators (AND, OR, and NOT) to narrow down or broaden the recruitment of software developers.

What is Boolean Search in Recruitment?

Boolean search is a technique invented by George Boole that is used to refine the process of recruitment. It makes use of mathematical operators such as AND, OR, and NOT to broaden or narrow down the candidate pool.

Important: boolean operators work ONLY when they’re written in uppercase.

Basic Boolean Search Operators

Boolean operators are used to excluding or including certain keywords in a search query. The three basic boolean operators are:

  • AND (&) Operator
    When the AND operator is used between two or more keywords, the search returns results that include both keywords.
  • OR (|) Operator
    The use of the OR operator between two or more keywords returns results that include either one of the keywords.
  • NOT (-) Operator
    Adding a NOT operator before a keyword returns specific search results that do not include that keyword. When it is added between two keywords, the search results contain the first keyword but not the second one.

Basic Boolean Query Modifiers

Adding boolean operators between two or more keywords is one thing, but to create complex search queries, you can make use of query modifiers. The basic query modifiers are:


The use of parentheses in boolean search is similar to its use in mathematics. It prioritizes the key phrases enclosed within the parentheses. For example, to find software/web developers and engineers who work with JavaScript and omit those who use JQuery:

(software OR web) AND (developer OR engineer) AND (JavaScript OR JS) – JQuery

The AND and OR operators should not be in the same Boolean search string except when parentheses are used.

Quotation Mark (“”)

The quotation marks are used to find exact keywords or keyphrases in your search. For example, to find a software developer who works with Java:

“software developer” AND Java

Asterisk or Wild Card (*)

An asterisk or wild card is the ultimate way of expanding your search horizons. It returns search results that include variants of a particular keyword alongside the exact match. To utilize an asterisk, simply put it before or after the keyword or the stem word.

For example, to find keywords such as “software developer”, “web developer”, and its variants such as “web development” and “software development:

“web dev*” OR “software dev*” OR “* developer”

Advanced Boolean Query Modifiers

The list of boolean query modifiers extends far above the basic three. Below, we will list some advanced boolean query modifiers that can come in handy in recruiting software engineers.

Query Modifier DescriptionExample
Tilde (~)Expand search results to include relevant keywords.web AND (dev* OR eng*) ~resume ~hire 
NEAR Search for keywords within 1 to 10 words of each other. (web OR software) NEAR (dev* OR eng*)
FILETYPE:Search for a particular file format.web AND (dev* OR eng*) ~resume (filetype:pdf OR filetype:docx)
URL: and SITE: Search within a specific software AND (eng* OR dev*) AND ~job ~hire ~resume
INURL:Search for keywords within the URL (inurl:).site: (inurl: cv OR inurl: resume) software (eng* OR dev*)
INTEXT:Search for keywords within the text on the web (intext: cv OR intext: resume) software (eng* OR dev*)
INTITLE:Search for keywords within the (intitle: cv OR intitle: resume) software (eng* OR dev*)

How to Perform a Boolean Search?

Performing a boolean search is quite simple. You simply type in the search query in Google (or any other search engine) to instantly find relevant results. The correct use of operators and query modifiers can help recruiters find the right talent among software and web developers.

boolean search google

To find software developers who are based in San Francisco on Github, we used the following query: software AND (developer OR engineer) profile -intitle:”software developer” OR intitle:”software engineer”

You can also find a senior, junior, or intern software developer by adding more query modifiers: software AND (developer OR engineer) profile -intitle:”software developer” OR intitle:”software engineer” NEAR “senior”

boolean search google

Boolean search on LinkedIn works similarly to Google except for asterisk. You can even apply filters such as location to narrow down the search results even further.

Important: Officially, LinkedIn does not support + and – operators. The recommended practice is to use AND instead of + and NOT instead of – to make the query easy to read and optimize.

To search for a full-time software developer candidate located in LA:

Software AND (developer OR engineer) (intext:LA OR intext:Los Angeles) NOT freelancer intext:full-time

boolean search linkedin

Beware of False Positives in Boolean Search

Even after crafting the most perfect boolean search strings, it’s possible to find some false-positive results. As an added measure, we recommend going through the search results to make sure that it does not contain any false positives. For example, if you were looking for a JavaScript developer who lives in New York, then you will likely find people who used to live in NY or worked with a company in NY for some time.

Boolean Search in Recruiting

In recruitment (like any other area), it’s crucial to keep up with the ever-changing trends. US companies are using Boolean search to recruit software engineers. Boolean searches are spreading but are not optimized and it’s important to understand how it works to utilize the full potential of the technique.

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Noor-ul-Anam Ruqayya

Noor-ul-Anam Ruqayya is a software engineer that also has a passion for writing well-researched, SEO-optimized, and engaging content for a wide range of industries. She has been writing long-form content for the talent acquisition industry since 2020 and has created multiple top-ranking articles.

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